Travers Week Kickoff
Real Writing on Racing 💯
Only two weeks left in a ‘memorable for all the wrong reasons’ Saratoga meet and Thursday into Fridays weather report is not looking all that promising either. It would be par for the course that the biggest day of the season would be impacted by rain as that has been the central theme much of the last six weeks. With highs in the upper 60’s forecasted for Thursday and an 80% chance of rain on Friday, visitors arriving for the big weekend will have to adjust just as us natives have had to do.
Sunday was a beautiful late summer afternoon with sunny skies and a nice breeze chasing away the weather related anxiety for at least one day. The card was workmanlike and the stake turned out to have an exciting finish though the result was not particularly lucrative for yours truly. When one considers that a month from now we will be facing Baqueduct for the next eight months…we will take workmanlike cards under bright sunny skies.
🌦️Weather related issues aren’t isolated to upstate New York of course as shown by a hurricane hitting the Souther California area Sunday and with Hawthorne already shifting post times till later in the day Wednesday and Thursday and Ellis Park moving Fridays card to Monday.
🏆 The featured Bolton Landing (L) going 5 1/2 on the Mellon Turf course labeled good went as the 4th race on Sunday. Takemetothebeach was an early scratch leaving five two year old fillies to fight it out. Three were coming out of a common race, the Colleen at Monmouth, which was won by post time favorite Amidst Waves for trainer George Weaver. Inexplicably sent off at 8-1 was Crown Imperial who was third by 1 3/4 despite having found trouble in that race as did She’s Fire who was 4th but beaten 4 1/4 lengths yet bet down to 3-1. The other two, Gram and Astonesthrowaway were both exiting slow figure NY bred MSW wins but also were shorter prices than Crown Imperial. Turning for home Crown Imperial and Tyler Gafflione shot through a narrow opening on the rail to grab the lead after sitting the pocket trip in third while Amidst Waves was commencing her late rally while 3 wide. Mid-stretch it looked briefly like Crown Imperial would give trainer John Ortiz his second Spa stakes win and me another turf sprint winning wager…but Amidst Waves was just up to the task, Irad once again skirting the lines of legal riding with his whip use, doing just enough to get her nose down on the wire first. The Bolton Landing was the third win of the daughter of Midshipman’s career in four tries and her second stakes score.
🥇 A grade 1 stakes kicks off the afternoon card today when the $150,000 Johnathon Sheppard Steeplechase takes place. The Spa jumping schedule has borne the brunt of the rain related grass course issues with some cancellations and postponements including this race which was supposed to have been run last week. I like Awakened in this spot and I do apologize to trainer Jack Fisher in advance for putting the whammy on his entrant today.
🎖️ Maximus Mischief has been a revelation as the runaway leading Freshman sire this summer. Jessica Tugwell takes a deep dive into his success here.
📰 Check out today’s edition of the Saratoga Special.
🆓 Free DRF Formulator PP’s for today’s John’s Call Stakes.
🎪 DRF’s David Aragona analyzes the John’s Call.
🇬🇧 Big race alert from York in the UK as a Juddmonte International (Gr I) goes off today at about 10:30 eastern. This is a story on the race with PP’s below ⬇️
🎪 Mike Kane previews the Travers which was drawn yesterday afternoon Here.
🇲🇳 They have horse racing where??? Watch this short video to find out!
🐶 Mut has some thoughts about todays card and you can Check them out here.
John’s Call (L) $135,000 ®️4&up 1 5/8 Mellon Turf
Good Skate - mild rally to grab the place spot in his last, a fast paced turf marathon which Pioneering Spirit won rather easily. This race is even longer but that’s in the Maker wheelhouse, geldings running long on the grass. Irad sticks and he should get an inside trip once again but has to improve and find the extra quarter mile stretch out to his liking. Huge factor if it comes off the turf but not crazy about his chances on it
Serifos - was in the back of the pack with Good Skate and also benefitted from the quick early pace for a race of that distance but couldn’t keep up with that one’s finishing punch.
Burning Bright - 6 yo hasn’t won in 27 months and while he is the probable pacesetter, the presence of Tide of the Sea makes it more difficult to think about stealing it on the front end.
Pioneering Spirit - was very sharp over a firm course earlier in the meet and steps up into restricted stakes company seeking his 5th consecutive win on the grass. It’s been a meteoric rise for the son of American Pharoah whose career seemed stalled out as a professional maiden in the Pletcher barn prior to Linda Rice reaching in and claiming him for $40,000 at Aqueduct in March. After a couple of fair tries on the dirt, she tried the grass with him and with Jose Ortiz aboard, it’s been nothing but open length wins ever since. You never can be 100% sure in NYRA turf marathons but there should be sufficient pace for him to rally into and he is clearly the one to beat though the loss of lasix is also in play here as a potential X factor that is almost impossible to gauge.
British Royalty - when last seen was making up ground late to be third in the 2 mile Belmont Gold Cup (Gr II) on Belmont Stakes eve. Cuts back 3 furlongs here shipping down from Woodbine for Barb Minshall, the 5 yo English Channel gelding is erratic as his good races and no shows seem to appear randomly. On his best he can get a piece of this but only on his best and it’s throwing darts trying to figure when those are coming.
Tawny Port - former Kentucky Derby trail competitor who won the Lexington (Gr III) and Ohio Derby (Gr III) as a 3yo for Brad Cox was transferred to Clement and pointed towards long distance grass events as a 4yo. His first start for his new trainer was the Bowling Green (Gr II) where he attended the soft pace set by ultimate winner Channel Maker before having his heels clipped from behind by huge race favorite Rebel’s Romance turning for home, before tiring in the stretch. I’d like to watch that race over again but for reasons that feel hollow, the replay for the Bowling Green (Gr II) is still unavailable. That said this is a step down in class from that spot though the extra furlong is a question mark. Rosario should be able to get him a better stalking trip with more pace signed on here and if he can handle the extra ground is a real player, especially if the price is right. Our choice.
Tide of the Sea - veteran campaigner makes start number 31 here and he does his best running on the front end. Found the 2 miles of the Belmont Gold Cup (Gr II) to be way too far and it’s also been a long time since he saw the inside of a winners circle too (Oct 2021). His race prior to the Gold Cup was a very good runner up finish to Ottoman Fleet (GB) who would be 2-5 in here. My question is how does he deal with Burning Bright and how will the early pace develop?
Sy Dog - started off his career in promising fashion before things went off the tracks last August. Was off 332 days between his 4th place finish in the Saratoga Derby (Gr I) and his 2023 debut in July when last in a Belmont allowance race. Ran a little better last out when 3rd in a Colonial allowance but hasn’t recaptured that early career form and is another that the ability to handle the distance is an unknown.
The Reds - first off the claim, first time gelding, first time grass. Half sister Zee Drop was multiple graded stakes placed on turf so there is a bit of pedigree for the surface switch but this seems like quite a stretch
Mystic Night - (MTO) - has a fighting chance if off the turf but even then we’d look elsewhere
📽️ Had to dig into the archives for this but here is a video featuring John’s Call and his Hall of Fame trainer Tom Voss.