Ex­ag­ger­a­tor fa­vored in deep Travers field

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – David Gren­ing – Steve An­der­sen

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The con­nec­tions of Ex­ag­ger­a­tor be­lieve that the last month has made a world of dif­fer­ence for their 3-year-old as far as his chances for suc­cess at Saratoga.

Dis­pleased with the way he was train­ing over the main track here in July and the po­ten­tial setup in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, trainer Keith De­sormeaux called an audi­ble and ran Ex­ag­ger­a­tor in the Grade 1 Haskell In­vi­ta­tional on July 31 at Mon­mouth Park, a race he won by 1 1/2 lengths with the ben­e­fit of a fast pace and a sloppy track.

Now, Ex­ag­ger­a­tor – the win­ner of the Santa Anita Derby, Preak­ness, and Haskell – will look to put a ham­mer­lock on the 3-year-old divi­sion when he runs in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $1.25 mil­lion Travers Stakes, where he will meet 13 other 3-year-olds. The 14-horse field rep­re­sents the largest Travers since 1977.

Julie Clark, the as­sis­tant trainer to De­sormeaux, be­lieves she has seen sig­nif­i­cant changes in Ex­ag­ger­a­tor since the Haskell.

“To me, he seems a hap­pier horse,” Clark said Wed­nes­day after Ex­ag­ger­a­tor gal­loped and schooled at the start­ing gate. “He’s out there play­ing and en­joy­ing him­self, and just his ac­tion, his move­ment has im­proved over the track.”

Ex­ag­ger­a­tor will have to be at his best when he meets an in­trigu­ing group in the Travers, in­clud­ing Bel­mont Stakes win­ner Cre­ator, Louisiana Derby win­ner Gun Run­ner, a trio of horses from white-hot trainer Chad Brown’s sta­ble, and a pair of up-and-com­ers from the barn of Bob Baf­fert.

Ex­ag­ger­a­tor drew post 7 and was made the 3-1 morn­ing-line fa­vorite for the Travers, which will be race 11 on a 13-race pro­gram that in­cludes five other Grade 1 races and the re­turn of the un­de­feated Lady Eli off a 13-month lay­off in the Grade 2 Ball­ston Spa.

“I like a big­ger field,” Clark said. “Those small fields re­ally change the pace sce­nario. This should set up for a true closer, like he is.”

The Jim Dandy had been the in­tended tar­get for Ex­ag­ger­a­tor fol­low­ing his 11th-place fin­ish in the Bel­mont Stakes. But his two work­outs, though fine by mea­sure of the stop­watch, were not done in a mat­ter that Clark or De­sormeaux liked.

“You com­pare times, it doesn’t seem so bad, but I think you have to re­move that as­pect and see is it typ­i­cal for your horse?” Clark said.

“The flip side of that is the horse still looked good, his weight was good, his coat looked good, he was bright. It just seemed like a lot of conflicting fac­tors.”

Ex­ag­ger­a­tor worked five fur­longs in 1:00.95 last Satur­day in a move that Clark felt was bet­ter than his two pre­vi­ous breezes.

Ex­ag­ger­a­tor’s three Grade 1 vic­to­ries this year all came on sloppy tracks. Clark said she is fine with run­ning Ex­ag­ger­a­tor on a fast track.

“I would like to give him a chance to show what he can do on a dry track,” Clark said.

While Ex­ag­ger­a­tor drew right in the mid­dle of the field, Baf­fert’s pair of Ar­ro­gate and Amer­i­can Free­dom drew posts 1 and 2.

Ar­ro­gate has won three straight races and came from off the pace in a three-horse field last time out. He most cer­tainly will have to leave quickly from the rail un­der Mike Smith. Amer­i­can Free­dom was on the pace when sec­ond to Ex­ag­ger­a­tor in the Haskell. How­ever,

Baf­fert is tak­ing the blink­ers off of Amer­i­can Free­dom, hop­ing to get him to re­lax un­der Rafael Be­jarano.

Cre­ator drew post 12, while Gun Run­ner, who fin­ished fifth in the Haskell, is in post 14.

The Travers will be shown live on NBC in a 90 -minute broad­cast be­gin­ning at 4:30 p.m. East­ern. Post time for the Travers is sched­uled for 5:44 p.m.

