Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith looking for a fifth Travers win on long shot Chess Chief
by NYRA Press Office
- Not That Brady to try to emulate dam Lisa's Booby Trap in Albany
- Preservationist works Thursday for G1 Woodward; stablemate gets 'Green Light' for G1 Hopeful
- 'Right place, right time' perfect combination for Castellano in G1 Travers
- Lieblongs hope to return to winner's circle with Laughing Fox in G1 Travers
- Come Dancing looks to relish cutback in distance in seven-furlong G1 Ketel One Ballerina
- Mucho Gusto hopes to follow McKinzie's triumph at Saratoga
- Hough thinks Travers distance suits Scars Are Cool
- Promises Fulfilled now races for both Robert Baron and WinStar Farm
- Owendale schools for Travers; Kid Is Frosty, Dot Matrix set for Friday's Showcase Day
- The Rookie Report: Clement debuts pair of well-bred juveniles
A quarter-century ago, Mike Smith was given a leg up on fan favorite Holy Bull in the Grade 1 Travers, and the pair proceeded to put on a show to remember. Holy Bull held a four-length lead with a quarter-mile to go and then held off a tremendous rally by Concern and won by a neck, with Preakness and Belmont Stakes-winner Tabasco Cat another neck back in third.
Since then, Smith has won the Travers three more times, with Coronado's Quest in 1998, Arrogate in 2016 and West Coast in 2017. Now known as "Big Money" Mike thanks to his ability to get on the right horses at the right time in the biggest races, Smith returns to Saratoga Race Course for the 150th Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers with a tall order - aboard 30-1 long shot and Dallas Stewart trainee Chess Chief.
"I'm just fortunate enough to pick him up for Dallas,'' said Smith. "I really didn't have anything going [for the Travers] and he called me last week and I said I'd be happy for the opportunity."
Smith usually teams up with trainer Bob Baffert for many of the top-level races, but Baffert pulled Game Winner out of contention last week due to a virus, and entered Mucho Gusto at the last minute, naming Joe Talamo, the colt's regular jockey, to ride.
"You're always happy to ride in the Travers,'' said Smith, who plans to arrive at the Spa on Friday. "I'll do my homework and learn more and more about Chess Chief, and of course talk more with Dallas. I'm looking forward to it."
Smith will be the seventh jockey to ride Chess Chief, who ran a distant second to Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on August 3. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief has only a maiden win, at the Fair Grounds in March, in 10 starts.
"I hope the first time I meet him will turn out to the best time,'' said Smith.
* * *
Not That Brady to try to emulate dam Lisa's Booby Trap in Albany
Nine years after his dam, Lisa's Booby Trap, won a stakes at Saratoga, Not That Brady will attempt to achieve some Spa stakes success of his own when he competes Friday in the $250,000 Albany for New York-bred 3-year-olds.
The 1 ⅛-mile Albany is the marquee race on New York Breeders' Showcase Day, which will feature six stakes for New York-breds. Not That Brady, the first foal out of Lisa's Booby Trap, was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Albany.
Lisa's Booby Trap garnered national media attention for her backstory as she was owned and trained by Finger Lakes-based Tim Snyder, who named the daughter of Drewman in honor of his late wife Lisa and a gentlemen's club in Florida.
She began her career with three dominant victories at Finger Lakes before winning the restricted Loudonville in 2010 at Saratoga. In two other starts at Saratoga, Lisa's Booby Trap was 10th in the 2010 Riskaverse on the turf and eighth in the 2011 restricted Rachel Alexandra. Overall, she had 10 wins in 18 starts with $182,440 in earnings. Snyder died in 2015 at the age of 59.
Friday will mark exactly one year to the day that Not That Brady, who sold for $135,000 as a yearling, debuted for a $50,000 claiming price at Saratoga. He finished fourth that day for trainer George Weaver and owner R.A. Hill Stable and was claimed by Rudy Rodriguez at the behest of owner Michael Imperio.
