Travers Stakes showdown looms
The three winners of this year’s Triple Crown races won’t meet again until the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24.
Preakness winner Oxbow, who arrived in Saratoga on Tuesday, will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28, trainer D. Wayne Lukas confirmed Wednesday.
The Haskell is run one day after the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, which is the next target for Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who worked four furlongs in 50.20 seconds Wednesday morning at Fair Hill, according to trainer Shug McGaughey, will skip both those races and train up to the Travers, which this year could live up to its nickname, the Mid-Summer Derby.
If Orb, Oxbow, and Palace Malice all do make it to the race, it will be the first time three separate winners of the Triple Crown races have met in the Travers since 1982 when Gato del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and Conquistador Cielo were upset by Runaway Groom. In 1991, Strike the Gold (Derby) and Hansel (Preakness and Belmont) each ran in the Travers, upset by the Lukas-trained Corporate Report.
Lukas said Wednesday morning the Grade 1 status and the $1 million purse of the Haskell influenced his decision to run Oxbow in that race as opposed to the Jim Dandy. As a winner of a Triple Crown race, both Lukas and the owner, Brad Kelley, each receive $25,000 simply for running in the Haskell.
“We think we got a good horse that could be 3-year-old champion and having a Grade 1 on his résumé would be advantageous,” Lukas said while driving from Louisville to Saratoga where he sent 30 horses on Tuesday. “We’ll meet those other contentious horses in the Travers anyhow.”
In the Haskell, Oxbow will face Wood Memorial winner Verrazano, Long Branch winner Micromanage, and the Grade 1 winner Power Broker, from the barn of Bob Baffert, who has won the last three runnings of the race.
Lukas said that he has been so impressed with Oxbow since his runner-up finish in the Belmont that “if the Swaps would have been half-a-million dollars like it was years ago I would have run him in the Swaps. I gave him that break for a couple of weeks and I agonized about working him every damn morning.”
Last Saturday, at Churchill, Oxbow worked five furlongs in 1:02, his first work since the Triple Crown series concluded. Lukas said Oxbow will likely work again Sunday or Monday at Saratoga.
Meanwhile, Orb on Wednesday had his second work since the Belmont when he breezed four furlongs in 50.20 seconds over the dirt surface at the Fair Hill Training Center, according to McGaughey.
“He went off a little slow, finished up good,” said McGaughey, who was on hand for the work.
Wednesday was the first time McGaughey had seen Orb in about two weeks and he was happy with what he saw.
“He’s holding his weight good, walking around today he had a bit of an attitude,” McGaughey said. “Everything went good.”
McGaughey plans to keep Orb at Fair Hill for a few more weeks.
“It’s not like I’m going to send him up there the week before the (Travers), but there are so many things here he can do that he can’t do at Saratoga,” McGaughey said.
McGaughey was referring to the hyperbaric chamber and cold, saltwater spa treatments.
Palace Malice has breezed three times since the Belmont Stakes, including a five-furlong move in 1:00.97 on Sunday.