Up­start’s con­nec­tions on fence for Travers

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – David Gren­ing – Jim Dun­leavy

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Rick Vi­o­lette can rat­tle off a host of rea­sons to run his New York-bred Up­start on Satur­day in the Grade 1, $1.6 mil­lion Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

He can name only one rea­son not to run: Amer­i­can Pharoah.

Start­ing at Tues­day night’s post-po­si­tion draw and pos­si­bly last­ing all the way through Satur­day morn­ing, Vi­o­lette and his own­ers will grap­ple with the choice of run­ning for a third straight time against Triple Crown win­ner Amer­i­can Pharoah or wait­ing three weeks for the $1 mil­lion Penn­syl­va­nia Derby at Parx, a race that most likely won’t have Amer­i­can Pharoah in it.

Up­start, the win­ner of the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulf­stream in Jan­uary, fin­ished last to Amer­i­can Pharoah in the Ken­tucky Derby and third to him in the Haskell In­vi­ta­tional. Throw­ing out the Derby, Vi­o­lette be­lieves the Haskell was Up­start’s only real race since the March 28 Florida Derby, in which he fin­ished sec­ond to Ma­te­ri­al­ity.

“He is sup­posed to im­prove sig­nif­i­cantly from the Haskell,” Vi­o­lette said.

Vi­o­lette was de­lighted that Up­start drew the rail – one slot in­side of Amer­i­can Pharoah, who was in­stalled as the 1-5 morn­ing-line fa­vorite for the 146th Travers. Vi­o­lette sees many of the 10 horses in the field hav­ing sim­i­lar run­ning styles, and Up­start won’t lose ground break­ing from the rail.

Up­start is 2 for 2 at Saratoga, hav­ing beaten New York-breds twice last year, and has trained well over the track. Vi­o­lette also has Irad Or­tiz Jr., who sits atop the Saratoga jockey stand­ings with 46 wins through 28 days of rac­ing here. Vi­o­lette said he be­lieves his horse can get 1 1/4 miles.

“The plus col­umn is long,” Vi­o­lette said Wed­nes­day. “He loves this race­track. He’s train­ing well, com­ing out of our own stall. We got the hottest rider in the coun­try and a de­cent post po­si­tion.”

The flip side is that Vi­o­lette knows Amer­i­can Pharoah is an im­mense tal­ent. He called Amer­i­can Pharoah’s vic­tory in the Haskell “stun­ning.”

Up­start was made the fifth choice at 15-1 on the Travers morn­ing line made by Eric Dono­van of the New York Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion. At Parx, Vi­o­lette be­lieves he could be among the fa­vorites.

“The para­dox is: Do you run your horse when they’re re­ally good or wait?” Vi­o­lette said. “You win a lot more races when you’re 4-1 or less. At Parx, I could be first or sec­ond choice for a mil­lion.”

Amer­i­can Pharoah was sched­uled to ar­rive at Albany In­ter­na­tional Air­port at 2 p.m. Eastern on Wed­nes­day, and with the aid of a po­lice es­cort, he was to be at Saratoga around

3 p.m. He was sched­uled to jog early Thurs­day morn­ing and gal­lop at 8:45 a.m. Fri­day dur­ing a 15-minute spe­cial train­ing ses­sion re­served for Travers horses.

Frosted, the Jim Dandy Stakes run­ner-up, drew post 6 and was made the 6-1 sec­ond choice on the morn­ing line, fol­lowed by Jim Dandy Stakes win­ner Texas Red, who drew post 4 and was made the 8-1 third choice. Keith De­sormeaux, the trainer of Texas Red, was sur­prised by that.

“I’ll bet each of you $5 Texas Red goes off sec­ond choice,” De­sormeaux said Wed­nes­day to a group of three re­porters.

Still, De­sormeaux knows the task of fac­ing Amer­i­can Pharoah is daunt­ing.

“If he runs his race, he’s un­beat­able,” De­sormeaux said.

Keen Ice, the Haskell run­nerup, drew post 7 and was made the 12-1 fourth choice. Smart Tran­si­tion (20 -1), Fram­mento (30 -1), Tale of Verve (30 -1), King of New York (50-1), and Mid Ocean (50 -1) com­plete the field.

