Exaggerator favored in deep Travers field
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.
Belmont Stakes winner Creator faces 13 rivals in the Travers.