Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Da’ Tara remains on the path towards the 139th running of the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. I), trainer Nick Zito said Aug. 9. The 1 1/4-mile Travers, the nation’s oldest stakes for 3-year-olds and Saratoga’s centerpiece race, will be run Aug. 23.
According to New York Racing Association Stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, Acai, Colonel John, Da' Tara, Harlem Rocker, Macho Again, Mambo in Seattle, Pyro, Tale of Ekati, and Tres Borrachos are probable for the Travers. Questionable at this point are Amped, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, You and I Forever, Tiz Now Tiz Then and the filly Music Note.
The second and third-place finishers of the Aug. 3 Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park, Coal Play and Cool Coal Man, are back in Saratoga for training. Wearing the same silks as Da’ Tara, Coal Play almost held off Big Brown for a win in the Haskell, which would have been the second upset win over Big Brown by Zito and owner Robert LaPenta.
According to Zito, Coal Play needs more time in training before picking out a definite spot for his next run. Cool Coal Man, winner of the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, has also resumed training, and although Zito suggests anything is possible with this horse, he will continue training on the dirt.
One of Zito’s more exciting 3-year-olds is Truth Rules, who unfortunately had to scratch from the Haskell.
“He was training better than anyone,” Zito said. “But he had a temperature that knocked him out a little; he was all set for the Haskell.”
Right now, Zito would like to point Truth Rules to the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs Labor Day, Sept. 1.
“He’s interesting; he could be any kind of horse,” Zito said. “There are still plenty of races left in New York in the fall. He is a horse with a promising future that just gets better every time.”
Ron Winchell’s Pyro, who was beaten a half-length by Macho Again in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), is expected to work six furlongs Aug. 11 on the Oklahoma training track in preparation for the Travers.
Trainer Barclay Tagg reported that Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Tale of Ekati, fourth in the Jim Dandy, was “still on track” for the Travers.
“He’s training well, he’s looking good,” said Tagg.
Tagg said the next work for the son of Tale of the Cat , who was second in last year's Sanford (gr. I) at the Spa, will most likely be on grass.
“I have his shoes off to let his feet air out a little,” explained Tagg. “So, whenever that comes up next.”
Music Note, who defeated stablemate Little Belle to win the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont Park, is under consideration for the Travers, Rick Mettee, North American racing manager for Godolphin Stable, said.
“As of right now, both are being pointed toward the Alabama (gr. I) he said. “But Music Note is definitely nominated to the Travers.”
Both Music Note and Ashland (gr. I) winner Little Belle are scheduled to breeze five furlongs Aug. 10.
“Music Note is pretty consistent, while Little Belle is not the best work filly,” Metee said. “We certainly want to run one of the two fillies in the Alabama--we don’t want to miss that race, which looks to have a small field.
“Without Big Brown, the Travers looks like it might have 12 horses, and that’s a consideration.”
The last filly to win the Travers was Lady Rotha in 1915.
Trainer Eoin Harty reported that Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Colonel John is scheduled to arrive in Saratoga Aug. 20 for his engagement in the Travers. Third in the Swaps Stakes in his first start since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Colonel John worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Del Mar Aug. 6.
“He’s in top shape,” said Harty. “If there’s a plane in between now and then, I may put him on that.”
The trainer said Tiz Now Tiz Then, third in the Jim Dandy, was nominated to the Travers, but would most likely start in the Pennsylvania Derby.