When Will Take Charge nosed out Moreno in a thrilling stretch run to win Horse Racing’s biggest summer race for three year olds, the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Racetrack this past Saturday, believe it or not the first thought that popped into my head was the phrased coined by the great Steve Haskin when he said “It takes a horse to make you look like an ass”.
If you’re keeping score at home, I said two things in my “Horse Racing: An In-Depth Look at the 2013 Travers Stakes,” preview last Friday that were right and about…oh….I don’t know … a dozen things that were wrong.
In the preview, I said it would be the “Race of the Year” and it certainly was. I also said Orb would finish third and he did, but that’s about where it ends for me.
I said I was giving Verrazano another chance at 10 furlongs and that he might get it this time…he didn’t….I said Palace Malice was his biggest threat (after a horrendous start and trip) he wasn’t….I said Will Take Charge would “bounce” after that huge effort in the Jim Dandy….yea right….it turns out that that race just showed he was an improving horse and was sitting on another huge effort. I said Transparent might be your “long-shot possibility”…yea…ummm…he ran dead last, beaten some 15 lengths. Do you get drift? I’m not sure how I, who is hitting at an almost 40% success rate on this website, could be so far off? Not to make excuses…I’m not into all that….but this race, and the entire card for that matter, was a nightmare to handicap. Is it next Saturday yet? And who is running in the Woodward?
Anyway, enough about me let’s take a look back at the Travers and then look ahead to the Woodward….(please?)
At the start, as expected 31-1 shot Moreno quickly established the early lead and was allowed an uncontested early lead thru fractions of :24.2 for the first quarter mile, a half-mile in :48.4, three-quarters in 1:13.2 and a mile in 1:37.2…I couldn’t believe that he could get away with such slow fraction and I knew at that point he’d be tough to catch.
From there (the quarter pole), Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who skimmed the rail, actually poked his head in front for a split second but the some 10 weeks of inactivity showed and he could not gain any more and finished an even third.
Meanwhile it was Will Take Charge who was grinding away and grinding away and got his head down on the wire in one of the closest photo finishes I can remember.
The Official Order of Finish
1) Will Take Charge- broke well and sat in fifth position most of the way around, he started gathering momentum at about the 5/16ths pole and kept working and kept working to eek out the win.
“I changed up a few things,” winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “I took a chance on an up-and-coming rider. I thought my horse trained well, but these things (races) are so tough. At the three-eighths pole, I thought we’ll get a piece of it, but I didn’t know if we’d get up.”
“This horse was training good” winning jockey Luis Saez said. “Last time, when he finished second, I saw the replays and I knew how to ride him. I tried to ride him like he runs.”
Lukas said Will Take Charge, who went off at 9-1 and scored a 107 speed figure in the win, is “doing wonderful; really good. I’m very pleased with that. He had great energy this (Sunday) morning, out grazing and feeling good, very good.”
The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park or The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds at Philadelphia’s Parx Racing on Sept. 21 are where the colt by Unbridled Song will be pointed next.
“One of them’s a Grade 1 and very prestigious. If you were to win the Jockey Club, you’d go damn sure to the head of the division,” Lukas said. “If you stay in your division, the million dollars is not necessarily bad, either. We’ll weigh all the things. You get an extra week if you go to the Jockey Club, so that’s also something.”
2) Moreno- absolutely strolled thru the early part of the race and ran his lungs out to get beat half of a nose in a very good performance.
“Brutal, huh? Last jump,” trainer Eric Guillot said. “He couldn’t have done any better—stay in the three-path, stay off the rail, make them come to you, don’t let them go inside you, don’t let them pinch you on the rail. The kid rode him just like I told him. He knows the horse and he rode him perfect; we got beat. He said the horse kind of waited on them that last part. What are you going to do?
Guillot said Moreno was “bright and doing well” Sunday morning but that his horse raced with a large abscess near his throat.
“That’s an abscess that started Monday,” said Guillot, “I think the worst day was yesterday. We started compressing it. We’re good to go now, but I thought I was going to have to scratch on Monday. We don’t know what caused it; I think an ingrown hair, maybe, or he jerked back on the chain. It got infected and went the wrong way. You don’t want to pack it and work on it too hard and too fast. Yesterday, we iced it. I gave him a lot of anti-inflammatories.”
About his horse’s race he said afterwards “Everyone thought I was talking trash, He just beat the Derby winner, the Haskell winner, and the Belmont winner, right?”
Guillot said he plans to leave Moreno at Saratoga to train up to the Pennsylvania Derby, then a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to follow that.
3) Orb- was a little closer to the early pace that I though he’d be as he laid fourth most of the way around. He unleashed a big move on the turn for home while skimming the rail but lost momentum at the eighth pole to finish third in a good effort considering it was his first since the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
“I thought he ran a great race,” said trainer Shug McGaughey. “He came to the paddock the way I wanted him to, and I thought he had running on his mind. I thought Jose (Lezcano) rode him great. He was down on the inside the other two horses, and he couldn’t get by Moreno, really, after that slow pace. I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but I’m not disappointed in his effort one bit.”
Jose Lezcano, who was subbing aboard Orb for Joel Rosario, who fractured his foot the day before in a fall at Saratoga, said Orb responded well in his first race back off the brief freshener.
“I got a very good trip,” Lezcano said. “I got the position I wanted. The break was good, and he gave me his race. At the quarter pole, he accelerated, but the other horses kept going, too.”
“Now we’ve got a good, solid race under his belt, we’ve got all last winter and spring’s stuff behind us,” McGaughey added. “I think we can really move forward now. I’m going to look at the (Jockey Club) Gold Cup. That’s not to say the Pennsylvania Derby or the Indiana Derby (Oct. 5 at Indiana Downs) or something is completely out of the picture, but I think we want to go to the Gold Cup.”
