Saratoga Preview 8.27.22: Travers and Sword Dancer
Happy Travers Day!
Today’s card has five Grade I races. Only Belmont Stakes Day has more Grade 1s on the New York racing calendar. There are three reigning Champions running today – Malathaat, Jackie’s Warrior, and Letruska – along with Channel Maker who won the 2020 male turf division.
I’ll tackle the Sword Dancer and the Travers. But just a word about the Forego where the great Jackie’s Warrior goes for an unprecedented fifth Saratoga Grade 1. He won the Saratoga Special (Grade 2) and the Hopeful (Grade 1) as a two year old. Then came back last year as a three year old and won the Amsterdam (Grade 2) and the Jerkens (Grade 1). Last month he cruised in the Vanderbilt (Grade 1) to become the first horse to win a Grade 1 at three different Saratoga meets. Enjoy this very special horse today – his connections indicate that this race and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint will be his last two appearances before he heads off to the breeding shed.
Oh, and then we have a Travers that has the winners of Derby, the Preakness, the Haskell, and the Jim Dandy.
Race 10 – Sword Dancer Stakes – Grade I
One Mile And A Half On The Inner Turf For Four Year Olds And Upward
This is a very competitive renewal of the Sword Dancer with the last two winners of the race in the field (Gufo, Channel Maker). Reigning Eclipse Turf Champion Yibir was initially scheduled to go here for Charlie Appleby, but he had a minor setback, so he didn’t ship in. But we do have a very nice group of ten entered here. This is most certainly a spread race in horizontals as six or seven runners can make a good claim on the race.
- Adhamo: Sat off the pace in the United Nations and made a nice outside move to mow them down in the stretch (104 Beyer) as the favorite for Chad Brown. That was his first win in four attempts stateside since shipping over from France. He was live in the Manhattan but was blocked in the stretch and ran out of room to challenge Tribhuvan – but finished full of run to get Place money. Gets a mile and half today and that should suit him just fine. Stalk and pounce type who should get some pace to track and then get first run at the leaders. The Pick.
- Cross Border: Stalker type for Mike Maker is winless in four attempts this year with his last win on turf coming over a year ago in the 2021 Bowling Green. He’ll need to step forward off his recent performance to get a piece of the action here. That’s tough for an eight year old to do and he is 0/7 at today’s distance. He appears to be a step below these. Not today.
- Broome: Aiden O’Brien ships this one in from a fourth place finish at Ascot where he finished behind some very good ones including Mishriff. Came over last year to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and ran a very strong second – beaten by only a half a length by Yibir (104 Beyer) after striking the lead. We know he can handle North American ovals given that Breeders’ Cup performance. Trainer Stat: Aiden O’Brien is 4 for 60 (7%) with North American starters since 2019. Talented colt cannot be dismissed even with those trainer numbers. Ryan Moore ships in to ride. Win contender.
- Cold Hard Cash: Linda Rice takes a shot with this longshot runner. Last out he won an off the turf optional claiming race. He has never finished off the board on a wet track – but primarily has been a turf horse. He’s won at the twelve furlong distance on the turf – but will need a significant improvement to win here as he makes his first stakes start against a deep and salty Grade 1 field. Career Beyer top on turf is 90. Water is too deep.
- Rockemperor: This Chad Brown trained colt didn’t show too much in the first two starts of his six year old campaign. But last time out in the Bowling Green – he sat off the pace and made his move coming off the far turn to sweep by the main body of the field and then held off Arklow who was also closing (102 Beyer). That was his first win since the Joe Hirsch Turf at Belmont last fall. Solid veteran who can hit the board.
- Gufo: This deep closer is three for five at today’s distance and won this race last year. He likes to come from the clouds – but he has been too far back to get the win in some recent efforts. That was certainly the case in the United Nations Stakes where he closed like a freight train but couldn’t get to the leader (100 Beyer). Last win was four back in the Pan American at Gulfstream (102 Beyer) going today’s mile and a half. He’s got a serious turn of foot but is not at his best if he needs to make up more than a half dozen lengths. Might be too far back. Underneath player.
- Tribhuvan: Ran well enough in the United Nations last out at Monmouth for Chad Brown – but the tank ran low late on (101 Beyer) as he was beaten by stable mate Adhamo. He was fantastic two back in the Manhattan (108 Beyer) where he took them gate to wire – winning by three lengths. The difference in those two efforts was that in the Manhattan Tribhuven got an uncontested lead where he was able to relax and just keep on going. In the U.N. he was pressed all the way and never could relax and settle. If he gets loose – he is dangerous. But he should have some company which will likely comprise his chances. Does he want to go this far? Looking elsewhere.
- Soldier Rising: The Clement barn enters this one off of an allowance win in N3X company (97 Beyer) over this track where he closed into the pace with a rail skimming ride to get there in the last jump. This four year old by Frankel has tried stakes company before – most recently in the Grand Courtier where he was outdueled by Channel Maker. He has been running against weaker and failing to get the “W”. Finds a tough group here. Bottom side of exotics.
