Saratoga Race Course Notes - August 23
By NYRA Press Office | 08/23/2013 03:57 PM ET
Revitalized Orb ready for G1 Travers
Stewart eyeing big weekend in Travers, G1 Test
Will Take Charge has fourth new rider for Travers
Silver Max primed for G2 Bernard Baruch
Bernardini lines strong in Travers
During his nine-week stay at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, no one had a better perspective than Jennifer Patterson on Kentucky Derby winner Orb, the 4-1 third choice for Saturday's 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers.
An assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Patterson was Orb's exercise rider throughout the Triple Crown. When the Malibu Moon colt was sent to Fair Hill the day after the June 8 Belmont Stakes, Patterson was close behind.
"Physically, I had a fall and gotten hurt. I just kind of grinded it out until Belmont day," Patterson said. "Orb and I both went on a little vacation. Instead of coming back and getting on six horses, I'd start off slowly. It was good having him down there.
"It's such a nice atmosphere down there. He really did great. He's put on a lot of muscle weight. He's bigger and stronger now, and I'm just really happy with the way he is. He's come up here and he's kind of got it in his head, 'OK, back to work again.' He knows what's going on."
Orb capped a five-race win streak with his 2 ½-length victory in the Kentucky Derby, then followed by finishing fourth in the Preakness Stakes and third in the Belmont, all as the betting favorite.
He had six breezes at Fair Hill before returning on August 11 to Saratoga, where Orb sizzled through a half-mile work in 47.68 seconds on Monday.
"I think he's going to do really well. We're coming into it as good as we can," Patterson said. "He's fit. Mentally, he's good, but there's a lot of other good 3-year-olds out there. He could run the best race of his life and still maybe finish second or third.
"I'm really excited for it because I think it's going to be a great Travers, and I think we're going to be right there. We're ready. We have him right. We have him where we want him to be, and it's just going to be up to him on Saturday."
Looking forward to what could be an exciting Saturday afternoon, trainer Dallas Stewart took time to attend a Cajun cookout at neighbor Eric Guillot's barn Friday morning.
Stewart will send out Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul in the Grade 1 Travers, and 3-year-old filly Irish Lute in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test.
"We're ready. This is our job," Stewart said. "This is what we do. It's exciting, but we're going over there to get the job done."
Since closing to within 2 ½ lengths of Orb in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished ahead of Travers rivals Verrazano, Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, Golden Soul was ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and last of seven in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.
"I feel as good about him as I ever have," Stewart said. "For some strange reason, the [Haskell] didn't work. He ran bad, but he came back solid. Every day was a solid day of training. His appetite was great. He put on weight. He looks magnificent. We think his energy's good. All systems are 'go' for him."
Golden Soul was beaten by Palace Malice and Orb in the Belmont, finishing one spot ahead of Will Take Charge, and was handily defeated by Verrazano in the Haskell.
"You've got to try them. They're the best, top horses, all the way around," Stewart said. "This is where we're at. If you don't get any of the Triple Crown races, this is your next stop. This is the next big one. This is what you dream about."
In two career graded stakes starts, Irish Lute was third in the Grade 3 Eight Belles and, most recently, third in the Grade 1 Prioress at the Spa on July 27.
"She's doing excellent; right on," Stewart said. "She's ready to go."
For the fourth time in as many races, Will Take Charge will have a new rider when he goes to the gate for Saturday's Grade 1 Travers.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas named Luis Saez to ride the 3-year-old chestnut son of Unbridled's Song, the 21-year-old jockey's "Mid-Summer Derby" debut.
Journeyman Jon Court was aboard when Will Take Charge was stopped in traffic then re-gathered himself to finish eighth in the Kentucky Derby. He was 10th with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the Preakness and a closing second, beaten a length by Palace Malice, with Junior Alvarado in the Spa's Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 27.
"It's not anything; I just think sometimes the karma is wrong," Lukas said. "I've had good luck with certain riders. I remember one time with [Eddie] Delahoussaye out in California. World class rider, Hall of Famer. He and I are close friends, yet I could put him on Secretariat and I guarantee you we couldn't win. We'd go to dinner and talk about it. I'd say, 'Eddie, this week I've got a filly, 3-2, she can't lose. I'll put you on and we're going to break the jinx.' She'd run fourth.