The Travers goes as race 11 on a 13-race card that be­gins at 11:45 a.m. The Travers will be shown live on NBC dur­ing a two-hour broad­cast be­gin­ning at 4 p.m. Post time for the Travers is 5:46 p.m.

Six stakes on un­der­card

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The six sup­port­ing stakes lead­ing up to the Travers at Saratoga on Satur­day should be more than enough to keep ev­ery­body oc­cu­pied as they wait for Triple Crown win­ner Amer­i­can Pharoah to take to the track in the day’s main event.

Five of the six un­der­card stakes are Grade 1 races, and the other is a Grade 2. The Sword Dancer, Forego, Bal­le­rina, and Per­sonal En­sign are Win and You’re In races for their re­spec­tive Breed­ers’ Cup di­vi­sions.

The Grade 1 Sword Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race, has had its purse dou­bled from last year and is now worth $1 mil­lion. The in­crease was enough to lure Flintshire from Europe. Last fall, Flintshire fin­ished sec­ond in both the Prix de l’arc de Tri­om­phe and the Breed­ers’ Cup Turf. Fol­low­ing those two races, trainer An­dre Fabre sent Flintshire to the Group 1, $2.1 mil­lion Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, where he de­feated 10 ri­vals.

Vin­cent Chem­inaud, a 21-year-old cham­pion jump jockey in France who has been rid­ing on the flat for Fabre this year, has the mount.

Flintshire’s op­po­nents in­clude Twi­light Eclipse, who fin­ished a trou­bled third last out in the Grade 1 United Na­tions at Mon­mouth Park, and Messi, who has won his first two U.S. starts but will be step­ping up in class. The field also in­cludes Imag­in­ing, War Dancer, Red Ri­fle, Guar­dini, and Fix­ador.

Here’s a quick look at the other races:

Grade 1, $700,000 For­geo: The seven-fur­long Forego will match Bel­mont Sprint Cham­pi­onship win­ner Pri­vate Zone against The Big Beast, Sa­lu­tos Ami­gos, and Wild­cat Red.

Grade 1, $750,000 Per­sonal En­sign: This 1 1/8-mile race for fil­lies and mares has at­tracted the cham­pion Un­ta­pable, Stopcharg­ing­maria, and Sheer Drama.

Grade 1, $500,000 Bal­le­rina: La Ver­dad, a per­fect 4 for 4 this year, will face Dame Dorothy, who has won the Grade 1 Hu­mana Distaff and the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses in her last two starts. The Hu­mana Distaff and Bed o’ Roses were both at seven fur­longs, the same dis­tance as the Bal­le­rina.

Grade 1, $500,000 King’s Bishop: Holy Boss should be fa­vored in this seven-fur­long sprint for 3-year-olds. Holy Boss, trained by Steve As­mussen, has won four con­sec­u­tive races at six or 6 1/2 fur­longs, in­clud­ing the Grade 2 Am­s­ter­dam at Saratoga, the Chick Lang at Pim­lico, and the Bach­e­lor at Oak­lawn Park.

Also en­tered in the King’s Bishop is Com­pet­i­tive Edge, who will be turn­ing back to a sprint fol­low­ing his fourth­place fin­ish to Amer­i­can Pharoah in the Haskell In­vi­ta­tional.

Grade 2, $400,000 Ball­ston Spa: This 1 1/16-mile turf race for fil­lies and mares is topped by Tepin, the win­ner of the Grade 1 Just a Game on Bel­mont Stakes Day and the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on Ken­tucky Derby Day. Tepin was beaten a nose last out in the Grade 1 Diana.

The Ball­ston Spa also in­cludes Cof­fee Clique, the win­ner of the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Me­mo­rial at Parx last time out.


Up­start, shown train­ing at Saratoga, fin­ished third be­hind Amer­i­can Pharoah in the Haskell.


La Ver­dad en­ters the Grade 1 Bal­le­rina on Satur­day off a fron­trun­ning 4-length win in the Grade 2 Hon­or­able Miss.

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