4) Palace Malice- had even reason to throw in a complete clunker of a race on Saturday but he didn’t. The colt by Curlin “stumbled at the start” and was next to last (a position he is not used to) most of the way down the backside. He was then forced to go five wide on the turn for home which spelled curtains for him….I thought he did very admirable to get fourth.
“He broke really, really, really bad,” jockey Mike Smith said. “What am I going to do? I cannot go for the lead. All I could do is sit back there, creep up, creep up, creep up and see if I could get him there. I thought I still had it for a little bit there, but it was just too much to make up.”
“Mike said Palace Malice missed the break,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He slipped behind and dropped way back, not his characteristic spot. Mike thought he was much the best; the break killed him. It’s horse racing. It happens every day, every race, 14 times a day sometimes. We would have liked to have won it, but we’ve had a great meet and we’re not going to cry about it. We’ll regroup and try again.”
On Sunday Pletcher said Palace Malice come out of the Travers “in good order” and “have no firm plans. We’ll wait a few days and talk it over with (owner) Mr. (Cot) Campbell and the other connections before we make any decisions.”
5) Romanish- outran his almost 37-1 odds that’s for sure. He was among the early leaders and held well into the final furlong before tiring a bit. Overall, he didn’t run badly against the elite three year olds.
6) War Dancer- was last most of the way around passed a few tired horses late but was not a threat while being beaten seven lengths and (basically) outrun at almost 30-1 odds
7) Verrazano- it’s not a secret I like this colt but no excuses. I mean, he had a dream trip but just spit out the bit at the quarter pole.
He broke well, and assumed a stalking position for most of the way around but just didn’t fire when the real running started.
“I was very happy where I was (early),” jockey John Velazquez said. “By the half-mile pole, he was off the bridle and just went through the motions. He really didn’t put in much effort.”
Pletcher believes that Verrazano “bounced” from his 9 3/4-length win in the Haskell last month.
“If you’re a believer in the bounce theory, it looks like a classic bounce,” Pletcher said.
“In the Haskell, he ran a 116 Beyer Figure, and he ran a 97 Beyer Figure yesterday. We got the trip we wanted; everything was going smoothly. At the half-mile pole, Johnny (Velazquez) said he didn’t get the response he expected. After going three-quarters in (1:12.4), you can’t say it was the mile and a quarter that got him beat.”
Pletcher said he would take a couple of weeks to make a decision on what to do next with Verrazano. He said all options are open, including training up to the Breeders’ Cup.
Call me stubborn but I think he may have bounced also…..so now what? The Breeders Cup Classic is 10 furlongs as is the Jockey Club Gold Cup…but do you want to send him that distance again?
8) Golden Soul- evidently that second he ran in the Kentucky Derby was a “freak” performance as he was never in contention in this race (he was beaten about 12 lengths).
He has now lost his last three races by a combined 53 lengths. I believe it’s time to start looking for some softer competition for this colt.
9) Transparent- was three wide (and towards the back of the pack) most of the way around. Colt by Bernardini had absolutely nothing left when his rider asked him at the top of the stretch. He was beaten about 15 ½ lengths at 14-1 odds.
Looking ahead to next weekend, it looks as though the 2013 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga will be attracting most of the best older horses in training.
At this writing, scheduled to run in the $750,000, one and a quarter mile Grade: 1 race are: (in no particular order)
*Successful Dan- the half brother to the sensational Wise Dan, who was second in the Aug. 3 Whitney Handicap, worked five furlongs last Tuesday in 1:01.1.
*Fort Larned- the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner who ran a disappointing fifth in the Whitney last time out, worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Wilkes, who was pleased with the effort, said “I did a longer work with him, just a bit longer since he can stride along good, a naturally fast horse, I got what I wanted and I was very pleased. He’s doing good.”
When asked about his Whitney defeat Wilkes answered: “What can I say? We got beat, he broke a little slow, but bottom line, got beat. We’ll let him bounce back and just keep moving forward toward the end goal.”
* The amazing Paynter is schedule to ship across the country to run in the Woodward also according to owner Ahmed Zayat. The big, good looking colt worked seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5 at Del Mar on Aug. 20
Paynter went the first five-furlongs in 1:00 3/5 to the wire and finished up on the turn in :25.
Ahmed Zayat said the colt galloped out a mile in a “very strong” 1:38 and called the work “awesome.”
“He’s really doing great,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I loved the way he worked today. He was a little fresh last time (in the San Diego), but since then he’s really trained well. He’s an amazing horse. If you look at him you’d never know what he’s been through. The Woodward is going to be a tough race, but we’re going in prepared and just hope for the best.”
This will be the son of Awesome Again’s third race back as his remarkable comeback from near death (colitis and laminitis) story continues.
After winning the fight of his life (literally) he made his first start on June 14 at HollywoodPark when he crushed his foes by 4 1/2 lengths in a sharp 1:21.4 for the seven furlongs. In his next start, the 1 1/16 miles in San Diego Handicap, he finished a good second, beaten a half-length by Kettle Corn.
Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano felt he didn’t care for the Polytrack, and after discussing it with Ahmed and Justin Zayat it was decided to ship east and run the colt on dirt rather than stay at (polytrack) Del Mar for the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic… where he would have to face Dullahan and Game On Dude.
Other likely entrants include major stakes winners Cross Traffic, Mucho Macho Man and Flat Out.
Flat Out went five furlongs in a bullet 1:01.3 on the Oklahoma Training Track last Monday.
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