(Edited press release)
With more than an inch of rain in the forecast overnight and into tomorrow, an off-track appears likely for the $1-million Shadwell Travers (gr. I) Aug. 29 at Saratoga.
Of the 139 previous runnings of the Travers, 92 were run over a fast track and 47 on an off-track. Most recently, in 2002 and 2004 when Medaglia d'Oro and Birdstone won, respectively.
In a perfect world, trainer Todd Pletcher would prefer a fast track for favored Quality Road , but he’s not overly concerned about the effect of the weather on Edward P. Evans’ colt.
“It’s like always with the weather,” Pletcher said. “You wish that it was going to be perfect conditions, but you have absolutely no control over it so you just hope for the best.”
With four wins and one second-place finish in five starts, Quality Road has never run over an off race track.
Tim Ice, trainer of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Summer Bird, said he did not think a wet track would adversely affect the chestnut colt.
“He showed me a sloppy track didn’t affect him by the way he ran in the Haskell,” said Ice, referring to Summer Bird’s second-place finish to Rachel Alexandra over a "sloppy" track at Monmouth Park. Summer Bird’s other outing over an off track took place in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), in which he finished sixth after a seven-wide run.
The son of Birdstone took his customary mid-morning nap after a galloping over the main track in the morning.
“His whole attitude is changing as the race approaches,” said Ice. “He knows he’s going to run. It’s not that there’s a change in his routine, he just knows what’s going to happen and he gets his game face on.”
After Charitable Man galloped 1 1/2 miles Aug. 28, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he would prefer a fast track for the Travers.
“He won on a wet track when he won the Futurity (at Belmont Park) last year,” said the trainer. “The rain is a concern, but the bigger concern is the competition. It’s a tough race.”
Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, said he was not at all concerned about the weather and Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner Kensei.
“He won in the slop at Hot Springs, and the track couldn’t have been any worse that day,” said Blasi. “I’m not going to worry about it. After the 2007 Breeders’ Cup (at Monmouth Park), I do not worry about the weather at all. That day, I sat on a five-gallon bucket and stared out the door all day. All it did was rain for seven days.”
Over a sloppy track in New Jersey, Curlin won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) to notch the first of his two Horse of the Year titles.