"Sometimes the karma for me just isn't there. I didn't feel real comfortable with where I was at with Junior, so I made the change."
Saez has one stakes victory at the meet, taking the $100,000 De La Rose with Assateague. He ranked eighth at Belmont Park's spring-summer meet with 39 wins, including the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay.
"I'm going to coach him a little bit. I'll tell him what I can about the horse," Lukas said. "I think [we need] a realistic pace and just a chance to run on at the end, that's all. We don't need a lot of luck. I think he'll be in a position where we can probably make a run. If we're good enough, it'll happen. If it isn't, we'll look someplace else."
When the gate opens next Saturday for the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, it's a pretty strong likelihood Silver Max will be easy to spot, making the lead.
One of the top turf 3-year-olds last year, the gray son of Badge of Silver signaled he has regained his imposing form last time out, wiring the field in the Grade 3 Oceanport on July 28 at Monmouth Park, winning by 5 ¾ lengths and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102.
"He's just back to his old self, and when he's good, he's really good," trainer Dale Romans said.
In 2012, Silver Max strung together six straight victories, with stakes wins in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland, the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. The shortest margin of victory was a length.
After the streak was snapped when he finished fifth in the Grade 1 Secretariat, Romans gave Silver Max seven weeks off and then tried him against older horses in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. The colt finished ninth to Horse of the Year Wise Dan and was put away for the year.
"We ran him hard last year, and we probably squeezed the lemon a little bit, and we had to get him freshened up," Romans said. "It was his 3-year-old year, so you only get so many shots at those straight 3-year-old big-money races, so we tried to hit them all while he was doing well."
Silver Max came back slowly this year, finishing fifth in a tough Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream Park and then fading in a rematch with Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day over yielding ground at Churchill Downs.
When Silver Max won an off-the-turf stakes race by 9 ½ lengths, Romans considered that maybe Silver Max could also be a dirt horse, so he sent him to the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap on June 29 at Prairie Meadows. Silver Max made the pace but gave way and finished third.
"He ran really well in the off-the-turf race, and it would open up a lot of doors if he could do it in a real race, and there wasn't anything [on grass] he was missing," Romans said.
In recent history, there hasn't been a more influential horse in the Grade 1 Travers than Bernardini. The son of A.P. Indy won the "Mid-Summer Derby" in 2006 and has gone on to sire two winners, Stay Thirsty in 2011 and co-winner Alpha in 2012.
While 14 Travers winners have had offspring duplicate the feat, only Bernardini and Hall of Famer Man o' War have produced more than one.
Man o' War won the race in 1919, and sired subsequent winners Mars (1926) and War Hero (1932).
On Saturday, Bernardini will have two Godolphin Stable-owned sons in the 1 ¼-mile Travers: Transparent, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and Romansh, from the barn of trainer Tom Albertrani.
"It's great," said McLaughlin, who trained 2012 co-winner Alpha. "Bernardini's had not a great year [as a sire], but I have to say there's not been that many of them in America. A lot of them went overseas, so everybody's being a little hard on him. But, he's a great sire and a wonderful horse. To think that he won it and two of his sons won it, and now he has two more in it, obviously he's an outstanding sire. We hope one of us wins."
A Travers victory would be particularly satisfying for Albertrani, who trained Bernardini to the 3-year-old male championship in 2006, his only season of racing.
"If I look at [Romansh] at certain times, I see a little resemblance, especially his head. He has that same portrait of him in certain angles," Albertrani said. "Not only was it an honor to have the horse in my barn a few years back, and now having some offspring, it would be very rewarding if I could win it with one of his own myself. It would be a great accomplishment."
Bernardini won the Travers by 7 ½ lengths, four weeks after rolling by nine in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Albertrani still remembers the stretch call by New York Racing Association track announcer Tom Durkin that day:
"Javier Castellano is like a statue in the stirrups aboard Bernardini, and they glide past the eighth pole with a five-length lead! Effortless performance by Bernardini. Look at this! He didn't break a sweat, and it's 90 degrees! Bernardini runs huge!"
"That was just a great race call," Albertrani said. "He dominated this track. I feel good the way [Romansh] has been making steady progress. Like Bernardini, who only raced four times going into the Preakness, that's when he started hitting his best stride. I think this horse is doing the exact same thing. He's just training so well. It's all about timing, and this could be the right time