"The mother was Lisa's Booby Trap, so that caught my eye," said Imperio. "I said to Rudy, 'Take a look at him, if you think he has a nice body.' Rudy liked him and we claimed him. That's basically it. He was stocky, but now he's really grown as a 3-year-old."
Not That Brady went on to win the Damon Runyon at Aqueduct Racetrack last December for Imperio, Lianna Stables, and Rodriguez. Raymond Hill of R.A. Hill Stable bought back into Not That Brady after the colt finished second to Tax, also owned by Hill, by a head in the Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct.
In his two most recent starts, Not That Brady set the pace before finishing second, missing by a half-length to Travers entrant Looking At Bikinis in an open optional claimer June 27 at Belmont Park and by 1 ¼ lengths to Bankit in the New York Derby for New York-breds July 24 at Finger Lakes.
"We're going to let [jockey Jose Lezcano] use his speed," said Rodriguez. "That's his weapon, and I don't want to take that away from him. If he breaks good, we'll take it from there. If he doesn't break, the jockey has to make his own judgment. He has a good post, so if he breaks clean he should be near the lead or on the lead. Let's hope he breaks good, because he always kind of breaks a step slow."
Rodriguez is hopeful Not That Brady moves forward off his second in the New York Derby, in which he was challenged early by 39-1 shot Almendro.
"I thought he ran a good race," said Rodriguez. "He was compromised by a long shot the whole way around. I thought he was going to finish fourth instead of holding on for second. He was a little quiet in the paddock, and usually he wants to be the boss. He's been training here all summer, so, hopefully, that's good for him."
Rodriguez also will have representation in the $200,000 Funny Cide for New York-bred 2-year-olds. EV Racing Stable's Sky of Hook, the 4-1 third choice on the morning line, will try to remain unbeaten in three starts as he enters the 6 ½-furlong race off narrow victories in a maiden special weight in May at Belmont and in the Rick Violette Stakes on July 17 at Saratoga. Sterling Racing's Bull of Bayern, 12-1, broke his maiden by 6 ¼ lengths in his second start, which came June 26 at Belmont.
"They are going to have to step up a little more to be competitive in [the Funny Cide]," said Rodriguez. "It looks like they are coming into the race the right way, so we'll keep our fingers crossed.
"Sky of Hook is very surprising because he never showed talent in the morning. He always worked average," he added. "He's 2-for-2, and you can't take that away from him. Bull of Bayern, we're going to send him to the lead. He has speed and he has the No. 1 hole. We'll send him from there, and, hopefully, he'll clear the rest of the horses. We really liked him the first time he ran and we were a little disappointed, but the other day he came back and showed he was OK."
* * *
Preservationist works Thursday for G1 Woodward; stablemate gets 'Green Light' for G1 Hopeful
With a group from owner Centennial Farms on hand, led by president Don Little Jr., Grade 2 Suburban winner Preservationist breezed six furlongs over the Oklahoma training track Thursday morning in 1:13.30 ahead of an expected upcoming engagement in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Saturday, August 31.
Regular exercise rider Kelvin Pahal was up for the move, Preservationist's fourth in Saratoga and first since his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney August 3, beaten 7 ¾ lengths as the second choice behind winner McKinzie.
"He went in 1:13 and galloped out in 26 and change. It was good," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "We're probably going to run in the Woodward, God willing. He's 6 years old now and with these Grade 1s, you've got to see if they can do it."
Preservationist, exiting a front-running 4 ½-length triumph in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban July 6 at Belmont Park in his stakes debut, was sent to the front by regular rider Junior Alvarado in the Whitney and led through sharp fractions of 23.77 and 47.48 seconds before McKinzie took over after six furlongs in 1:11.30.
"I didn't agree with the tactics used, but what are you going to do? He took a shot and it didn't work out, but we'll see," Jerkens said. "I don't think we have to worry about McKinzie. He's an awful nice horse. I mean, the others are good, too, but even [Hall of Fame trainer Bob] Baffert was saying he was one of the best horses he's ever had and he couldn't believe he kept getting beat. When he says that, he knows what he's looking at."
