SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is set to invade Saratoga on Wednesday with two candidates each for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers and the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King’s Bishop.
Arriving on a Tex Sutton charter from California will be American Freedom and Arrogate for the 1 ¼-mile “Mid-Summer Derby” and Jazzy Times and Drefong for the seven-furlong King’s Bishop.
Second to Exaggerator in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, American Freedom turned in his final serious move for Saturday’s race this morning at Del Mar, where he was caught going five furlongs in :59 seconds in company with Jazzy Times.
“They both worked great, everything went well and they’re on schedule,” said Baffert, whose Jazzy Times, 2-1-1 from four career starts, will be making his stakes debut in the King’s Bishop.
On Sunday at Del Mar, Arrogate, a winner of three straight for Juddmonte Farms, was credited with a six-furlong move in 1:11.80 in company with the King’s Bishop-bound Drefong, who was clocked in 1:00.20 for five furlongs.
“Arrogate worked really nicely and he looked great today,” said Baffert. “We’re all set.”
Baffert, who said he will be arriving in Saratoga late Thursday, will be looking for his second victory in each race. He won the 2001 Travers with Point Given and the 1999 King’s Bishop with Forestry. Last year, his Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah finished second to Keen Ice in the 146th Travers.
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Multiple graded stakes-winning jockey Junior Alvarado will have the mount aboard Curlin runner-up Gift Box in the Grade 1 Travers on Saturday, trainer Chad Brown confirmed Monday afternoon, rounding out the riding assignments for the “Mid-Summer Derby” contenders.
With as many as 15 eyeing a start in the 147th running of the Travers, this year’s edition looks to attract one of the largest fields in the race’s storied history. The largest Travers field was in 1977, when 14 went to post. In 1965 and 1990, 13 horses started in the Travers, and in 1956 and 2008, there were 12 runners. The Travers will be limited to 14 starters, based on graded stakes placings and 2016 earnings.
For video of the Travers contenders’ workouts, please visit NYRA’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/theNYRA/videos.
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Anaximandros and Applicator breezed in company on the Oklahoma training track on Monday morning in their final works before Travers Day. Owner-trainer Mikhail Yanakov’s pair were officially clocked five furlongs in 1:02.88 and galloped out three-quarters in 1:17 4/5.
Anaximandros was ridden by jockey Angel Arroyo as he prepares for the Grade 1 Travers. The 3-year-old bay colt broke his maiden on May 20 and is coming off a fourth-place finish in his graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby on August 6.
Exercise rider Mario Madrid was aboard Applicator, who is expected to start in the Grade 1, $1 million Longines Sword Dancer, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Applicator will be racing for the first time since a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on July 9.
Jockey Leonel Reyes, who is based in Gulfstream Park, will be in the irons for both of Yanakov’s entries on Saturday.
“We changed to the Oklahoma track because of the rain last night,” Yanakov said. “I don’t have too much experience with that track, but I was told those are good times. I liked their work. They were breathing good – not heavy. I’d have liked to breeze on the main track, but the weather didn’t give us help. Maybe it’ll bring us luck, you never know.
“For the first time on that track, they started good. I told them [the riders] ‘go a little slow on the turn’ because it’s steep. They had a good finish.”
Yanakov, who is of Greek decent, is in his second year training horses in the United States after arriving from his native Russia and is also the owner of Olympia Star, which currently has 15 horses. He is looking for his first career Grade 1 victory.
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After putting in what he called “the best work he’s had all meet” he’s seen all meet among his horses, trainer Al Stall reported that 4-year-old graded stakes winner Paid Up Subscriber, is all set for Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign.
“She had a very, very good work on Friday [six furlongs in 1:12.16 on the main track],” he said. “Very similar to the work she did before the [Grade 2] Fleur de Lis. It was a little quicker on paper than I normally like it, but if you look at and compare the times of the rest of the works on the main track that day it was very fast. She handled it comfortably and came out of it well.”
Coming off a troubled second-place finish in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap on July 16, Stall said Paid Up Subscriber had encountered a series of complicated trips in most of her lifetime starts and is hoping for a little better racing luck in the Personal Ensign.
“I gave her a little more time off after the Delaware race, for no reason. Now going from 10 furlongs back down to nine it makes my job just a shade easier,” said Stall. It really doesn’t matter where she draws, I’d just prefer some luck. She’s been in trickbags in virtually every race of her life. From the beginning to the Delaware debacle at the start. So I’m just hoping it goes smooth and clear.”
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Destin continued his normal training schedule ahead of the Travers as he galloped on Monday morning, trainer Todd Pletcher said. Destin’s last official workout before the Mid-Summer Derby was Friday when he breezed four furlongs in 50 seconds flat on the Oklahoma track.
“He had a good gallop and seems to be in good spirits,” Pletcher said. “I’ll probably paddock school him on Wednesday. It’s just a routine week.”
Curalina is still “all systems go” for the Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign on Saturday. Pletcher said the daughter of Curlin, who won the Grade 3 Shuvee last out on July 31 at the Spa, also came out of a routine gallop in good order as she prepares for the 1 1/8-mile “Win and You’re In” race that carries an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff Division for the winner.
Comfort is set to work this week as Pletcher determines if he will run in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward on September 3.
“I’m leaning towards a Wednesday breeze if the weather cooperates, and from there we’ll make a decision about the Woodward,” he said.
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Trainer Gary Contessa will host the third edition of his free weekly clinic series on the future of horseracing, “The Good, the Bad and the Stuff That Needs to Get Fixed,” this Tuesday, August 23, at in the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales ring beginning at 11 a.m.
Contessa was the New York Racing Association’s leading trainer from 2006-09 and holds 16 training titles at individual NYRA meets.
The fourth and final clinic is scheduled to be held Tuesday, August 30.
For more information, please contact Marion Altieri at [email protected]