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Aug 19, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


The biggest race of the Saratoga meeting is upon us. The 136th running of the Travers Stakes "the Mid-Summer" Derby will be run on Saturday August 27th, 2005. There were 16 nominations for the Travers headed by ROMAN RULER who won the Grade I Haskell Invitational and FLOWER ALLEY who won the Grade II Jim Dandy earlier in the meeting.

Among the other nominees are the second and third place finishers in the Jim Dandy, REVERBERATE and ANDROMEDA’S HERO. Other probables for the race are DON’T GET MAD and high priced yearling CHEKHOV. There are some questionable horses that include A.P. ARROW (second in an allowance race earlier in the meeting) and CLOSING ARGUMENT (second in the Kentucky Derby). The most intriguing nominee for the Travers is BELLAMY ROAD. The Wood Memorial hero and Kentucky Derby favorite who is returning from an injury suffered in the Kentucky Derby and is likely to run in the King’s Bishop on the same day but will make for a great story line if he does run in the Travers. Trainer Nick Zito won the Travers last year with BIRDSTONE but to come off an injury right into the Travers would be a tough task for any horse despite the fact that this year’s renewal is not coming up that strong.

AFLEET ALEX has clearly shown that he is the best three year old this year. His injury has opened the door for the other three year olds that were not necessarily at the top of the list. ROMAN RULER for example has suffered most of the year with bad feet which has hurt his progression but seems to be on the right path now especially after his most recent work of 45:4 breezing. Tonya Terranova the wife and assistant trainer to her husband John Terranova, will oversee the horse's preparation for the Travers. FLOWER ALLEY who ran in the Kentucky Derby and had trouble that day came back and ran second to ROMAN RULER in the Dwyer at Belmont. His win in the Jim Dandy was solid although he was beating a short field but he did it the right way. His trainer Todd Pletcher was very hot the first week but has cooled off considerably heading into the last half of the meeting. However you still must respect him and jockey John Velazquez as they are still the best trainer/jockey combination in the country, especially in the big races. FLOWER ALLEY has tactical speed which will come in handy in the Travers and he will be one of the choices in this race.

A few horses who were nominated that will not run in the Travers are PARK AVENUE BALL and FREEDOM ISNT FREE. The former was third to ROMAN RULER and SUN KING in the Haskell but according to his trainer, James Ryerson he is unlikely to run; "Right now, I’m going to say he’s unlikely for the race," Ryerson said. "The timing is the key factor - three weeks may be too quick to bring him back for a race like the Travers." FREEDOM ISNT FREE on the other hand suffered a foot bruise and lost valuable training time according to his trainer, Dominic Galluscio. They will hold off on the Travers and look for an allowance race according to Galluscio.

Another race that is creating excitement on the Travers Day card is the King’s Bishop stakes, a Grade I for three year olds at seven furlongs with a purse of $250,000. The reason for the excitement is the presence of LOST IN THE FOG. He is undefeated in eight starts and will continue his road to the Breeders’ Cup with this race. BELLAMY ROAD, who is also nominated to this race will be a tough foe if he runs but LOST IN THE FOG is very tough to beat when sprinting. LOST IN THE FOG has already shipped in from California and will get a work over the track as he gets acclimated. This shouldn’t be a problem for LOST IN THE FOG who has run over six different tracks traveling from California to Arizona to Florida to New York to California back to New York back to Florida and now back to New York again. His best race may have been his last when he scored by more than seven lengths in 1:09:1 which was faster than older sprinters just three races earlier.

Nick Zito’s decision as to where to run BELLAMY ROAD will be very important but wherever he goes it is sure to make for a great race regardless.

 



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