Down the Stretch: Contenders get in last Travers’ works

Saturday is Travers Day, and a trio of prospective starters had their final workouts here Sunday mor

Saturday is Travers Day, and a trio of prospective starters had their final workouts here Sunday morning.

Liaison, a sneaky-good third in the Jim Dandy, worked five furlongs in 1:00.05, the eighth fastest of 29 at the distance.

Atigun, a fine third in the Belmont Stakes, but sixth in the Jim Dandy in the slop, breezed in :59.67, the seventh fastest at the distance. Atigun wore blinkers in his work.

Stealcase, a distant third after an awkward break in the Haskell in last, breezed in 1:00.74. All three works came over the main track.

Hansen, who may set the pace in the Travers, breezed Saturday morning at the Churchill Downs training center in 1:02.80.

Gemologist, who will not make the Travers after finishing last of six in the Haskell, breezed a half-mile in :47.74. Gemologist was scoped following his poor effort in the Haskell, and was found to have substantial mucus.

Stay Thirsty, last year’s Travers hero, breezed in 1:00.46, with an appearance in the Sept. 1 Woodward a likelihood.

Awaiting Stay Thirsty in the Woodward will be Mucho Macho Man, a very impressive winner of the Suburban in last. The Kathy Ritvo-trained colt breezed in 1:00.98 at the Oklahoma track, the second fastest of seven works at the distance.

The bullet work went to To

Honor and Serve, the beaten favorite in the Suburban. Pointing for either the seven-furlong Forego or the nine-furlong Woodward, To Honor and Serve went in 1:00.91.

Also working at Oklahoma was My Miss Aurelia, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly. A winner of her 2012 debut here in last, the Steve Asmussen trainee went an easy five furlongs in 1:02.99. Her next start is undecided, although Saturday’s Test is doubtful.

Gun Boat, pointing for Saturday’s King’s Bishop, breezed a solid :58.47 from the gate, the second-fastest work at the distance. Gun Boat fell to his face at the break in the

Amsterdam here in last, so the work from the gate was no surprise.

For the first time in the last four Saturdays, attendance and on-track handle showed increases over 2011.

Attendance totaled 34,308, up 928, or 3 percent, while the on-track handle of $5,474,626 was up by $301,995, or 6 percent.

Saturdays here have been disappointing, both from a business standpoint, as well as a quality perspective.

Keep an eye out for Balance the Books, the Chad Brown-trained 2-year-old colt who finished a very fine second in his debut here Aug. 4.

According to Brown, Balance the Books will run again at the meet, in either a closing-day maiden contest or the Aug. 30 With Anticipation Stakes. If Brown takes the conserv­ative route, that will serve as a prep for the Pilgrim Stakes, run during the fall meet at Belmont Park.

Balance the Books rallied strongly from far back to miss by a half-length, but that came over a turf course which was very firm and carrying speed pretty well.

Fire on Ice, the most impressive 2-year-old maiden winner from last year’s meet, will not be making his comeback at this meet.

Trainer John Kimmel said the colt, who hasn’t raced since his debut and who underwent surgery last fall, came back a little tired from his most recent five-furlong work, and needs more time to get race fit.

There is a race for him in the condition book for Travers Day — which would be ironic, since he won on Travers Day 2011 — but his return will be delayed until fall at Belmont.

As for the Sunday action, clear and 74 degrees at first post. Fast and firm, with the portable rail still up at 18 feet on the inner turf. That rail is going to have to come down soon, because the inside couple of paths are really chopped up. No rail on the Mellon.

A riding triple from Javier Castellano and riding doubles from Ramon Dominguez and Rajiv Maragh were highlights.

First Race

Another day, another Todd Pletcher 2-year-old winner.

Kimono ($2.40) never had an anxious moment as she wired an overmatched group of fillies by a handy two lengths.

Second as the favorite in her debut earlier at the meet, Kimono — a $550,000 daughter of Bernardini — broke running and cruised to victory over entrymate Kansas and the late-running Liberty Girl.

Her victory gave Pletcher his 17th win at the meet with a 2-year-old, with 16 of them coming in maiden races. Amazing, and there’s probably more to come, since he hasn’t started Archwarrior yet.

Fifth Race

Proving that even Pletcher can’t win every 2-year-old race, Broken Spell ($15.80), for Pletcher’s old boss, D. Wayne Lukas, upset this maiden contest.

A bit wide around the first turn, Broken Spell raced outside throughout while gamely prevailing by 11⁄4 lengths. Always Emma angled inside in the lane to be second while J’esprit, the second choice for Brown, was an unlucky third. She was steadied back between rivals after the break — losing valuable position — then was forced to race outside for much of the trip. She’s a big filly who should relish distance racing.

Pletcher’s filly, Citizen Emma — the 7-5 favorite — had no excuse while finishing sixth. The win was Lukas’ first of the meet.

Eighth Race

Finally finding a seam in deep stretch, Stephanie’s Kitten ($4.20) and John Velazquez captured the Lake Placid. After sitting a perfect inside in-behind trip to the head of the stretch, Velazquez first looked to get through along the rail, then tried to split leaders Medolina and Centre Court.

When both efforts failed, and when Better Lucky tired on the outside, the Hall of Famer steered Stephanie’s Kitten around the leaders to get up by a half-length. Centre Court, who was forced to do the “dirty work” in keeping Medolina honest, held second over the late-running Somali Lemonade.

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