Just before leaving a flight from Albany, N.Y., to Southern California, trainer Eoin Harty checked in at the barn at Saratoga to see how WinStar Farm's Colonel John came out of the exciting nose victory over Mambo in Seattle in the $1-million Travers Stakes presented by Shadwell Farm (gr. I) Aug. 23.
"He doesn't seem worse for wear. Right now, he's in good shape,” Harty said. “It was such a roughly-run race. It was a miracle that he survived the way he had to run. He had a little scrape on the hind leg, but it is nothing serious. He won on heart. It was a courageous effort. He had every reason to get beat."
Jockey Garrett Gomez managed to save ground with Colonel John, but as the Travers field turned for home, Harty said he was nervous after seeing Colonel John stumble slightly. The Tiznow colt was trying to get past Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Tale of Ekati on his inside and Tizbig to his outside, while Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner Macho Again and Pyro were rallying behind him.
"Coming for home, someone rammed up from behind," Harty said. "It was all Garrett could do just to hang on. Things got pretty scary at the top of the stretch. There were some scary moments for a lot of horses. Horses were bouncing off each other like a pinball machine.”
Harty said Colonel John will leave
Trainer Neil Howard said he could not be unhappy with the effort he got from William S. Farish and Mrs. W.S. Kilroy's Mambo in
"You are always disappointed to get beat; I think about it, but I don't dwell on it," Howard said. "I was emotional for a minute or so. From that point, you have to turn it off and go to the next part of the equation. He ran a hell of a race. There were two quality colts on the wire. That's all you can say, really."
Mambo in Seattle, a son of Kingmambo, was one of the horses that stayed clear from traffic after jockey Robby Albarado kept him near the back of the Travers field for nearly a mile before making a six-wide move coming for home and continued that momentum in the stretch.
"Robby rode him perfectly," Howard said. "We thought the fractions were good going a mile and a quarter. I thought the key was staying where he was because he had the nine-hole to begin; he had a deep field of 12 horses in the Travers, and he gave the horse every chance."
Howard has not planned a specific schedule for Mambo in
Pyro, who finished third as the beaten favorite in the Travers, exited the race in good order, assistant trainer Scott Blasi reported. Pyro found himself in tight quarters at the top of the stretch, but rallied from eighth to gain a share under Shaun Bridgmohan.
"Steve (Asmussen) and I talked about it afterward," said Blasi. "Usually, in 1 1/4-mile races, they're spread out more. But they were pretty bunched up on the turn. Breaking from post No. 11, Shaun did the right thing in getting to the rail, saving ground, and taking our chances. We took a little bit of it, but there were horses to the outside who took a lot worse than we did."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said that Harlem Rocker came back well from his fourth-place effort in the Travers. The gray colt, who started from post 8, came six-wide on the turn to move into contention, but weakened through the final eighth.
"He's OK at first blush," said Pletcher. "It was a difficult trip for a number of horses. The field size and the post position had more of an effect than I would have anticipated. We lost ground on the far turn and that affected us at the sixteenth pole."
Pletcher said he would wait a few days before looking ahead to a fall campaign for the Stronach Stables' colt.
Macho Again was "pretty banged up" after a rough trip in the Travers, in which he finished eighth after clipping heels and stumbling at the quarter-pole, said trainer Dallas Stewart.
"He almost fell down," said Stewart. "Thank goodness he's OK; Julien (Leparoux) is OK; I'm OK; the owners are OK."
Stewart said Macho Again hit a nerve at the back of his ankle and was limping after the race.
"It stung him pretty good," said Stewart. "We had it X-rayed and the bones are fine. This morning he's fine, ate up good. We'll live to fight another day."