Jerkens said that Stronach Stables' Green Light Go, winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, would come back in the Grade 1, $350,000 Runhappy Hopeful on Labor Day, September 2, Closing Day of the Saratoga meet.
A juvenile son of Hard Spun - a four-time graded-stakes winner whose lone Grade 1 victory came at Saratoga in the 2007 King's Bishop, now run as the H. Allen Jerkens, named for Jerkens' late Hall of Fame father - Green Light Go returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile in 50.48 seconds Tuesday on the Oklahoma training track.
"It wasn't supposed to be anything fast, just something to keep him on schedule," Jerkens said. "He seems like he came out of the race in good shape."
Following Green Light Go's victory in the 6 ½-furlong Saratoga Special in just his second lifetime start, Jerkens considered waiting for the Grade 1, one-mile Champagne October 5 at Belmont Park before deciding to target the Hopeful.
"We're probably going to run in it," Jerkens said. "We might as well. He's doing good. It keeps him on a schedule. I think two months is a long time to sit on one and then run a mile. It doesn't seem to make much sense. The proof will be in the pudding. We'll see how he does."
Jerkens said Stronach Stables' homebred Meet Me in L A, unraced since breaking his maiden in his third start June 20 at Belmont, will make his return in an allowance race Sunday at Saratoga, while Grade 2 winner Rocketry, third in the 1 ¾-mile Birdstone last out August 1 at Saratoga, is likely to come back in the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational going 1 ½ miles September 7 at Belmont.
* * *
'Right place, right time' perfect combination for Castellano in G1 Travers
When it comes to breaking down the unprecedented success he has had in the biggest race on racing's biggest stage, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano puts it in the simplest terms.
"I guess, to me, it was just meant to be. I've been in the right place at the right time," he said. "I've been very fortunate and very lucky."
Castellano will be aboard Long Lake Stable, Madaket Stables, Thomas Coleman and Doheny Racing Stable's Looking At Bikinis in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, the centerpiece of the Saratoga summer and a race the 41-year-old Venezuelan has won a record six times including last year aboard Catholic Boy.
His impact on a race widely regarded as an extension of the Triple Crown, first run in 1864 and predating the Kentucky Derby (1875), Preakness (1873) and Belmont Stakes (1867), is not lost on Castellano, a winner of more than 5,100 races and $333 million in purse earnings in a 23-year career.
"It's unbelievable. I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity and the ability to ride some of the top horses in the country. I'm very grateful and blessed," he said. "You see the history of the Travers, 150 years, so many great, great riders have come through. Angel Cordero, he was the leading rider here for 15 years and he won one Travers [Chief's Crown, 1985]. I'm just thankful and blessed to be able to be here and compete with the best jockeys in the country."
Castellano's first Travers victory came in 2006 on Grade 1 Preakness and Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Bernardini, who would go on to beat older horses in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and run second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic and be named 3-year-old male champion. Favored at 1-5, Bernardini galloped by 7 ½ lengths.
Twice, Castellano has won the Travers in back-to-back years. He took the 2010 edition by a nose on Afleet Express, sent off at 7-1, then repeated in 2011 with a 1 ¼-length decision on 2-1 favorite Stay Thirsty. Castellano tied fellow Hall of Famers Eddie Arcaro, Braulio Baeza, Pat Day and Jimmy McLaughlin with his fourth Travers win aboard 19-1 long shot V.E. Day in 2014, also by a nose.
"Bernardini was an unbelievable horse, and we had high expectations for him. He was a great horse," Castellano said. "Afleet Express, what a finish. It was almost a dead heat. It took forever in the winner's circle to decide who won. It could have been a dead heat. V.E. Day came from way back and won the race. So many horses have given me so many great memories. I've been in the right time and the right place and surrounded by the right people."