The Travers, with its 14-horse field that in­cludes two clas­sic win­ners, is ob­vi­ously the fo­cal point of Satur­day’s 13-race pro­gram at Saratoga. But there is a ter­rific un­der­card in sup­port, fea­tur­ing top horses such as Flintshire, Lady Eli, and a sen­sa­tional quin­tet in the Grade 1 Per­sonal En­sign.

Flintshire came to Saratoga last year when in the barn of An­dre Fabre and turned in an elec­tric turn of foot to win the Sword Dancer by 2 1/2 lengths. Owned by Jud­dmonte Farms, Flintshire will try to de­fend his ti­tle Satur­day in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up.

Flintshire has been a U.S. res­i­dent in the barn of Chad Brown since March. In two starts for Brown, Flintshire, a 6 -year-old son of Dan­sili, has won the Grade 1 Man­hat­tan and Grade 2 Bowl­ing Green.

“The fact he’s at this level at this age is purely a tes­ta­ment to An­dre Fabre and Jud­dmonte’s team, how well they’ve man­aged the horse through­out his ca­reer,” Brown said. “Train­ing these kinds of horses, there’s no way a horse can be still at the very high­est level of com­pe­ti­tion at age 6 un­less they’ve been taken care of along the way.”

Flintshire drew post 6 in a seven-horse field, with three of the run­ners from Brown’s barn. In­or­di­nate, also owned by Jud­dmonte, was en­tered as a pace­maker for Flintshire. Money Mul­ti­plier is com­ing off a sec­ond-level al­lowance win.

Also in the field are Twi­light Eclipse, third to Flintshire in last year’s Sword Dancer, and Grand Tito, who came within three-quar­ters of a length of Flintshire in the Bowl­ing Green. Ro­man Ap­proval and Ap­pli­ca­tor com­plete the field.

The best story on Satur­day’s card is the re­turn of Lady Eli, the un­de­feated filly who over­came a se­ri­ous bout of lamini­tis to make it back to the races.

Un­raced since win­ning the Grade 1 Bel­mont Oaks on July 4, 2015, Lady Eli will take on seven op­po­nents in the Grade 2, $400,000 Ball­ston Spa Stakes. The 1 1/16 -mile turf race for fil­lies and mares is race 12, im­me­di­ately after the Travers.

Lady Eli, trained by Chad Brown, drew post 3 in a field of eight that in­cludes Miss Tem­ple City, who beat males in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile and was beaten just a neck when fourth in the Grade 1 Diana.

Lady Eli will have some pace help in the form of Sym­pa­thy, also trained by Brown.

The field in­cludes Sen­tiero Italia, the win­ner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 2 Sands Point at 3, and Onus, a graded stakes win­ner at 3 at Lau­rel.

The oth­ers en­tered are Sweet Ac­claim, Ex­cilly, and Strike Charmer.

The Grade 1 Per­sonal En­sign brings to­gether the best of the filly-and-mare route divi­sion on the East Coast.

Ca­vort­ing, the win­ner of the Grade 1 Og­den Phipps at 1 1/16 miles, will at­tempt to stretch out yet again as she tries 1 1/8 miles for the first time. She will break from the out­side in the five-horse field un­der Javier Castel­lano.

Ca­vort­ing will take on For­ever Un­bri­dled, I’m a Chat­ter­box, and Cu­ralina – all Grade 1 win­ners this year – and Paid Up Sub­scriber, sec­ond in the Delaware Hand­i­cap after be­ing ham­pered at the break.

I’m a Chat­ter­box drew the rail, fol­lowed by Cu­ralina, For­ever Un­bri­dled, Paid Up Sub­scriber, and Ca­vort­ing.

The Travers drew 14, and its sprint coun­ter­part, the Grade 1, $500,000 King’s Bishop at seven fur­longs, drew a field of 13 with plenty of speed types.

Trainer Bob Baf­fert shipped in the pair of Jazzy Times and Dre­fong, both of whom are mak­ing their stakes de­but and ap­pear to have an ex­cep­tional amount of early speed.

Jazzy Times, owned by Zayat Sta­bles, is com­ing off a firstlevel al­lowance win at Del Mar on July 31. Dre­fong, a son of Gio Ponti, has won this last three. Jazzy Times breaks from post 9. Dre­fong drew post 13.

