As we await Triple Crown champion American Pharoah‘s Sunday work at Del Mar, which is expected to clarify his Travers (G1) status, several definite Travers contenders tuned up Saturday at Saratoga.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red, coming off a score in the Jim Dandy (G2), was credited with a half-mile move on the main track in :46.66. Under Corey Lanerie, the Keith Desormeaux trainee clocked the fourth-best of 96 moves at the distance.
“The craziest thing of all is I had him right on — pole-to-pole — from the three-quarter pole to the three-quarter pole and I caught him in 1:56 3/5 (for 1 1/8 miles),” Desormeaux said. “He won the Jim Dandy in 1:48 and he galloped out that same distance in 1:56. That’s cool; that’s true fitness. That’s a very nice work, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Desormeaux described why Texas Red put in a stiffer drill than usual.
“Six-furlong works are not that typical for the last work before a race, but we’re not running in a typical race. It’s a historic race and, not only that, it’s the classic distance. It’s a mile and a quarter, so I wanted to add a little bit more fuel to the fire.”
“It looks like to me he’s put on a little size, a little bulk, and his attitude has mellowed out since he’s been here,” added the trainer, who’d been at his Southern California base and was just getting his first good look at Texas Red for a month. “I can see it in the demeanor of the horse. He’s mellowed out, put on a little weight, but he still looks very fit. The girls have done a great job with him.”
Trainer Dale Romans was similarly pleased with Keen Ice‘s five-furlong work, accomplished in 1:00.80 with Mike Luzzi in the saddle.
“(It was as) good as he’s ever worked by himself,” Romans said. “He doesn’t have to do much. He’s been in every dance, he’s plenty fit. He’s not usually a good workhorse by himself, but he looked good to me today. Someone told me they had :47 on him, which is something new for him.”
Keen Ice, who was seventh behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby (G1), was subsequently third to him in the Belmont (G1) and second in the Haskell (G1). Pharoah or no Pharoah, Keen Ice is confirmed for the Travers.
“We’ll go no matter what,” Romans said. “I haven’t ducked many horses in my career but if he shows up, he’ll be at his best. Bob (Baffert) won’t bring him (Pharoah) if he’s not. As a sportsman, you want to take him on again and try to beat him.”
Tale of Verve, unplaced twice since finishing second to Pharoah in the Preakness (G1), covered four panels in :48.48.
“He went nice and even, solid, and came back great,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “He’s in good shape. He’s healthy, he’s feeling good and he’s fit, so we’ll take him over there and let him compete.”
Frammento, unplaced in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont and most recently fourth in the Jim Dandy, went the same distance on the Oklahoma training track in :49.11. By design, that was easier than his :46.80 blitz over the main track last Saturday.
“He had that fast work last week and we wanted to kind of get that stamina, so we worked him on the training track,” Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said. “He was blowing a little bit; the track was heavy. It worked out OK. We’re happy about it. If he hangs in there, we’ll see what happens.
“I think if I took him over to the main track he would have done the same thing (as last week), but he already showed us that. I’ll probably train a few days over the main track and let him fool around just because he liked it over there. Fitness-wise, I think we’ve got him right. We know he’ll like the distance, so we’ll see what happens.”
Trainer George Weaver said that recent Delaware maiden winner Mid Ocean worked five-eighths to his satisfaction.
“The track was pretty fast this morning, but (jockey) Manny Franco was really pleased about it. He’s worked over this track a couple of times. This is his final prep, so I wanted a solid five-eighths, nothing gut-wrenching, and he did it the right way. He gave me all the signs that he’s ready to run. He’s going to have to run a heck of a lot faster than he’s had to, but we’re willing to take a shot (in the Travers). If he comes out of this work well, we should be ‘all systems go’ for next Saturday.”
Wood Memorial (G1) winner Frosted had drilled five furlongs in a bullet :59.59 here on Thursday.
“He worked great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of the Godolphin blueblood, who exits a pair of runner-up efforts in the Belmont and Jim Dandy. “He worked with Cavallucci, who’s still a maiden but works well, to make sure he had a good work. He was back in six days because he went slow the week before. He took a lot of dirt and went great. We’re all set.
“Obviously, we’ve been beat by him (Pharoah) twice, so we prefer not to run against him, but if he shows up it’s great for the game. We’ll deal with it. We’re not adjusting our schedule.
“We like our chances (of turning the tables on Texas Red). With equal weights it should help us against Texas Red, but there are good horses (pointing to the Travers). It’ll be a good race, either way. We’re ready.”
Travers possibles Upstart and Madefromlucky also worked Saturday, but at last report, a decision on the “Midsummer Derby” was still pending.
Texas Red and Frosted photo courtesy of Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos.