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.”
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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.”

August 26 Travers Stakes Set for a Great Horse Race

walking horse through Saratoga crowdSource: NYRA

Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Girvin shipped in to Barn 77 on Saratoga’s Oklahoma backstretch Monday morning after his victory by a nose over McCraken on Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park. If all goes well in the next few weeks, the son of Tale of Ekati will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26, said trainer Joe Sharp.

“More than likely, we’ll run here,” Sharp said. “That is the way we are leaning, but we will also look at the Smarty Jones [at Parx, September 4] and the Pennsylvania Derby [September 23]. We always keep our options open.”

“He gives it his all every time, and he did that yesterday,” he added. “He never wins by a lot. He likes to engage other horses, he likes to be in a dogfight. It makes it fun to be around him. He is a very honest horse, he tries very, very hard. He continues to go above and beyond our expectations.”

The Louisiana Derby winner finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby before finishing as the runner-up to Irap in the Ohio Derby. The Travers would be Girvin’s eighth career start.

A Haskell rematch could be in the works in the Travers as Ian Wilkes, trainer of runner-up McCraken, who also returned to the Spa on Monday, has expressed his team’s intentions to point to the Mid-Summer Derby as well.

“Yeah, I am planning on it, the Travers,” Wilkes said. “As long as he trains well, because I’m not just going to run him just to run him. A final decision will be made in a few days after we get him back to the track.”

The son of Ghostzapper finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, but returned to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his previous start before the Haskell.

Trainer Ian Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss

Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point on the Sunday morning following McCraken’s third place showing in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the colt’s first loss in five career starts.

Source: Wilkes Retains Confidence After Blue Grass Loss