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Aug 30, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-TRAVERS-KINGSBISHOP-TEST

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The biggest day of the Saratoga meeting was run on Saturday August 24th when they hosted three Grade I races including the Midsummer Derby, the highlight of the meeting, the Travers Stakes.

               The first Grade I of the afternoon was the Test Stakes for three year old fillies run over seven furlongs with a purse of $500,000. A field of eight went postward with the role of favoritism going to Sweet Lulu, a California invader who was sent off at 9-5, just a slight favorite over My Happy Face (2-1). As the gates opened, Sweet Lulu and Baby J went to the lead while Wildcat Lily sat just off those two in third. The early fractions of the race were swift, 22:1, 44:4. As they moved to the top of the lane Sweet Lulu dispatched of Baby J but was quickly set upon by Wildcat Lily. Those two rivals battled through the lane with My Happy Face closing on the outside in third. As they got to the wire Sweet Lulu battled back to score by a head over Wildcat Lily while My Happy Face was another neck back in third after getting spun 7-8 wide into the lane after getting outrun early on. The final time of the race wasn’t impressive as they came home the last 1/8th of a mile to finish in 1:23:2. Sweet Lulu, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Julien Leparoux remained undefeated at 4 for 4, with that being her first start over a conventional dirt track. Third place finisher and second choice in the race My Happy Face proved she is better around one turn and look for her in those spots going forward.

               The next Grade I on the card came two races later when 14 three year olds went postward in the King’s Bishop Stakes, run over seven furlongs also carrying a purse of $500,000. The slight favorite in the race was Forty Tales, a Todd Pletcher trainee who was riding a three race winning streak. As they broke from the gate, the second choice, Let Em Shine was sent right to the lead and set a solid pace of 22:1, 44:3, while being pressured from the inside by Mentor Cane. As they moved around the turn Mentor Cane took over the lead from Let Em Shine and began to open up into the lane. In midstretch Mentor Cane held a clear lead but was getting tired from his early efforts and down the center of the track was longshot Capo Bastone from the Todd Pletcher barn who ran on by to score by two lengths at 28-1. Mentor Cane held on for a clear second over Central Banker who checked in third at 22-1 over the favorite Forty Tales. The final time of the race was a decent 1:22:1 over the fast track. Todd Pletcher had three horses in the race and Capo Bastone was by far the longest odds under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

               The next race was the highlight of the meeting, the Grade I Travers, for three year olds run over 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $1 million dollars. There was a quality field of nine that went postward with Verrazano, the big winner of the Haskell going off as the 8-5 favorite, the Kentucky Derby winner Orb was sent off as the third choice in the race at 3-1 behind the Belmont Stakes winner, Palace Malice who was sent off at 5-2. When the gates opened, longshot Moreno was sent to the lead with Romansh and Verrazano not that far behind in second and third. Palace Malice who figured to show some speed, stumbled a bit at the start and had to come from well off the pace getting away in 8th. Moreno, who was third in the Jim Dandy led through fractions of 24:2, 48:4, 1:13:2. As they moved around the far turn Moreno still held that lead as the stalkers began to tire, Orb who got a dream run through along the rail had moved into second at the top of the lane. Through the stretch, Moreno was still holding firm and Orb just couldn’t get by, meanwhile Will Take Charge was closing well under jockey Luis Saez. As they got to the wire, Will Take Charge got a nose in front of Moreno with Orb just ¾’s of a length back in third, a nose better that a fast closing Palace Malice. The final time of the race was 2:02:3, not bad considering the early fractions of the race. The biggest disappointment in the race was Verrazano who finished a well beaten seventh with no apparent excuse other than he might have been coming back to quickly off a career best effort. It is still hard to get a line on how good this three year old crop is but it will be exciting to watch as the last part of the year begins.



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