Travers favorite is Haskell winner Verrazano
The field for Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes is so
impressive that Kentucky Derby winner Orb isn’t even the
Neither is Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
The role of 3-year-old to beat in racing’s Mid-Summer Derby at
Saratoga Race Course is Verrazano, runaway winner of the Haskell
Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28.
”It’s a great field,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Verrazano
and Palace Malice. ”From a fan’s perspective, it’s one of the
strongest Travers we’ve seen in a while. With the exception of
(Preakness winner) Oxbow, all the major players are here.”
There’s a logical explanation why Verrazano is the 2-1 top
choice in the nine-horse field entered Wednesday, with Palace
Malice next at 5-2 and Orb at 4-1. It’s the ”what have you done
for me lately” approach.
”The last two races with our horses were very powerful,”
Pletcher said, ”and in the sense of what’s going on in the moment,
that’s why (they are the favorites). But we have a lot of respect
for Orb, and we know he’ll be tough to beat.”
Verrazano ran the worst race of his career in the Derby,
finishing 14th over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. He came back
and won the Pegasus at Monmouth before his big effort in the
Palace Malice rebounded from his dull 12th-place Derby finish by
winning the Belmont by 3 1/4 lengths and then taking the Jim Dandy
over Will Take Charge and Moreno on July 27.
”With Palace Malice, you’ve got very much of a now horse that’s
always dangerous,” said Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey.
”Verrazano, ever since he broke his maiden, has been a top horse.
His only blemish was in the Derby, and he bounced out of that
After the Derby, Orb ran fourth in the Preakness and third in
the Belmont and then was sent to Fair Hill Training Center in
Elkton, Md., to regroup after the Triple Crown grind. McGaughey was
thrilled with the way he regained his form and looks forward to
seeing if Orb returns to his winning ways – the Derby win was his
fifth in a row.
”We’ve been tickled to death with what he’s done since he got
up here to Saratoga last week,” McGaughey said. ”We just hope we
can keep it going for the Travers.”
The last Travers to feature the Derby winner was 2010, when
Pletcher’s Super Saver went off as the fourth betting choice and
finished 10th. Before that, though, six of the eight Derby winners
who ran in the Travers dating to 1978 went off as favorites.
Verrazano will be ridden by John Velazquez and leave from the
No. 3 gate. Palace Malice will have Mike Smith aboard leaving from
the No. 8 gate, with Orb and Joel Rosario departing from the No. 2
The rest of the field, from the rail out, is Romansh, Golden
Soul, Will Take Charge, Moreno, War Dancer and Transparent.