In the main supporting feature for the Travers Stakes Presented by Shadwell Farm (gr. I) that followed, Visionaire, a son of Grand Slam, became a grade I winner for owners Team Valor International and Vision Racing and trainer Michael Matz.
Ridden by Alan Garcia, Visionaire took full advantage of a hot pace duel involving Golden Spikes, Gentleman James, and favored J Be K while lagging behind a strong field of 3-year-old sprinters.
In the stretch, J Be K got the lead from between horses, but Desert Key, uncharacteristically held off the early pace, rallied along the inside to challenge for the lead with I'm So Lucky and Lantana Mob. However, Visionaire, showing absolutely no interest in the fast early pace, had their measure, taking command in the final sixteenth and winning with relative ease in a sharp time of 1:21.94.
“My horse, he came flying,” said Garcia, who won his fifth race of the day.
Desert Key, ridden by John Velazquez, won a three-horse photo for second by a nose, with I'm So Lucky and Robby Albarado third. Lantana Mob, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, was another nose behind in fourth. J Be K, the 17-10 favorite in the 10-horse field, weakened after getting the lead in mid-stretch and finished sixth.
Fractions were a swift :22.39 for the opening quarter-mile as Gentleman James led by head, and :44.73 when J Be K had a head advantage. The six-furlong split was 1:09.30.
Matz said he was concerned watching Visionaire lag behind the field down the backside, but took solace in the fast fractions.
“I didn’t know if he was going to win, but I knew then he’d make a run of it,” said the trainer.
Matz added: “The horse has just one style of running and it can get a little nerve-wracking. All these horses were real good. They all had big numbers. We just had a horse with a lot of heart and he proved it today.”
Twelfth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Visionaire was turned back to a sprint distance in his last start at Saratoga July 24, coming from off the pace to register a win over an optional claiming field at 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track. That was his his first victory since capturing the 1 1/16-mile Gotham Stakes (gr. III) by a nose on a sloppy Aqueduct strip March 8. The chestnut colt followed that effort with a fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) leading up to the Kentucky Derby, in which Visionaire was sent off at odds of 25-1.
Visionaire posted his fifth win in 10 lifetime starts while boosting his bankroll to $462,287 with the King's Bishop's winning share of $150,000.
Matz, noting that Visionaire's best distance appeared to be seven furlongs to a mile, said he did not have a race picked out for his next start.
“We’re going to enjoy this one for a while,” he said.
Reiley McDonald bred the winner in Kentucky. Visionaire, a $220,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. sale of 2-year-olds in June 2007, is out of Scarlet Tango, by French Deputy.
Visionaire carried 119 pounds to victory, paying $15.60, $7.60, and $4.60 as the sixth choice. Desert Key, second by a head to Kodiak Kowboy in the Amsterdam (gr. II) last time out, returned $7.50 and $5.70, completing a $126 exacta. I'm So Lucky, making his stakes bow for trainer Michael Trombetta, was $5.70 to show in his sixth lifetime start. The $2 trifecta was $744.
Lantana Mob was 3 1/4 lengths ahead of stablemate Kodiak Kowboy. J Be K, Salute the Sarge, Silver Edition, Gentleman James, and Golden Spikes completed the order. Nautical Storm scratched.
“I did not have a good trip,” said Garrett Gomez, aboard J Be K, who was coming into the King’s Bishop off two impressive graded stakes wins. “My horse did not respond like normal. I tried to get him to move down the stretch but I never got the response I was looking for.”
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