FOX Sports Horse Racing TV Coverage Expanded

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced this week a three-year extension of the groundbreaking television programming deal with FOX Sports to broadcast NYRA’s flagship TV program Saratoga Live on FS2. With this announcement, live daily coverage of racing from Saratoga Race Course will be available to a national television audience through 2020.

“There’s no place like Saratoga and FOX Sports is delighted to be headed back to the Spa for three more summers,” said Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports Executive Vice President, Research, League Operations and Strategy. “We are very excited to extend and expand our partnership with NYRA, which provides high-quality live programming for FS2, and gives our fans access to insightful and entertaining daily coverage of the best race meet in North America.”

Saratoga canopy walk through“Partnering with FOX Sports has enabled NYRA to present the best race meet to horse racing and sports fans on a live and consistent basis,” said Tony Allevato, NYRA Bets President and Executive Producer of NYRA TV. “This extension ensures that people across the country will continue to be able to watch world-class thoroughbred racing on FS2.”

NYRA launched the critically-acclaimed Saratoga Live during the 2016 summer meet at Saratoga, which included 80 hours of live coverage. This year, FOX Sports expanded the schedule to include Saturdays from Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, bringing the total amount of live coverage on FS2 to more than 100 hours.

In 2017, NYRA added new markets in California and Ohio via agreements with several Regional Sports Networks including FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego, and FOX Sports Ohio.

Including all regional networks, Saratoga Live presented by Claiborne Farm and stallion Runhappy, now reaches more than 75 million homes. Saratoga Live airs at 4 p.m. on most live racing days.

This Saturday, Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Live will air on FS2 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will include the 68thrunning of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, featuring champion filly Songbird who has amassed a stellar record of 13 wins and one second-place finish in 14 starts.

Nilsen’s Travers 2017 Recap

6 Winners on TOP from the 13 races, including:

Two out of Three spot plays, both with winning exactas

$8.60 Hazit with $15.60 exacta (spot play)

$19.20 Profiteer

$6.00 Practical Joke

$4.30 Defrong with $43.60 exacta (spot play)

$3.20 Lady Eli

$15.60 Mohican with cold $56 exacta to close out the card.

Congratulations to the connections of West Coast on an impressive score in the 148th Travers Stakes.

First Time in 35 Years this is Happening in the Travers Stakes

Source: NYRA

Attracting all three winners of the year’s Triple Crown races for the first time since 1982, and only the second time in the Mid-Summer Derby’s storied tradition, Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont Stakes hero Tapwrit will step into the starting gate in the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Despite their lofty resumes, recent losses and an 11-week layoff for the Triple Crown winners have laid this year’s sophomore division wide open, leaving the Classic winners to overcome not only a full field of 12 but a less than favorable history of Travers matchups, as well.

walking horse through Saratoga crowdThe last time three individual winners of the Triple Crown races faced each other, Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and 2-5 favorite Conquistador Cielo, the respective winners of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, lined up in the 1982 Travers to contend for the title of top 3-year-old, only to have their dreams of supremacy dashed by a last-to-first surge by the Ontario-bred Runaway Groom.

The 1918 class didn’t fare much better against each other in that summer’s hotly contested Travers when Sun Briar, the reigning 2-year-old champion, handed defeat to Belmont winner Johren, Preakness winner War Cloud, and stablemate Exterminator, the upset winner of that year’s Derby.

On Saturday, though, this year’s Triple Crown race winners will try to write a new, and hopefully more fruitful, chapter in Saratoga history, led by Tapwrit, installed as the tepid 7-2 favorite for his ownership group comprised of Robert LaPenta, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Bridlewood Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, and Gainesway Farm.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray colt by Tapit will be making his first start since the Belmont, where he raced near the pace and dug in to post a two-length victory over the pacesetting Irish War Cry in the 12-furlong ‘Test of the Champion’ on June 10.

Prior to the Belmont, Tapwrit was second in his season opener to McCraken in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February before notching a 4 ¼-length score in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby one month later. He was firmly established on the Kentucky Derby trail as the 2-1 second choice in the Blue Grass in April when he finished fifth behind the 31-1 upset winner Irap.