- Channel Maker: The 2020 winner of this race is back for his fifth appearance in the Sword Dancer. Regained winning form last out by leading the field in the Grand Couturier Stakes all the way (94 Beyer). That day he reverted to his front end running style. Two back he was off the pace in the Manhattan Stakes, and he failed to fire. Look for him to be back on the pace today. Can he still defeat Grade 1 company at age 8? He has not run a triple digit Beyer since 2020 Breeders’ Cup turf. The additional problem for this one is that Tribhuvan will also be on the pace which may spell doom for them both. Could we actually get a speed duel? Wonders may never cease! Love this horse – but not today.
- Mira Mission: Ian Wilkes stretches this one out to twelve furlongs after mainly contesting races at a mile, or a mile and sixteenth. He won the Canadian Turf at Gulfstream (100 Beyer) and followed that up with decent performances in the Makers Mark (close up fifth) and the Churchill Turf Classic (second). Last out in the Forbidden Apple he was back further than normal was spun wide finishing a non-threatening sixth (97 Beyer). Breeding certainly indicates he should like going long on the turf as he is by Noble Mission and the dam is by Dynaformer. He’ll be running late. Possibilities at a price.
Race 11 – Travers Stakes – Grade I
One Mile and One Quarter on the Dirt for Three Year Olds
We have all the right ones here for the mid-Summer Derby. Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, Preakness winner Early Voting, Jim Dandy winner Epicenter, and the Haskell winner Cyberknife.
With Mo Donegal on the shelf for the year with an injury, the three year old division currently has co-leaders in the form of Epicenter and Early Voting. Today they match up to determine the leader of the three year old colt division. But if Rich Strike or Cyberknife prevail – they will have their own claim on the division.
- Cyberknife: Passed on the second two legs of the Triple Crown after the Kentucky Derby where he was five wide on both turns and Geroux didn’t persevere on him in the stretch. He has come back with wins in both the Matt Winn (94 Beyer) and the Haskell Stakes (102 Beyer) since that subpar effort in Louisville. In the Haskell he sat in the second flight and got up close as they turned for home, Geroux found a seam on the rail and got through – as Cyberknife set a track record. Gets the inside draw again. Win candidate.
- Rich Strike: The Kentucky Derby winner returns here off a break after the Belmont Stakes where he trailed the field and failed to fire in the stretch finishing sixth (83 Beyer). In the Derby he got a trip of a lifetime at Churchill (101 Beyer) to run down Epicenter. He has two wins over the Churchill surface and is zero for seven elsewhere. The Derby fig is seventeen points better than anything else he has run. He will need the race to fall apart to get a piece. No thanks.
- Ain’t Life Grand: Enters here off of two wins in a row at Prairie Meadow including a dominate win in the Iowa Stallion Invitational at Prairie Meadows (82 Beyer) where he was 1/20. Earned a 98 Beyer in the Iowa Derby stalking the pace. Takes on much better horses here today. Lasix comes OFF. Would be a major shock. Passing.
- Gilded Age: Was a decent second last out in the restricted Curlin Stakes (88 Beyer) where he trailed the field and commenced a run a half mile from home and passed all of them but the winner. Bill Mott saw enough in that effort to take a crack here. Two back in won an allowance race employing similar tactics (86 Beyer). He will be running late and has a nice race over the track – but is his deep closing style what you want to do over this surface? Looking elsewhere.
- Artorius: Lightly raced colt only has made three career starts for Chad Brown. He earned his spot here by handling the restricted Curlin Stakes field a month ago over this track (95 Beyer) by four lengths. That was his first effort against winners, and he was much the best. Broke his maiden with a 91 Beyer going a flat mile at Belmont. With another step forward in his fourth career start he would be right there. Sired by Arrogate and the dam is by Ghostzapper. Juddmonte/Chad/Irad. Contender.
- Epicenter: He was much the best in the Jim Dandy (102 Beyer) where he was an up close fourth coming off the turn, and went by the other three horses under mild hand urging in the final furlong for a comfortable win. That start came off of his second place performance in the Preakness (102 Preakness). He is very consistent and has four straight triple digit Beyers going back to his Louisiana Derby win (102 Beyer). Versatile runner who can win on the front end or can come off the pace. I expect him to sit just off the pace and then pounce at the quarter pole. The Pick.
- Early Voting: In the Jim Dandy he got to the lead but appeared to be a bit short and didn’t fire in the stretch finishing fourth (97 Beyer). Chad Brown colt has three wins and second in his five starts including wins in the Preakness (105 Beyer) and the Withers. It’s certainly possible that the screws were not turned all the way in the Jim Dandy given that today is the prize that Chad Brown was aiming for. If that’s the case then he might just get loose on the lead and take them all the way. Using.
- Zandon: In the Jim Dandy he ran a good second (100 Beyer) for Chad Brown by tracking leader Epicenter and then moving at the quarter pole – he was game all the way to the wire but no match for Epicenter who cruised by him. In the Kentucky Derby he had a nice ground saving trip and came running at the quarter pole but finished third (98 Beyer) as he was repelled by Epicenter and passed by eventual winner Rich Strike. Use in exotics.