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Aug 25, 2006

Bernardini and Bluegrass Cat meet for the first time


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and Haskell Invitational champ Bluegrass Cat will take on one another for the first time in Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. The "Mid-Summer Derby" will be contested at the distance of 1 1/4 miles with a field of seven.

Bernardini, coming off a commanding victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes, ran in only one of the Triple Crown races earlier this year. The Preakness was the only Triple Crown race in which Bluegrass Cat did not compete. He was second in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Bluegrass Cat had an equally dominating win in the Haskell at Monmouth Park. That was just his second victory of the year after losing as the favorite in both the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

Bernardini, owned by Darley Stable, has won four straight since losing his career opener in January. Trained by Tom Albertrani, the colt has earned slightly more than $1 million in his short career. He will start from post 5 with regular rider Javier Castellano.

"I think the Jim Dandy really validated his Preakness win," Albertrani said. "It showed people just how serious a horse he really is. I don't think we have seen the best of him yet, either. If our horse runs back to his Jim Dandy performance, he’s going to be difficult to beat."

Bernardini has been installed as the even-money favorite with Bluegrass Cat the 2-1 second choice.

Todd Pletcher trains Bluegrass Cat for WinStar Farm in an attempt to win two straight Travers. Pletcher sent out Flower Alley to win the 2005 Travers with John Velazquez in the saddle. Velazquez will again get a leg up from Pletcher.

"That (the Haskell) was definitely a breakthrough performance for him, but Bernardini has been very impressive so we have to step up even another notch," Pletcher said of Bluegrass Cat.

Bluegrass Cat will break from the outside post in the seven horse field. The colt has won five times in 10 career starts for more than $1.5 million.

"I was very impressed with his race in the Haskell," Pletcher said. "He seemed to really put it all together. Obviously, Bernardini is a nice horse, but we are looking forward to Saturday."

Pletcher will also send out the stakes winning High Cotton in the Travers. The colt has victories this year in the Rushaway, Sir Barton and Northern Dancer Stakes. He has earned $426,044 in his career with four wins in 11 starts.

"High Cotton has been very consistent and he’s been knocking on the door," Pletcher said. "If he can improve a bit, it looks like he'd have a chance to be right there with them."

High Cotton will break from post 4 with Garrett Gomez riding. Owned by Peachtree Stable, the three-year-old is 6-1 in the morning line.

Completing the field for the 1 1/4 mile Travers in post position order are Hesanoldsalt, Minister’s Bid, Dr. Pleasure and Kip Deville.

The Travers will be televised on ESPN with a post-time of 6:30 p.m. (et).

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