“Everyone was in agreement that the Travers was the race for him,” said Pletcher, who won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley and in 2011 with Stay Thirsty.” We felt like if we ran in either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell, we’d leave a little something on the table that we wanted to save for the Travers. I think he’s been training exceptionally well and has put in some good breezes and I feel good that we have him fit enough and fresh enough to fire his ‘A’ race.

Pletcher will also saddle Always Dreaming, owned by MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, and looking to rebound from a pair of losses since his 2 ¾-length Kentucky Derby victory.

The Derby was the fourth straight win for the speedy Bodemeister colt, who also won the Grade 1 Florida Derby by five lengths in his stakes debut, but two weeks after he was draped with the blanket of roses, Always Dreaming faltered in his attempt to sweep the Triple Crown, dueling for the lead through the opening stages in the Preakness, before packing it in at the top of the stretch to finish eighth. He returned two months later in a rematch with Cloud Computing in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29 where, sent off as the narrow even-money favorite, he led early over the Preakness winner before giving way late to finish third behind Good Samaritan.

“We’ve done a better job with him coming into this race,” Pletcher said of Always Dreaming. “Honestly, I think we left him probably a little bit short for the Jim Dandy. I wasn’t anticipating quite as demanding of a racetrack that it turned out to be at that time. We put four works in between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, so I think that race hopefully brings him forward, plus [he’s had] two good works since then.”

Tapwrit will be ridden by his regular jockey Jose Ortiz from post 4. Always Dreaming, 6-1 on the morning line, will have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has been aboard the dark bay colt for all six of his starts in 2017; the pair will break from post 7.

Like Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing is looking for redemption after a poor showing in the Jim Dandy, where he finished a dull fifth.

Breaking his maiden at 3, Cloud Computing won at first asking in his February 11 debut and proved competitive in a pair of Derby preps in New York, finishing second in the Grade 3 Gotham in March and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 8. The graded stakes placings earned the lightly raced son of Maclean’s Music enough points to make the Derby cut, but the colt’s connections opted to bypass the First Saturday in May, preferring instead to target the middle leg of the Triple Crown.

In the Preakness, the Chad Brown trainee settled along the rail as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire vied for early control and launched his bid around the far turn to reel in Classic Empire and win by a head.

Get Rich Nilsen’s full-card analysis for the 2017 Travers card

“The track was very demanding [for the Jim Dandy],” said Brown. “This horse has never let us down in a workout or a race except that one day. [He] just didn’t come out of that race like we’ve normally seen. Since the race I’ve thought about the Travers a little bit, he’s come back and worked great twice going to the [main] track and it’s tightened up nicely and he’s ready to run his race.

“This race is right at the top of the list [of ones I want to win],” added the native of nearby Mechanicville, N.Y.  “Since I’ve began training if someone asked me what race I really want to win it’s this one. My team feels the same way and with a horse training as well as he is, it’s hard to stay in the barn so we’re going to run.”

Cloud Computing, at 8-1 on the morning line, will be ridden from the rail by record five-time Travers winner Javier Castellano, newly inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Looking to lead the charge against the Triple Crown winners is Good Samaritan, the third choice on the morning line at 5-1, who made a successful switch to dirt to play spoiler to the Derby and Preakness winners with a 4 ¾-length win in the Jim Dandy, the traditional local prep for the Travers.

Only off the board once in six tries on the turf for owners WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing Group and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the Harlan’s Holiday colt changed to the main track following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and earned his first victory since the Grade 2 Summer last summer at Woodbine.

“You got horses from everywhere [in the Travers], all the best,” said Mott, searching for his first Travers win with his eighth starter in the race.. You got the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, the Belmont; you’ve got everybody. It shaped up to be a really good field. So now, we’ve got to go out there and run our race. No issues at all. All is good up to this point.”

Joel Rosario has the return call aboard Good Samaritan, set to break from post 5.

At 10-1 for the Travers, Brad Grady’s Girvin will try to duplicate his winning effort in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 30, the Tale of Ekati colt’s first victory since posting back-to-back Derby prep wins this spring. Girvin was still recovering from a quarter crack when he finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He finished second to Irap in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby as the 4-5 favorite in his comeback race before running down McCraken in the final stages of the Haskell to win by a nose. Girvin will be ridden by Robby Albarado from post 6.

“He’s really done well over the Oklahoma track [at Saratoga] and carried himself well over the main track, as well, so we’re looking forward to it,” said trainer Joe Sharp, who is starting his first horse in the Travers. “He’s past his issues and I think it was more the trip than anything that affected him in the Derby. He was doing well aside from some minor setbacks he had, but he’s 100 percent.”

Prior to the Haskell, McCraken rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn in June at Churchill Downs for trainer Ian Wilkes.

A homebred son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, the Whitham Thoroughbred color bearer was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He carried his win streak into his 3-year-old seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in February before a minor injury pushed his next start back nearly two months, eventually marking his return with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on April 8. McCraken, 12-1, will break from post 9 with Brian Hernandez, Jr. in the irons.

This year’s Travers field includes a talented pair of California invaders led by Gary and Mary West’s West Coast from the Hall of Fame barn of Bob Baffert, who sent the then-unknown Arrogate to a record-breaking victory in last year’s Travers en route to eventual 3-year-old champion honors. By Flatter, West Coast brings a three-race win streak into his first Grade 1 event and hasn’t been worse than second in six career starts, including an impressive 2 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby on July 15.

Tabbed as the 4-1 second choice, West Coast will leave from post 3 with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons.

Reddam Racing and Doug O’Neill will be represented by Irap as their first Travers starter. Since his 31-1 upset of the Blue Grass, the son of Tiznow has developed into a bona fide graded stakes contender, putting together back-to-back Grade 3 victories since finishing a troubled 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6. Irap, 8-1, will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez from post 10.

Winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February, Margoth’s Gunnevera will shoot to build on his five-length win in the Tangelo on August 6, the Antonio Sano trainee’s first race since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness this spring. At 20-1, the Dialed In colt will be ridden by Edgard Zayas from post 11.

Mossarosa’s Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great will try for his first stakes win after a pair of Grade 2 placings this year for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Installed at 20-1, the Lookin At Lucky colt will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 2.

Rounding out the field are L and N Racing’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, third last time out for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and Shadwell Stable’s regally-bred Fayeq, taking a big step up in class to make his stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. A half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra, the Malibu Moon colt was a game winner of a 1 1/8-mile allowance on July 26 at the Spa, having already faced stakes-like competition, finishing third in his debut behind graded stakes winner Timeline at Gulfstream and misssecond by a half-length to fellow Travers entrant Giuseppe the Great. Fayeq, at 30-1 odds, will be ridden by Luis Saez from the outside.

2017 Travers Stakes Full-Card Analysis

with Wagering Strategies & Spot Plays by Rich Nilsen

Rich Nilsen handicapperRich Nilsen, founder of and one of the top tournament players in the history of the NHC, offers up his full-card analysis for Saratoga on Saturday, August 26th.  Last summer Nilsen crushed the Travers Day card, selecting Haveyougoneaway who upset the G1 Ballerina at odds of 10-1!   But Nilsen wasn’t done.  He followed up that score up by giving out top selection ARROGATE, track-record winner of the G1 Travers Stakes who paid an amazing $25.40 to win for followers of the sheet.  Another top pick ran 2nd at odds of 17-1 in race 3 on that day, returning a huge place payoff.

The analysis provides selections for every race plus three best bet spot plays.  Each race includes Nilsen’s detailed pace scenario which explains how the race will set up.  Nilsen has a value play selection for the Travers’ Stakes and he offers up his recommended straight, exacta and trifecta wagers for the big race.

Put an expert on your side as you attack Saratoga on their biggest day of the year. Get all 13-races.  Only $1 per race.

2017 Travers’s Day: 

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The Travers Day card features over $1.6 Million in Guaranteed wagers. The $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 begins on Race 8.

2016 Travers’ Testimonials:

“Great job, Rich!” ~ Jeff S.

“Rich: nice job Travers Day! Thanks to Arrogate, you gave me a good day. How in the world did you land on him? I suspect you’re doing some kind of voodoo pace analysis. If you ever decide to give lessons or a seminar, let me know.” ~ Kelley S.

Founder of, Nilsen is the winner of 6 major handicapping tournament and a 13-time qualifier to the multi million-dollar National Horseplayers Championship (NHC).  There are a lot of pretenders out there.  Get affordable, expert advice for this year’s amazing 13-race Travers card.

This sheet contains:

  • Top selections for all 13 races
  • Sophisticated Pace Scenario for all 13 races
  • Spot Plays (Best Bets) on the undercard w/ wagering strategies
  • In-depth Analysis of the Travers Stakes with Exacta & Trifecta strategies.

Get all 13 races on the Saratoga Saturday card.  Download now for only $13.97 to any device.

Girvin Goes for Haskell Travers Double

Source: NYRA

Brad Grady’s Girvin jogged a lap on the Oklahoma training track at about 6:00 a.m. Monday, two days after his final breeze for the Grade 1 Travers. Winner of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner last time out, he must prove he can handle the 10-furlong trip of the race in his second attempt. He was off the board after a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby over the same distance in May.

“The distance is always an unknown because his trip in the Derby wasn’t a fair testament,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “Based on his running style and how he finishes and has been training, I think he can handle it. He’ll definitely be running from the quarter-pole home and always tries. He’s a horse who really wants to win.”

Girvin will be teaming up again with Robby Albarado, who rode for the first time in the Haskell and employed a deep-closing tactic on the millionaire son of Tale of Ekati. In races prior, the nearly black colt displayed more tactical speed.

“I don’t really give instructions and I don’t think Robby anticipated being that far back either, but Robby knows the horse and he obviously rode him perfectly that day,” Sharp said. “He doesn’t have to be that far back and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is closer this time, but Robby will ride his race. He’s a versatile jockey who does his homework.”

“I don’t think the post is too important with Girvin,” Sharp said. “He has the ability to be wherever you need him to be and he’s a smart horse. Obviously, we don’t want to be stuck all the way on the outside, but also I think he could handle that. He’s a horse who gives you confidence.”

More 2017 Travers Stakes News

Source: NYRA

Whitham Thoroughbred’s multiple graded stakes winner McCraken galloped 1 ½ miles over the Saratoga main track Monday morning, likely setting the 3-year-old Ghostzapper colt up for a final tune-up on Tuesday ahead of the Grade 1 Travers, said trainer Ian Wilkes.

Wilkes said he’ll wait until morning to decide where and how to breeze McCraken, who put in his first work since his runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last Wednesday over the Oklahoma training track, covering six furlongs in 1:16.23.

“I’ll do something tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock [but] I want to see how he eats up tonight, look at him in the morning and decide,” said Wilkes. “Obviously, it’s something that depends on the horse and the timing of where you’re at. He’s just coming off the last race and the timing coming into this race, I don’t need a lot, but I’ve got to do something. All you’re doing is a light work, setting them up for that race.”

With five days until the ‘Mid-Summer Derby,’ the planned breeze on Tuesday is comparable to McCracken’s prerace routine before the Grade 3 Matt Winn, when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 four days prior to his 2 ¼-length comeback win, and before the Haskell, where he finished second by a nose to Girvin following a half-mile work in 49.20 seconds five days earlier.

Following a half-mile breeze on Monday, Marylou Whitney Stable’s Grade 2 Alysheba winner Bird Song is likely to pass over a start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, opting instead to target the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap on September 23 at Belmont Park, said Wilkes.

Wilkes has been experimenting with blinkers on the 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song in the morning, following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at six furlongs on July 29, where he cut back dramatically in distance after an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Stephen Foster.

Despite breezing four furlongs in 48.45 seconds on the Oklahoma track, the seventh-fastest of 75 horses, Wilkes said Bird Song didn’t show the same keenness in Monday’s move as he did the previous week, also with blinkers on.

“The horse worked alright, but I may wait for the Kelso,” he said. “He was very relaxed today, switched off. I’m just not 100 percent sure where I am with the horse after that work to come into the Forego. It’s just where I think I am with the horse and where I want to go with him. I think the Kelso might be a better race for him.”
*         *         *
The first two of three expected European invaders for Travers undercard stakes took to the track for the first time on Monday morning, nearly two days after entering quarantine. Niarchos Family’s Francis-Henri Graffard-trained invader Erupt appears one of the expected favorites in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on the strength of his victory last fall in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine over the Sword Dancer’s 1 1/2-mile distance.

Both Erupt and Ross jogged on the training track before being rerouted to new non-quarantine barns. While Tuesday plans are not set for Ross – stabled in Graham Motion’s barn – French-trained Erupt is expected to do a light canter at 7:30 a.m., according to Aurelian Bellei, the on-site contact.

Stall Domstadt’s Ross is a German-trained son of Acclamation facing the tall task of taking on American dirt horses in the Grade 1 Forego on the same card. Still, the Peter Schiergen-conditioned 5-year-old horse has proven left-handed dirt form, having finished second by a neck in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in March on the Dubai World Cup undercard. In said event, he out-finished highly regarded American sprinter-miler Sharp Azteca.

The third and final European invader from as many countries is Irish-based Idaho, who will join Erupt in the Sword Dancer. The Coolmore conglomerate-owned, Aidan O’Brien-trained full brother to globetrotting turf superstar Highland Reel arrives Tuesday and is expected to be on the track Thursday morning after clearing quarantine.

Grade 2 Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great is in good shape after his breeze on Friday morning. The four-furlong work in 48.80 seconds over the Oklahoma training track was his last before his start in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who won the 2004 Travers with Birdstone, will saddle the son of Lookin At Lucky as his 29th Travers starter.

“We went over to the main track today just to go through the paddock, and gallop around. He looked good, he went there, we liked what he did, we were happy about that,” Zio said.

“The whole thing now is to make sure he doesn’t go over the edge. One day here [at the Oklahoma track], one day there, today he went to the main track, tomorrow we’ll stay here, maybe go to the gate Wednesday, and school. It really was a great work, to do that, with all those big horses.”

Giuseppe the Great, still in search of his first graded stakes victory through six career starts has been called a professional by Zito. The colt has a runner up finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in addition to the Jim Dandy, and gives the 69-year-old Brooklyn- born trainer a solid competitor on Saturday. The Jim Dandy result and projected field for the Travers doesn’t deter his confidence.

“I think it’s terrific,” Zito said. “I’m happy we hung in there. I’m happy Chad is running that horse [Cloud Computing]. It legitimizes our horse a little bit. It makes him look legitimate, and that those are the horses to beat again. It’s funny that nobody talks about Good Samaritan. He was impressive.”

Longshots Lookin At Lee, Fayeq Seek Travers Upset

Saratoga paddock copyright Agameofskill.comSource: NYRA

L and N Racing’s Lookin At Lee had his final breeze for Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers at approximately 6:00 a.m. Monday, negotiating a steady half-mile in 50.99 seconds over the Oklahoma training track with exercise rider Angel Garcia aboard.

The move was good for 54th of 75 at the distance. The Steve Asmussen-trained Grade 1 Kentucky Derby runner-up recorded the same drill in 51.59 one week ago and exits a third in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby on August 5.

“The work went well,” Asmussen said. “I didn’t get a time and it was pretty foggy, but he traveled well and Angel thought he went well. He came out of it good and we are very pleased with him.” 

It was a big morning for the Asmussen stable, with stable star and three-time Grade 1 winner Gun Runner worked just prior to Lookin At Lee, shooting a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40, the fastest of 11. Regular pilot Florent Geroux was in the saddle and will have the return call in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2.

“Gun Runner worked super,” Asmussen said. “It was more of the same with him. He’s on schedule for the Woodward.”

The Asmussen barn has gone 9-4-2-0 in the last week of racing.

After sending out the last of his workers over the Oklahoma turf course and without a horse entered on Monday’s program, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin spent a few minutes back at the barn searching the Internet for the meaning of Fayeq, Shadwell Stable’s improving 3-year-old that will make his stakes debut in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers.

