Travelin Man, in just the third start of his career for trainer Todd Pletcher, easily put away his four rivals to register a convincing two-length win in the $147,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park April 3 (VIDEO).
The prohibitive 2-5 choice took full advantage of his outside post, sitting a perfect trip just off his Pletcher-trained stablemate Razmataz, who showed the way. Jockey John Velazquez took a confident look over his shoulder at the quarter pole as Travelin Man switched into gear, drawing alongside Razmataz and taking over leaving the turn.
Travelin Man maintained the lead in the lane and drew off in the final sixteenth under Velazquez's hand urging, completing the seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds in a smart 1:21.94 while ridden out.
Pletcher picked up his third stakes win of the weekend at Gulfstream and his second with a homebred from Paul Robsham Stables after Awesome Maria won the Rampart Stakes (gr. III) a day earlier. Pletcher also captured the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) with R Heat Lightning April 2, part of a five-win day.
"We went oh-for-19 on Breeders' Cup day at Churchill (last fall)," Pletcher told HRTV after Travelin Man's win. "That's why you appreciate days like yesterday and today."
Travelin Man is a son of Trippi out of the Gone West mare West Side Dancer. The bay colt began his career with a 7 1/4-length romp in a maiden special weight race at six furlongs at Gulfstream Jan. 6, but was no match for Flashpoint when second as the odds-on choice in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 26.
When Flashpoint, a 7 1/4-length Hutcheson winner, was entered in the Florida Derby (gr. I) by trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., Travelin Man became the heavy choice in the Swale.
"He relaxed really well," Pletcher said of the winner. "We got a much more favorable post position (than in the Hutcheson). He was down inside last time and under a lot of pressure. He responded really well today."
Pletcher said the one-mile The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) April 30 at Churchill Downs would probably be next for Travelin Man.
"The good thing about him, he's got such a great disposition, he'll rate kindly and we could stretch him out," Pletcher said.
Breaking from the far outside in a field reduced to five by the scratch of Black N Beauty, Travelin Man was prominent early as Razmataz, ridden by Javier Castellano, went to the front. The compact field raced in tight formation for the opening four furlongs as Razmataz stepped a moderate pace. Fractions were :23.13 for the opening quarter-mile and :46.42 for the half.
Travelin Man responded when asked and the outcome never seemed in doubt in the homestretch though Razmataz tried valiantly to match strides from the rail before giving way in the final furlong. Second choice Indiano, ridden by Julien Leparoux, came on to edge Little Drama and Joe Bravo by a head for second. Razmataz was three lengths back in fourth, with Megalith last.
“Breaking from the outside, we were in perfect position," Velazquez said. "He was able to sit back and relax and had plenty of kick left for the stretch. He was perfect.”
The victory was worth $90,000 for Travelin Man, who got a break at the weights. He carried 115 pounds, eight fewer than top-weighted Indiano, a graded winner in Panama now in the Marty Wolfson stable.
Travelin Man paid $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10 and topped a $6.20 exacta. Indiano returned $2.60 and $2.10 in his second North American start. Little Drama, third-place finisher in the Hutcheson for trainer David Fawkes, was $2.60 to show.
“We were pretty close to the pace because they were going pretty slow," said Leparoux of the runner-up. "I had to move a little earlier than I wanted just to keep up with the favorite. There was no real excuse, though.”