With exercise rider Michelle Nihei aboard, Starlight Stable's Purge breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over the main track at Saratoga on Monday in preparation for Saturday's 135th running of the grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes.Saratoga's leading jockey, John Velazquez, once again gets the assignment for Purge, who has now done his final serious preparation for the 10-furlong "Mid-Summer Derby" for 3-year-olds that is Saratoga's oldest and biggest race. The Travers, which will be race 11 (6:25 p.m. Eastern) of a 12-race card, will be shown live by ESPN during its two-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern on Saturday."It went well and it was pretty much what we were looking for," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Purge's workout. "A pair of horses broke out of the starting gate as he was going to the pole and created traffic. He was a little eager during the first part, which would be normal for him. I would be more concerned if he had not been eager."Purge earned his second graded stakes race by taking the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) over The Cliff's Edge at Saratoga just over two weeks ago. He also won the grade II Peter Pan at Belmont in May."His race in the Jim Dandy was an exceptional race," Pletcher said. "In a perfect world, we would have another couple of weeks. But I'm not the only one feeling that way. It looks to me like all the main players are coming back under similar rest."Pletcher also had Strong Hope, with Velazquez on the saddle, work in company with maiden Wilcox Ridge, with Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., for a five-furlong breeze that went in 1:01 2/5 before he galloped six furlongs in 1:15."He went well," Pletcher said. "We had a little incident with the loose horse that impeded us and we had to go around it. Fortunately, we were able to go around him, but that probably cost him a second because he had to run wide."Strong Hope is being pointed for the grade I, $250,000 Forego Handicap for 3-year-olds and older horses sprinting at seven furlongs on Saturday, September 4.
Also working toward the Travers was Eddington, who had jockey Richard Migliore aboard as he breezed four furlongs in :48 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01 2/5. Migliore will be riding the 3-year-old son of Unbridled for the Travers.
"He was dynamite out there this morning," trainer Mark Hennig said. "He went around the turn and switched leads well. Richie was excited about how the horse was switching leads. He told me it was 'smooth as silk.' It seemed like the horse was content to relax. I'm hoping the race sets up like this workout, where he has something to run at. If he runs the last half-mile like he did this morning, he'll be fine for the mile and a quarter."Although he has yet to win since an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park in February, Eddington has managed to be competitive with third-place finishes in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I), as well as in the Gotham (gr. III)."The Travers is probably the fairest position we've put him in to this point since the allowance race at Gulfstream," Hennig said. "Everything else was perhaps coming a little too quick for him. There has been a lot thrown at him for the first six months of the year."Making his first start since his fourth-place finish in the Belmont (gr. I), Eddington comes into the Travers off a third-place finish before being disqualified to fourth for bumping Niigon in the Jim Dandy."People have asked me if my horse has a shot," Hennig said. "I think he does because he was only a half-length behind The Cliff's Edge, and that was off a 60-day rest. I don't think it is a knock for him finishing second and third in these races. He's got a race into him and a race over the track. He's capable of getting the distance. It comes right down to whether he's good enough to win it, or not."