It is a question McLaughlin has faced numerous times before with Shadwell horses such as Hall of Famer Invasor and other Grade 1 winners such as Lahudood, Jazil and Tamarkuz and, most recently, with multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen.

Other than discovering Fayeq is an Arabic boys’ name, McLaughlin’s search was unsuccessful.

“It does come up with the real good ones. We hope that we need to find out more about it,” McLaughlin said. “We just say Fay-ek.”

Fayeq continued his Travers preparations galloping 1 3/8 miles over Saratoga’s main track Monday under exercise rider Rob Massey. McLaughlin said the half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra will gallop each morning into the race.

“He’s doing very well. He’s ready to go,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a tough race, we know, but he’s just real happy and he’s training well, so we’re happy about that.”

Fayeq has won his last two starts, each under jockey Luis Saez, who will ride the Malibu Moon colt back in the Travers. Both his June 11 maiden victory and 3 ½-length allowance score July 26 at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles came against older horses; Grade 3 winner West Coast is the only other of 12 projected Travers starters to have faced his elders, taking an optional claiming event in May at Santa Anita.

Unraced at 2, Fayeq debuted with a third-place effort behind Timeline and Giuseppe the Great in a seven-furlong maiden special weight March 4 at Gulfstream Park. Timeline went on to win a pair of Grade 3 races while Giuseppe the Great graduated in his next start and was second in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Grade 2 Jim Dandy and will make his Grade 1 debut in the Travers.

“He came in to us late. They took their time with him. We received him October 11 so that’s why he wasn’t anywhere early on,” McLaughlin said. “Then we had a gate issue with him, but he’s doing really well and he’s come on a lot. It’s a tough spot but we’re here and we’re going to try.

“His first race finished third and he was in the 13 hole. He’s run against stakes horses, just not in stakes races,” he added. “It’s a big step up but he’s doing very well and we like him. We’re happy Luis Saez is riding him because he’s already won on him twice.”

McLaughlin isn’t concerned with what post position Fayeq gets at Tuesday evening’s draw in downtown Saratoga Springs. He broke from post 7 and 4 in each of his two victories, where he stalked the pace before pouncing at the top of the stretch to win by a combined 6 ¼ lengths.

“Post position doesn’t really matter going a mile and a quarter. It’s a long run into the first turn,” he said. “The only probably bad post is if you’re 12 or 13 or 14 and you have speed and there’s other speed, and you get hung out. There shouldn’t be any bad post for us. In this group we might be back a ways, mid-pack.”

Alpha gave McLaughlin his lone Travers win in an historic dead heat with Golden Ticket in 2012. Saez will be riding in the Travers for the third time, winning with eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge in 2013.

“It was different when we won it with Alpha. He had a lot more experience going into it,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a big step up so we’ll see. It’s a good race. There’s a lot of nice horses in it.”

Pletcher Team on Target for 2017 Travers Stakes

Source: NYRA

Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit will be entered to run in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets. Curlin winner Outplay’s status will be determined on Tuesday, Pletcher said, adding that Outplay’s potential jockey assignment is also a factor in the decision.

“We’re definitely planning to run Always Dreaming and Tapwrit and we’ll make a decision tomorrow on Outplay,” Pletcher said from his barn Monday morning.

copyright AGameofSkill.comHall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has been the regular rider of Always Dreaming through his 3-year-old campaign and has ridden Outplay in his last two races. Jose Ortiz has been aboard Tapwrit in all five of the colt’s starts this year.

Pletcher has saddled a pair of Travers winners; Flower Alley in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011. Should he have three entrants in the 148th running, for three separate ownership groups, Pletcher said the possible logistical issues of serving different interests should not be a problem.

“It’s really not that challenging. We’re training all three horses whether they are running in the race or not,” Pletcher said. “The owners are very understanding in these situations. Most of the owners I have also have horses with other trainers, so we’ve been in situations where I might be running a horse against one of theirs, so it’s really not an issue for us. Sometimes it gets a little dicier when you try to maneuver maidens into different races than it is in the big events.”

Pletcher said having multiple horses in a prestigious race can sometimes lessen the pressure.