Castellano's most memorable Travers came in 2015 when he upset Triple Crown champion American Pharoah on Keen Ice, who was dismissed at odds of 16-1. Castellano had never ridden Keen Ice but signed on after Kent Desormeaux opted to ride Texas Red for his brother, trainer Keith Desormeaux. Texas Red ran fifth, while Keen Ice would win just once more in 13 subsequent starts, taking the Grade 2 Suburban in 2017.
"It was an incredible feeling. You look at the race on paper and you think, 'Who can beat that horse?' American Pharoah was basically undefeated and he won the Triple Crown," Castellano said. "He was the only speed in the race, and the more you looked at it you're thinking, 'It's hard to beat that horse.' You don't expect to win the race, and you end up winning the race. Unbelievable."
Looking At Bikinis, who fetched $240,000 as a 2-year-old in training last April, made just one start as a juvenile, romping by 5 ¾ lengths in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight in September at Belmont Park. The runner-up, Cutting Humor, won the Grade 3 Sunland Derby and ran 10th in the Kentucky Derby this year.
It was nearly 10 months before Looking At Bikinis would run again, making a six-wide move in upper stretch and edging clear late to a half-length optional claiming victory going a mile June 27 at Belmont. Grade 3-placed Not That Brady was second, with Pasco runner-up Overdeliver third.
Favored for the third straight race, Looking At Bikinis made his stakes debut last out in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin July 26 at Saratoga, contested over a muddy and sealed main track. Brushed at the start, he set the pace on the inside but wound up third behind stablemate Highest Honors and Endorsed, both entered in the Travers.
Castellano and Looking At Bikinis, listed at 10-1 on the morning line, will break from post position 9. All 12 Travers horses will carry 126 pounds.
"I think he's a good horse and he's just starting to develop. He's a young horse. He's only run three times, and out of those three he's shown a lot of potential," Castellano said. "The last race was a muddy track, they sealed the track, it was a funny day. He ended up on the lead and the rail wasn't the right place to be. I ended up in that position and he didn't like it. It was the first time he went two turns; everything was against him.
"There will be a little more speed in this race so he doesn't have to be on the lead. It's now his second time going two turns and I think he's going to handle it better mentally and physically. He has a lot of potential and he's shown me he belongs with this group," he added. "I like the horse a lot. We'll have to figure out how to win the race. I know there's a lot of tough horses in there. A race like this is supposed to be tough, but that's the thing about this game. Anything can happen."
* * *
Lieblongs hope to return to winner's circle with Laughing Fox in G1 Travers
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's stakes winner Laughing Fox, fourth off a two-month break between races in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets July 27, gets a chance to improve on that performance in Saturday's Runhappy Travers.
The Jim Dandy was the first start for Laughing Fox since running fifth in the Grade 1 Preakness, the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown, May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. The Travers will be his third try against Grade 1 company, also finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby April 13.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Laughing Fox had his final pre-Travers work on Sunday, an easy half-mile in 50.15 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. The previous week he went five furlongs in 1:01.70, also at Oklahoma.
Laughing Fox, a confirmed closer, was beaten five lengths by Tax in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy after racing inside early and coming with a six-wide move in the stretch. He gets another furlong in the 1 ¼-mile Travers, which drew a field of 12 including Tax and Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus.
"He needs a certain setup and he has a hard time getting it. He needs some speed to be able to run them down," Alex Lieblong said. "That's his best, and I think there will be plenty of speed in this one, for sure. He got pinned down a little bit on the rail the first [turn] in the Jim Dandy and had a hard time getting out, and then he finally got out. It's funny, that horse makes up a lot of ground right at the end, like he did at the Preakness, [when] he had to swing so far out there and keep on. He's one of those that just keeps coming."
Laughing Fox rallied from well back on the far outside to earn his first stakes win in the Oaklawn Invitational May 4, earning an automatic berth to the Preakness. Prior to that he ran behind Omaha Beach, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched with a breathing issue three days before the race, in both the Grade 2 Rebel and Arkansas Derby.
