Ward On Travers Fence With Strong Contender

(from Saratoga stable notes)
Despite putting in a strong five-furlong workout over the Belmont Park training track Saturday, John Oxley's Strong Contender is still questionable for the upcoming Travers, according to Donna Ward, the wife and assistant trainer for John Ward.

A decision could be made as late as Wednesday, when the post position draw is set for the $1 million Travers. The concern for Oxley and the Wards is the timing of the 3-year-old's last race, a third-place finish in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Aug. 6.

"I know he worked good, but I don't think (John) likes the closeness of the 20 days between the Haskell and the Travers," said Donna Ward. "If he had an easier trip, even if he still got beat in the Haskell, it would be an easier decision. He and Mr. Oxley are going to talk about it more."

Strong Contender worked in 1:01.

In the meantime, Ward has two other Oxley-owned nominees for the "Mid-Summer Derby" in Minister's Bid and Dr. Pleasure. Ward was hoping to have Minister's Bid on the track Sunday morning for a workout, but a steady overnight rain turned the track sloppy and kept the colt in the barn.

"I thought the main track could use some moisture, and I was hoping it was going to dry out," Ward said. "When the rain started, the track became sloppier. We'll do something with him either tomorrow or Tuesday. If any, his workout is just maintenance."

In the Jim Dandy (gr. II), contested on a muddy track three weeks ago, Minister's Bid was second and Dr. Pleasure finished fourth to Travers favorite Bernardini. If Minister's Bid, who has been no worse than second in three races, works Monday, he is expected to be on the main track after the break.

Dr. Pleasure, who won his debut last year at Saratoga, breezed six furlongs over the Saratoga main track in 1:14 Saturday.