SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The focus seems to be on three horses for today’s Travers Stakes, and with the possibility of the 3-year-old male title on the line, the 144th running of the Mid-Summer Derby during Saratoga’s 150th anniversary has taken on added significance.
The three favorites – Verrazano, Palace Malice and Orb – have generated the majority of attention, and rightfully so, but there are six other horses in the race, and they shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed.
Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, the winner of the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes, is probably the most well-known of the Travers Stakes entries to area residents in the field of nine starters, but there are two other horses wih Aiken connections, Godolphin Racing’s Romansh and Transparent, both broken and trained in Aiken by Tim Jones. Romansh won his last start via disqualification, as his entry mate Transparent was taken down for interference and placed fifth in the Curlin Stakes last month at Saratoga Race Course.
The 1¼-mile, $1 million race features the multiple grade 1 winner, Verrazano, owned by Let’s Go Stable’s Bryan Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. Verrazano won his last start – the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational – impressively, scoring a 9¾-length victory, and has wins during his sophomore campaign in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Invitational and Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes.
Todd Pletcher conditions Verrazano.
“It’s the whole team,” said Pletcher, regarding Verrazano. “From buying the horse as a yearling and also being a son of More than Ready, who was one of the first recognizable names that we trained. So, it’s come full circle.”
Stuart Janney III’s and the Phipps Stables’ Orb, winner of the Kentucky and Florida Derbies, will also be a formidable foe. Orb is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey.
Charles Fipke’s chestnut colt Golden Soul has yet to secure a stakes victory but is multiple graded-stakes placed, with the Dallas Stewart charge finishing second in the Kentucky Derby,
Stakes winner Will Take Charge, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, races in the colors of Willis D. Horton and has a race over the track, having placed second in the Jim Dandy Stakes.
The speed ball Moreno, campaigned by Southern Equine Stable, is conditioned by Eric Guillot, and has been impressive in his two victories, breaking his maiden by 6 1/4-lengths and winning the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes by 7-lengths. The bay son of the 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper will have Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Magdalena Racing’s and Diamond M Stable’s, War Dancer, will transition from the turf to the dirt for the Travers Stakes, the son of War Front, won the Virginia Derby on the turf, his last out at Colonial Downs. Jockey Alan Garcia gets the return call. Kenny McPeek conditions the Grade 2 winner.