In the Arkansas Derby, Laughing Fox was a length behind Country House in third. Country House, being given the rest of 2019 off to build toward a 4-year-old campaign, was elevated to victory in the Kentucky Derby following the disqualification of first-place finisher Maximum Security for interference.
The Lieblongs have enjoyed past success at Saratoga, winning the Grade 1 Sword Dancer with Telling in 2009 and 2010, the Grade 1 King's Bishop - now run as the H. Allen Jerkens on the Travers Day undercard - with The Big Beast in 2014, and the Grade 2 Saratoga Special with I Spent It in 2014.
To date, their most special Saratoga victory came in front-running fashion with Embellish the Lace in the Grade 1 Alabama in 2015, the Spa's filly equivalent to the Travers. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, who also conditioned The Big Beast and I Spent It, Embellish the Lace went off at 6-1.
"It's hard to top the Alabama but [to win] this would top the Alabama," Alex Lieblong said. "That's always been one of my favorite races, and I was able to win that one. I always liked the King's Bishop, and we won that one. We won the Saratoga Special, but the Travers is the Travers. If you can get that one, you've done pretty good."
Laughing Fox went off at 15-1 in the Jim Dandy, and will be ridden back by Ricardo Santana, Jr. In Telling's two Sword Dancer wins, he was sent to post at odds of 33-1 ($68) and 10-1 ($22.60).
"I won the Sword Dancer years ago and I think he went off at [big odds], so I'm used to deep water," Lieblong said. "We're looking forward to it. It's nice racing up there and the weather is supposed to be nice."
Lieblong said he plans to arrive in Saratoga on Friday and stay through the weekend, as he hopes to unveil his 2-year-old filly Wicked Whisper on Sunday. By Liam's Map out of the Bernardini mare Zayanna, Wicked Whisper is a half-sister to Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Point of Honor who also worked Sunday at Saratoga, going a half-mile in 50.09 seconds.
"I think she's going to have her maiden race Sunday if things go as planned," Lieblong said. "We've been taking our time with her. She's done everything that we've asked. Steve's been relatively happy and I've been relatively happy. She worked good the other day. She's not like Laughing Fox; you can take him anywhere and he's the same old horse. She still had stars in her eyes a little bit the other day. She's been [in Saratoga] about a week and a half. She's trained very, very well so we'll just knock on wood. The physical part's there, now we've just got to see if the mental part's there."
* * *
Come Dancing looks to relish cutback in distance in seven-furlong G1 Ketel One Ballerina
Blue Devil Racing Stable's Come Dancing will look to continue her impressive 5-year-old campaign when she breaks from post 2 as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, carded as Race 6, on Saturday, Travers Day, at Saratoga.
The Malibu Moon mare ended her 4-year-old year with a hard-running second, by a neck, to Marley's Freedom in the Grade 3 Go For Wand in December at Aqueduct Racetrack and started the new year with a 7 ¾-length score in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at the Ballerina distance of seven furlongs on April 5 at the Big A. That romp earned her a personal-best 114 Beyer Speed Figure, building on the 102 garnered in the Go For Wand. The triple-digit success continued with a 6 ¾-length win in the one-mile Grade 2 Ruffian on May 5 at Belmont Park.
Last out, the Carlos Martin trainee overcame a stumble at the break before running second to Midnight Bisou in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day, June 8. She will now be cutting back in distance in racing at Saratoga for the first time since running fourth in the 2018 Shine Again.
"I'm excited about cutting her back to seven-eighths," Martin said. "She was dominant in the Distaff and had a great race in the Ruffian. In the [Ogden Phipps], she came up stumbling a little bit and was forced to go to the lead. We always want to go to the lead, but once you stumble, you have to rush up with [three-quarters of a mile] in 1:09 and change. It took a little starch out of her. But we regrouped, and in the last month, she's trained sensational with Javier [Castellano]. So, I'm really excited about running her on Saturday."
