Enjoying the attention a day after Summer Bird's decisive 3 1/2-length win in the Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 29, trainer Tim Ice was entertaining the possibility of reaching his ultimate goal, the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), without a race over Santa Anita's synthetic track.
Speaking from his barn, Ice said one of two races in October were the most likely possibilities for the 3-year-old son of Birdstone , who followed in his sire’s footsteps by completing the rare Belmont Stakes/Travers double.
“(Louisiana Downs) has the Louisiana Super Derby (gr. II) in three weeks which is a little close, that’s the long shot,” Ice said. “(Belmont Park) has the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Oct. 3, then on Oct. 10 Santa Anita has the Goodwood (gr. I).”
Both the Sept. 19 Super Derby, at nine furlongs, and the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold, carry $750,000 purses. The Goodwood, also at nine furlongs, is for $350,000.
Looking ahead to an anticipated start in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita, Ice said he wasn’t sure Summer Bird would need a race over a synthetic track to get there.
“What if he goes out there and he runs bad in the Goodwood, then we passed up the Jockey Club Gold Cup on a racetrack that he loves,” Ice queried. “I’m not saying that he would or he wouldn’t like the (synthetic); he was out there for three months last year from October to January and he seemed to work well over it. He seems to adapt well everywhere he goes, whether it takes him a week to get used to it, but eventually he handles it. Overall I think that if we get him out there in enough time, he’ll be used to the track and it won’t be an issue.”
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Summer Bird came out of the 1 1/4-mile Travers acting every bit his usual self, Ice said. He napped in his stall just after 8 a.m. following a walk around the shedrow. Dr. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman’s colt woke before 9 a.m. to receive peppermints and observe the humans gathered outside his stall.
“He walked great this morning, he ate up last night, so today everything is looking up,” said trainer Tim Ice. “We’ll make decisions here in a couple days, make sure everything looks well.”
Ice said the Travers win had sunk in much more quickly than his Belmont Stakes victory nearly three months ago.
“Last night at dinner I was thinking about Birdstone and what he did, and for Summer Bird to accomplish the same thing with five years time in between … I think it sunk in a little faster for the Travers. The horse is a great horse. One thing that I loved was that that (jockey) Kent Desormeaux couldn’t pull him up (afterward. The outrider had to grab him; Kent wasn’t going to pull him up on his own. He’s a racehorse – he loves what he does.”
Meanwhile, trainer Bill Mott has not made any plans for Shadwell Travers’ runner-up Hold Me Back, but said the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita was on the radar for the WinStar Farm colt.
“I haven’t discussed the future with any of the connections,” he said. “In my mind, I am always thinking of the Breeders’ Cup.”
Hold Me Back trailed for about a mile before jockey Julien Leparoux made a six-wide move around the far turn. The he colt continued to rally in the middle of the stretch.
“I would have liked to won the whole thing, but the horse ran well,” Mott said. “We didn’t win, but we were second-best. We were proud of him. He came into the race the right way. Everything was coming together and he didn’t let us down.”
And things remained upbeat at the Todd Pletcher stable, where favored Quality Road was termed "excellent" following his third-place finish in the Travers.
“I thought he ran very well,” said Pletcher. “He didn’t exactly get the kind of trip we were hoping to get.”
Quality Road did not break well, then was hemmed in on the rail behind Our Edge and inside of Kensei and Summer Bird down the backside before splitting horses to mount a challenge straightening for home. Second at the top of the stretch, he was passed in the final yards by Hold Me Back.
“The mile and a quarter had nothing to do with it,” said Pletcher. “And he handled (the wet track) fine. I think the biggest thing is he wasn’t able to get into a high cruising speed.”
Next up for Edward P. Evans’ colt could be the Jockey Club Gold Cup, said Pletcher.
Incidentally, Pletcher has a new addition to his barn in Ballston Spa Handicap (gr. IIT) upset winner Salve Germania, the Irish-bred filly who was making her first start in the United States after a career in France and Germany.
“I was contacted about a month ago by her (German) connections,” said Pletcher. “She shipped in Tuesday (Aug. 25) from quarantine and basically I helped them get organized and familiar with her surroundings. She’ll stay here.”
Pletcher said he had not yet spoken with her connections about what might be next.
“We’ll see how she settles in and go from there,” he said.