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Sep 03, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Well the Travers has come and gone and Saratoga is now heading to the end of the meeting. It seems like that have been there forever because of the extra four days added to the front end of the meeting. However the highlight of the whole Saratoga meeting is always the “Mid Summer” Derby. This year however the big name three year olds weren’t on display instead there were a lot of three year olds that have potential and are just starting to come into their own.

            A field of 11 horses went postward in the Travers and the favorite in the race was TRAPPE SHOT who was just under 4-1 and was coming off a second place finish in the Haskell behind LOOKIN AT LUCKY at Monmouth. His connections had to make a decision that week whether to run in the King’s Bishop at seven furlongs with a purse of $250,000 or the Travers at 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $1 million dollars. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was asked why he went to the Travers and his reasoning was that how many times are you going to be the favorite or second choice in the Travers and give up that opportunity. It seems like he should have went to the King’s Bishop as TRAPPE SHOT never got going and ran a non-threatening ninth.

            The second choice in the Travers was A LITTLE WARM who was coming off a solid win in the Jim Dandy but he was also trying the 1 and ¼ miles for the first time and chased the leaders from third early on but just never had any finish checking in fifth. The pace in the race was a solid one getting to the half mile in 47:1 which was set by MINER’S RESERVE while being pressed by FIRST DUDE. AFLEET EXPRESS who was the eventual winner got a nice trip while racing inside, came off the rail into the lane and then was very game to the wire to hold on by a nose over FLY DOWN. Both of those horses were bet in the Jim Dandy with FLY DOWN going off as the favorite and they turned the tables on A LITTLE WARM. FIRST DUDE who survived the early pace action was 6 and 3/4 lengths back in third. AFLEET AGAIN who raced far back early on closed to finish fourth as the longest shot in the race.

            ADMIRAL ALEX another offspring of AFLEET ALEX who drew plenty of attention after a solid win in his debut run back on Jim Dandy day didn’t do much running and finished last of 11. His trainer, the very colorful Leon Blusiewicz always makes for good copy and said that he would not run out of money but he is running out of time at 79 years of age so he took a shot in the Travers off just one race. The top two finishers in this race definitely have the potential to go on and have an impact on some of the big races this fall. FLY DOWN was an unlucky second in the Belmont and AFLEET EXPRESS has shown that he has tremendous ability and should be an interesting prospect as the year goes on.

            The very next day Saratoga race course hosted the Grade I Personal Ensign which was the second half of the Travers-Personal Ensign double. The Personal Ensign was the return of RACHEL ALEXANDRA to Saratoga Race Course where she took on the older males in the Woodward, took pressure throughout and held on for the win. This race probably sealed the deal for her as Horse of the Year in 2009. In the Personal Ensign there were only five horses that went postward with RACHEL ALEXANDRA sent off as the 2-5 favorite with the streaking LIFE AT TEN going off as the 9-5 second choice. As the gates opened RACHEL went right to the lead with LIFE AT TEN pressing throughout fractions of 23:3, 47:3, 1:12. As they moved on the far turn LIFE AT TEN was being ridden along but couldn’t get to RACHEL who was moving easily into the lane. As they hit the top of the stretch in the mile time of 1:37:2 RACHEL was clear by three and a half lengths as LIFE AT TEN dropped back; PERSISTENTLY who was sent off at 21-1 was moving into contention. In the final quarter mile RACHEL began to shorten stride and PERSISTENTLY didn’t and ran her down for a length win in a slow final quarter mile. She was 10 lengths clear of the show horse LIFE AT TEN but it was clear that she is not the same horse as last year. That would not be an easy task but to lose this race with a clear lead into the lane to a horse like PERSISTENTLY who coming off a NW2X optional claiming win, something is not right.  Maybe the distance got her, it probably did based on the final time but her class alone should have carried her to victory. Her next start is still undecided but she would need to come with a better effort. On a sentimental note, PERSISTENTLY is owned by the Phipps Stable who of course owned the great PERSONAL ENSIGN.

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