“Sometimes when you only have one, you’re hoping you get there, but sometimes it’s a little safety net to have more than one,” Pletcher said. “But we don’t really look at it on those terms. We’re just happy that we are fortunate to have three horses who are good enough to be considered for the race.”

All three put in their final breezes before Travers Day on the Oklahoma training track Friday, with Always Dreaming working four furlongs in 49.60 seconds in company with Outplay and Tapwrit also putting in a half-mile in 50.24 seconds.

“My main concern was getting those final works in and with the weather being a little dicey, we wanted to get them in on a good surface and we were able to do that on Friday,” Pletcher said. “They [came out] of it well and once we got to that point, you just hope everything continues to go smoothly with the gate schooling and paddock schooling and routine gallops.”

KY Derby Winner Looking to Rebound in 2017 Travers Stakes

walking horse through Saratoga crowdSource: NYRA

Trainer Todd Pletcher saw three of his potential starters in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers breeze early Friday morning, with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming going four furlongs in 49.60 seconds on the Oklahoma training track in company with Outplay and Belmont Stakes-winner Tapwrit also working a half-mile on the same track in 50.24 seconds.

Always Dreaming, ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, breezed for the third time on the training tack since finishing third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29. Outplay, the winner of the Curlin July 28 at the Spa, was officially clocked in 49.99 seconds.

“We were just looking for a good, positive work,” Pletcher said. “They both ran Jim Dandy weekend and breezed well last week, so we just wanted a good indication that they are maintaining form and doing well. I thought they both finished up extremely well and galloped out strongly; all the things you were hoping to see.”

The set worked right before heavy rain fell, with Always Dreaming starting behind Outplay and closed strongly to catch his workmate at the wire.

“He started off about a length and a half behind. Johnny was able to bide his time and move up to him. I had him the last quarter in 23 and 2/5, finishing up strongly and galloping out well,” Pletcher said.

Always Dreaming finished 5 ¼ lengths behind Jim Dandy-winner Good Samaritan last out going 1 1/8 miles. The Travers, presented by NYRA Bets, is contested at 1 ¼ miles. Pletcher said the main track could play faster for the Mid-Summer Derby.

“I would expect an improved performance because he’s now had a mile and eighth race under his belt,” Pletcher said. “Right now, if the track continues to play the way it is currently, it’s definitely tighter than it was Jim Dandy weekend. I would say it’s playing at least a second to a second and a half faster at a mile and an eighth than it did at that time. In retrospect, [with] the freshening we gave Always Dreaming between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, we were expecting the more traditional, livelier Saratoga track.”

Always Dreaming is 4-1-2 in eight career starts and has raced just once since finishing eighth in the Preakness on May 20.

“I think we’re coming into the [Travers] with a fresh, fit horse who has given every indication that he’s in good form,” Pletcher said. “I think the time has agreed with him and we’ve gotten enough out of his training, hopefully ready to fire his best race.”

Outplay, owned by Repole Stable, would be making his graded stakes debut after posting a 5 ¾-length score in the Curlin, which followed a third-place finish in his first stakes start in the Easy Goer on June 10 at Belmont Park.

“I’ll talk to Mr. [Mike] Repole and, first of all, determine if we’re going to run Outplay here or in the Pennsylvania Derby,” Pletcher said. “I think Outplay has really progressed. The Curlin was a big win for him; the way he did it was great and the way he’s training since then has been even better.”

Tapwrit worked in company with Lucy N Ethel, marking his fifth work at Saratoga since winning the Belmont by two lengths. The Tapit colt also was able to finish his set before the rain came in.

“I thought he looked good,” Pletcher said. “The track was playing fair, it wasn’t super fast but it was in good shape. We got lucky that we missed most of the rain and this track can handle moisture very well.”

Pletcher has two career Travers wins to his credit, saddling Flower Ally in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011.

Salomon del Valle’s multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera wrapped up his major preparations for next weekend’s Travers with a five-furlong breeze at Gulfstream Park West for trainer Antonio Sano.