Come Dancing has picked up the services of Castellano, a Hall of Famer, and has been training at Saratoga since July, breezing five times on the historic venue's main track, including a three-furlong blowout in 35.60 seconds on August 17.
Castellano has one Ballerina win to his credit, piloting Hilda's Passion in 2011. The race is a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park.
Come Dancing has improved since turning 4, going 4-2-0 in nine starts, including all three of her stakes victories. With lineage that goes back to Malibu Moon sire A.P. Indy and her granddam being Tiznow, Martin said Come Dancing has the breeding to have success as she's aged.
"I think her pedigree has a lot to do with it. I really believe in the genetics," Martin said. "She has a lot of A.P. Indy in her and is out of a Tiznow mare. Those horses really seem like they mature. The pedigree really stands out if you can keep those horses sound."
The Ballerina features 9-5 Separationofpowers, 5-1 Mia Mischief and 8-1 Minit to Stardom, who is coming off a gate-to-wire win in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss on July 24 at Saratoga and who Martin expects to serve as the early speed.
"As long as she breaks running, she'll put herself in a good spot," Martin said. "I think Minit to Stardom is the true speed, so hopefully she'll blast off from the outside and we'll see if we can get up the inside and sit off for a little bit. Stalk-and-pounce would be the trip I'd like to have. But Javier is such a great jockey, and he's won all these Grade 1 races, so I'm confident I got the right guy to get the right trip."
Martin's busy day on the Travers undercard will start with Empire State Thoroughbreds' Bon Raison in the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor in the seven-furlong main track sprint in Race 5.
The 4-year-old Raison d'Etat colt will be making his third start at Saratoga this year, running second against optional claimers at six furlongs on July 19 before returning to stakes company for a three-quarter length win in the Tale of the Cat at the same distance on August 9.
Bon Raison drew post 5 in the six-horse Forego field and is listed at 12-1 on the morning line. He will be looking for graded stakes blacktype for the first time in five attempts as he competes against a talented field that includes 4-5 favorite Mitole and Promises Fulfilled, who won the Grade 2 John Nerud on July 6 at Belmont in a race that Bon Raison finished fifth.
"He's doing great and loves the track," Martin said. "It's a tough race with Mitole and Promises Fulfilled. We have a long shot, but we have a puncher's chance because he loves the racetrack. It's not like he's running 70 Beyers. He ran a 100 [in the Tale of the Cat] and had a great work on Tuesday. So, he'll run his race. He'll run as good as he can possible run. If he's good enough to beat those kind of horses, it'll be another step up.
"But we're in Saratoga, and once they like the racetrack, it's something that you always have to keep in mind," he added. "Certain horses just thrive up here. And when they like the track, you really can't be afraid of one or two horses."
The Forego will mark Bon Raison's 14th start of 2019, but Martin said the heavy workload has been beneficial, with five wins and eight on-the-board finishes in that span.
"I argued with the owner through the first six starts of the year about giving him a break in between, but he keeps telling me, 'the horse is thriving'," Martin said with a chuckle. "He keeps proving me wrong. He's running better and better, so I said, 'I'm done arguing.' If the horse is training great, let's keep running."
Martin has 11 graded stakes victories to his credit starting with his first in 1990. He will be seeking his first graded stakes win at Saratoga. The grandson of late Hall of Famer Frank "Pancho" Martin, who conditioned Sham among others, and his late father Jose Martin, who trained five-time stakes winner Noble Nashua.
"Being in the game so long and watching my father and grandfather with all those great horses, it's great to keep the Martin name going," he said. "I know they would be proud, especially if we can get it done in a Grade 1 in Saratoga."
* * *
Mucho Gusto hopes to follow McKinzie's triumph at Saratoga
Mucho Gusto shipped into Saratoga from California on Tuesday evening in advance of his start in Saturday's Runhappy Travers.
Owned by Michael Lund Peterson and in the care of Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. Mucho Gusto will try to follow in the footsteps of multiple graded stakes winning stablemate McKinzie, who followed a similar pattern earlier this summer at the Spa, shipping in three days in advance of an impressive Grade 1 Whitney win.
"He's arrived in good shape and looks good," said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Baffert. "He had his second gallop over the main track this morning, just a light mile, and he'll probably go a little further tomorrow. He goes over the track well."
The four-time Grade 3 winner, who captured the Bob Hope at Del Mar at 2 years old, as well as the Robert Lewis, Affirmed and Laz Barrera this year at Santa Anita Park, has never finished off the board in eight starts. The chestnut son of Mucho Macho Man will look to give Baffert his fourth Travers win and third in four runnings, with Arrogate taking the 2016 edition in a Travers record time for 1 ¼ miles, and West Coast in 2017.
Last out, he finished second to Maximum Security in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 20 at Monmouth Park.
"He's been steadily on the improve," said Barnes. "He had to step up last time to run against the likes of Maximum Security, but he gave us a reason to jump up there. Hopefully, he does the same thing on Saturday. It's a large field but we have a good post to work with and with the Haskell being a week earlier this year, I think that helped in his recovery. We're looking forward to Saturday."
* * *
Hough thinks Travers distance suits Scars Are Cool
Although he might be a David among Goliaths in Saturday's Runhappy Travers, Scars Are Cool has given trainer Stanley Hough confidence that his impressive maiden winner has the capability of getting the mile-and-a-quarter distance.
Owned by Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farm, the Malibu Moon chestnut broke his maiden at third asking in July over the Saratoga Race Course main track in July going 1 1/8 miles, where he registered a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.
"We kind of felt that he was the type that would go a distance and that race was a mile-and-an-eighth," Hough said. "He was building up from his first two races and he ran well. We decided to try the mile-and-a-quarter. He's coming into it well. Obviously, a huge step but they're all 3-year-olds so it's not like we're running against 5-year-olds. I don't think it's going to hurt him."
Scars Are Cool has breezed three times since his maiden victory, the most recent of which was a five-furlong move going 1:02.60 on August 15 over the Oklahoma training track.
"Other than the big jump I think he's sitting on a pretty good race," Hough said. "I don't think [post 10] matters too much, he'll come from a little bit off the pace. So we got a quarter of a mile to get position. I just hope he's not hung too wide. He's got medium speed so I think he'll get put in the middle and then he can get over and save some ground."
Bred in Florida by Hardacre Farm, Scars Are Cool was purchased for $170,000 from the Ocala Breeders Sales Company's October Yearling Sale in 2017. He is out of the two-time stakes-winning More Than Ready broodmare Ready Signal.
Hough went on to give a brief update on graded stakes winner Global Campaign and said that the half-brother to Grade 1 winner Bolt d'Oro has been given some time off and will target a possible fall campaign.
"He came up with a little problem that's going to require a couple of months off so we had to send him back to the farm," Hough said. "Hopefully he'll come back late fall and get ready for next year."
* * *
Promises Fulfilled now races for both Robert Baron and WinStar Farm
When the entries for Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor were posted, top contender Promises Fulfilled had an additional owner in WinStar Farm along with original owner Robert Baron, who lives in Voorheesville, New York.
WinStar Farm, located in Versailles, Kentucky, purchased 50 percent of the 4-year-old.
"We are happy to have them as a partner in racing and we are looking forward to standing him at WinStar Farm," Promises Fulfilled's trainer Dale Romans said. "Next year, he is likely to run. He is always going to have his accomplishments. All he can do is elevate himself."
Promises Fulfilled is a two-time winner at Saratoga with victories in the Grade 3 Amsterdam Stakes and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes. Coming into the Forego, Promises Fulfilled took the Grade 3 John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont on July 6.