With as much speed as there ap­pears to be on pa­per, the race could set up well for off-thep­ace types such as Fish Trappe Road, Eco­nomic Model, and Mo­hay­men. Fish Trappe Road (post 2) and Eco­nomic Model (post 1) fin­ished one-two i n the Dwyer Stakes at Bel­mont. Mo­hay­men (post 6) is cut­ting back off a fourth-place fin­ish in the Jim Dandy.

The 3-year-old Ca­rina Mia, sec­ond to Song­bird in the Coach­ing Club Amer­i­can Oaks, will take on older fil­lies and mares in the Grade 1, $500,000 Bal­le­rina at seven fur­longs.

Ca­rina Mia will break from post 9 in a 10 -horse field and will be rid­den by Joel Rosario, who re­places the in­jured Julien Leparoux.

The field in­cludes de­fend­ing Breed­ers’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint win­ner Wavell Av­enue, Grade 1 Madi­son win­ner Sheer Drama, and the pair of stakes win­ners from trainer Michelle Nevin’s barn, Paulas­sil­ver­lin­ing and By the Moon.

A. P. In­dian will try to con­tinue his as­cen­sion in the male sprint divi­sion when he goes for his sec­ond straight Grade 1 stakes win at the meet in the $700,000 Forego at seven fur­longs.

A. P. In­dian, trained by Arnaud Dela­cour for Green Lantern Sta­bles, won the Grade 1 Al­fred G. Van­der­bilt here on July 30. A. P. In­dian drew post 11 in a 12-horse field for the Forego.

Mark­ing, who came within a head of A. P. In­dian in the Grade 3 Bel­mont Sprint Cham­pi­onship, drew post 12, and Limou­sine Lib­eral, sec­ond to Run­happy in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop here on Travers Day 2015, drew post 3.

Catalina Red drew the rail, and Chief Lion is in post 2. Out­side of Limou­sine Lib­eral and in­side of A. P. In­dian are The Truth Or Else, An­chor Down, Ta­markuz, Schivarelli, Stall­walkin’ Dude, Ready for Rye, and Dan­nie’s De­ceiver.

Del Mar: Pat O’brien Stakes

In the nearly four years since Vy­jack won his de­but, the geld­ing has won stakes on dirt in sprints and around two turns, started in two Triple Crown races, fin­ished sec­ond in two graded stakes on turf, and earned more than $1.1 mil­lion.

On Satur­day, Vy­jack will start in the $200,0 00 Pat O’brien Stakes at seven fur­longs on dirt at Del Mar. The O’brien Stakes will be Vy­jack’s 26th start and his first in Cal­i­for­nia. It also will be his first start at less than a mile since a third in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga in Au­gust 2014.

“We’ve seen in the past that he’s run well on the grass, but he trains so well on the dirt,” new trainer Phil D’amato said.

Vy­jack joined D’amato’s sta­ble in June, hav­ing run on turf the pre­ced­ing year for trainer Bill Mott. Vy­jack was 18th in the Ken­tucky Derby and eighth in the Bel­mont Stakes in 2013 when trained by Rudy Ro­driguez.

A 6 -year-old geld­ing owned by Pick Six Rac­ing, Vy­jack may wind up back on turf, but the con­di­tions of the Grade 2 Pat O’brien Stakes ap­peal to D’amato. The race is part of the Breed­ers’ Cup Win and You’re In pro­gram, of­fer­ing a fees-paid berth to the BC Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 to the win­ner.

“We want to see if we can have an­other op­tion for the Breed­ers’ Cup,” D’amato said on Wed­nes­day.

The Pat O’brien will be Vy­jack’s first start on dirt since a fifth in an op­tional claimer on a sealed and sloppy track at Bel­mont Park last Oc­to­ber. Vy­jack was sec­ond in the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes on turf at Mon­mouth Park on June 5, his final start for Mott.

The O’brien Stakes will have a small field led by Masochis­tic, the win­ner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita in 2015. Other prob­a­ble starters are Cau­tious Gi­ant, In­dex­i­cal, and Out­side Nashville.

BAR­BARA D. LIV­INGSTON

Bel­mont Stakes win­ner Cre­ator faces 13 ri­vals in the Travers.

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