Gunnevera covered five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Edgard Zayas, the fastest of four at the distance. It was the first breeze for the 3-year-old Dialed In colt since making his successful comeback in the Tangelo, in which he geared down to win by five lengths with Zayas aboard on August 6.

“He was very relaxed, just an easy work,” said Sano. “He doesn’t need much, just maintenance. He’s ready. We only want to keep him happy.

“He’s really, really good and we’re very happy with him,” he added. “He looks the way he looked before he won the Fountain of Youth.”

In his only previous start at the Spa, Gunnevera won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old, eventually closing out his season with a win in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot.

At 3, the chestnut colt was an early contender on the Triple Crown trail, opening his sophomore campaign with a runner-up finish to Irish War Cry in the Grade 2 Holy Bull in February before posting a 5 ¾-length victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4. Gunnevera was third as the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby the following month before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness.

Gunnevera will van up from Florida on Friday evening and is expected to settle in at Saratoga on Sunday.

America’s Best Seeks Rebound in $1-million TVG Pacific Classic this Saturday

Del Mar
copyright Gary Tasich

Arrogate, the North American earnings champion with something to prove at Del Mar, will get a chance to do just that this Saturday when he heads a field of eight horses in the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic.

The gray by Unbridled’s Song was assigned Post 8 at a special “Draw Party” Tuesday evening at the popular Brigantine restaurant on the high ground overlooking the seaside oval and once again will be handled by his Hall of Fame partner, Mike Smith. The mile and a quarter crucible, which will reward its winner with a prize of $600,000, will go off at approximately 5:40 p.m. PDT as the eightth race on an 11-race card. NBCSN will televise the Grade I headliner nationally.

The Juddmonte Farms colt was installed as the even-money favorite by Del Mar linemaker Russ Hudak, a substantially longer price than the 1-5 morning line he started with in the TVG San Diego Handicap here July 22. He’s also likely to finish quite a bit longer than the 1-20 odds he broke from the gate with in that mile and one-sixteenth test. The real question, though, is will he make up for a case of what subsequently proved to be disappointment of the highest order?

Going into the San Diego, Arrogate had a record of seven wins from eight starts with a bankroll that registered over $17-million, more than any other North American horse in history. But in the San Diego he managed to – in the words of his Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert –  “lay an egg.” The husky 4-year-old never got in gear that afternoon and finished a disappointing fourth.

But his connections feel he has put that “no go” behind him and is back “to his old self” after a series of steady works since. He’ll pack 124 pounds – as will all runners in the race with the exception of the 3-year-old Sorry Erik, who gets 118 – trying to show the racing world that he’s back and that his “Horse of the World” crown still fits nicely on his classy head.

Set to take him on are the colt who beat him in the TVG San Diego, Hronis Racing’s Accelerate, along with another Hronis runner, Hard Aces; R3 Racing, Calara Farms and ERJ Racing’s Curlin Road, Reddam Racing’s Donworth, Tachycardia Stables and Twilight Racing’s Royal Albert Hall, Big Chief Racing’s Sorry Erik and Speedway Stable’s Collected. The last-named runner, a galloping winner of the Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita in his last start, also hails from the Bob Baffert barn.

The TVG Pacific Classic will draw top billing on a deep card that also will feature two other Graded stakes – the Grade I Del Mar Oaks and the Grade II Del Mar Handicap, the former run at nine furlongs on grass for a $300,000 purse and the latter marked in at 11 furlongs on the lawn for a $250,000 pot.

Both the TVG Pacific Classic and the Del Mar Handicap are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, guaranteeing their winners admission into designated Breeders’ Cup races. The former gets its hero a free ticket into the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, while the latter ensures admission into the $4-million Breeders’ Cup Turf. Both will be run at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4 as part of the two-day, 13-race extravaganza that will be held at the shore track for the first time this fall.

Here’s the field for the TVG Pacific Classic in post position order with riders and morning line odds:

Post Position Horse/Jockey Morning Line Odds
Corey Nakatani
Martin Garcia
Victor Espinoza
Kent Desormeaux
Santiago Gonzalez
Mario Gutierrez
Flavien Prat
Mike Smith

First post Saturday for the chock full card is 2 p.m. PDT.