* * *
Owendale schools for Travers; Kid is Frosty, Dot Matrix set for Friday's Showcase Day
Co-third choice at 6-1 for Saturday's 1 ¼-mile Travers, Rupp Racing's Owendale schooled in the paddock after a routine gallop for the "Mid-Summer Derby."
The bay colt by Into Mischief was curious and alert, but well-behaved, as he was walked around the paddock and stood quietly in the saddling area as trainer Brad Cox and an assistant saddled him. After another brief turn, Owendale was hosed off and led back to his barn across Union Avenue.
"He got here Tuesday and he's settled in well," said Cox of Owendale, who last out won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 22, a month after finishing third in the Grade 1 Preakness. "He rebounded well in the Ohio Derby, and he's coming into this race as well as he's come into any of them. We're confident he's going to run big."
Owendale's lone disappointing outing came in February, when he finished eighth in the Grade 2 Risen Star, a performance Cox attributed to too many races in too short a time.
"He had run a huge race in January and he bounced," said Cox. "He didn't run from February until [he won] the [Grade 3] Lexington in April, and we're going into this Travers the same way."
Overall, Owendale is 4-1-2 from 10 starts, with a pair of fourths, for earnings of $668,725. The unprepossessing bay colt has a small bright star on his forehead, which is obscured during races by blinkers and a shadow roll.
"He's pretty much a plain brown wrapper," said Cox, 'but he can run."
Also schooling in the paddock was Owendale's stablemate Kid Is Frosty, the 7-2 third choice in Friday's $200,000 Fleet Indian at 1 ⅛ miles. WInner of a pair of New York Stallion Series races on turf in her past two outs, she will be returning to dirt in the Fleet Indian.
"We'd like to keep her on the turf but this race came up, with a big purse," said Cox of the 3-year-old Frost Giant filly. "She's run well on dirt, and she's really blossomed since she's been here at Saratoga."
Dot Matrix, third after a troubled trip as he sought a repeat in the Warrior Veterans Stakes at Indiana Downs in his most recent start, will join Kid Is Frosty on Friday's card as the 9-2 third choice in the $150,000 West Point presented by Trustco Bank on the turf. The 6-year-old gelded son of Freud is returning to New York for the first time since finishing fourth in last year's Kingston at Belmont Park.
"I believe he prefers two turns rather than the one turn at Belmont," said the trainer, "and I honestly feel he's better this year [3-1-0-1} than last year [6-3-1-0]."
* * *
The Rookie Report: Clement debuts pair of well-bred juveniles
Eight 2-year-olds will seek their first career victory in the second race on Travers Day, including a duo of well-bred horses from the barn of Christophe Clement.
Purchased for a $600,000, Onward makes his career debut in the six-furlong event over the Saratoga main track. Owned by Jump Sucker Stable in partnership with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Onward is a dark bay son of Street Sense out of the unraced Arch broodmare Queenofperfection, whose dam Gone Purrfect is a full-sister to Eclipse Award winner Speightstown. He was acquired at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Clement also sends out Castleton Lyons homebred Moonshine Now, a Malibu Moon bay out of Ask Me When, who also produced stakes winner Seeking the Ante. Owned by his breeders in partnership with Delehanty Stock Farm, Moonshine Now comes from the same family as graded stakes winner and producer Dominus, as well as two-time Grade 1 winning millionaire Honey Ryder.
"They both have trained very well and need to run," Clement said. "They have been here all meet long. Six furlongs is a good place to start and we'll just go from there. I expect both of them to run well. We're looking to keep the dream alive."
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Zayat Stables' Atoka, who enters the event off of a narrow loss in his career debut to Glory Road. The chestnut son of Union Rags is out of the Speightstown broodmare Splendor Town. He was acquired for $190,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale last October.
Trainer Mark Casse will send Tap It to Win to Saratoga off of a runner-up effort over the Woodbine turf last month. Owned by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation, the bay homebred is by Tapit out of the three-time stakes winning Medaglia d'Oro broodmare Onepointhreekarats. He is distantly related to two-time champion Songbird.