No. 1 in the country will be No. 2 in the starting gate.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah drew the No. 2 post and is the 1-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 146th Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
The race drew a field of 10, but Florida Derby runner-up Upstart may not start if American Pharoah is in the starting gate.
Contacted by phone from California, trainer Bob Baffert said the post position shouldn’t be much of an issue for American Pharoah, especially given his running style of getting to the front and putting away the competition well before the wire.
American Pharoah is scheduled to fly into Albany International Airport from southern California today and should arrive at the track by mid-afternoon. He will be stabled in stall 11 of trainer John Terranova’s barn 25 on the backstretch of the main track.
“The horse is doing well, that’s the most important thing,” Baffert said. “He still has to break well and everything else, but we’re just worried about him getting there and being sharp and ready to roll, and if he’s sharp, whatever happens, happens.”
“If American Pharoah runs his race, we’re all running for second,” said Dallas Stewart, who trains long shot Tale of Verve.
The field, in post-position order, with jockey, will be Upstart (Irad Ortiz Jr.); American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza); Mid Ocean (Manny Franco); Texas Red (Kent Desormeaux); Frammento (Jose Ortiz); Frosted (Joel Rosario); Keen Ice (Javier Castellano); Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens); King of New York (Julien Leparoux); and Smart Transition (John Velazquez).
The Travers post time is 5:46 p.m. and will be shown live during an NBC broadcast from 4-6. First post on Travers Day will be 11:45 a.m.
The total purse will increase from $1.25 million to $1.6 million if American Pharoah starts.
American Pharoah will try to become only the second Triple Crown winner to go on to win the Travers. Whirlaway won the 1941 Travers after sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Among those trying to hand American Pharoah his first defeat since his career debut in California just over a year ago will be Belmont Stakes runner-up Frosted, Jim Dandy winner Texas Red, Curlin winner Smart Transition and Keen Ice, who was second to American Pharoah in his last start, the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2.
At 6-1, Frosted is the second choice on the morning line, followed by Texas Red (8-1) and Keen Ice (12-1).
Keen Ice, owned in part by Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs through Donegal Racing, is considered one of those who could have a shot at knocking off the Triple Crown winner, based on how much he keeps improving and his strong finish in the Haskell.
“Six or seven [post] would’ve been hand-picked,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It’s a perfect spot. It’s not as important for us as it is for some of the other horses. We’ll probably come out of there, and find a spot close to the back of the pack. If it’s a fast pace, he’ll come running.”
Trainer Rick Violette said “we’re still on the fence” on whether to run Upstart.
The New York Racing Association has reserved a block of time from 8:45-9 a.m. on Friday for Travers runners to get on the main track for a final gallop.
That will give fans an opportunity to see the Triple Crown winner up close during his final tuneup.
Otherwise, security will be very tight around Terranova’s barn, which was getting a tuneup itself on Tuesday afternoon, with fresh wood chips for the walking ring, a rubber mat for American Pharoah’s stall and barriers to keep people out of the area next to the shedrow.
Track workers also laid down finely crushed gravel on horse paths in the backstretch.