A star-studded Travers Day undercard

Major stakes, horses, dot the day
Flintshire is the overwhelming favorite today in the Sword Dancer.
Flintshire is the overwhelming favorite today in the Sword Dancer.

Mohaymen is cutting back in distance.

He is not cutting back in degree of difficulty.

Undefeated in the first five starts before finishing fourth to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in the Florida Derby, the Shadwell Stable colt is bypassing the mile-and-a-quarter Travers at Saratoga Race Course today, but has as salty an assignment as you can find, anyway, against 12 rivals in the seven-furlong Grade I King’s Bishop.

This will be Mohaymen’s first start at less than a mile since his career debut last September, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Shadwell have reached the point where the colt, a $2.2 million yearling purchase at Keeneland, needs to start producing again.

“It’s huge, and if he wins it, it’s off the charts,” McLaughlin said. “He’s won four Grade II’s and to win a Grade I is huge as a stallion. He’s 2-for-2 around one turn. He broke his maiden at six [furlongs] and won the Nashua at a mile at Aqueduct.”

Mohaymen was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Jim Dandy, Saratoga’s traditional Travers prep, at which point his connections decided to start looking at other options.

The stiffest of the competition promises to come from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert, who, besides bringing two Travers horses to the East Coast, also has two blazing bullets in the King’s Bishop — 4-1 morning-line favorite Drefong and Jazzy Times.

The field also includes Summer Revolution, an impressive winner at the King’s Bishop distance in both of his career starts, Woody Stephens winner Tom’s Ready and Amsterdam winner Mind Your Biscuits.

“We feel like we’ll be more of a closer because we certainly can’t go :21, :43 or :44 [seconds] with those Baffert horses,” McLaughlin said. “We’re not going to have to do much as far as taking him back. We’ll have to let Junior [Alvarado] find his spot, whether it’s fourth or 12th, or somewhere in between there, and hope he responds.”

Besides the Travers and King’s Bishop, today’s undercard features four other Grade I races — the Sword Dancer on the turf, the Ballerina sprint for fillies and mares, the Forego sprint and the Personal Ensign, which has a short field of five, but includes four Grade I winners. Undefeated Lady Eli will make her return from a 13-month layoff in the Grade II Ballston Spa to close out the stakes program.

In the Sword Dancer, Saratoga fans will get another look at Flintshire from the barn of trainer Chad Brown, one of the top turf stars in the world. At

1-5, he is an overwhelming favorite off his win in the Bowling Green on July 30, his second start for Brown since coming to the U.S. this year.

“With a horse like Flintshire, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Brown said. “By the time the horse had come over to us, he had made almost $8 million, so I’m not going to change anything with the horse. He’s settled in nicely and, fortunately, he’s taken to our program like the class horse he is. He came to us in outstanding condition from Andre Fabre. He had been managed by both Mr. Fabre and Juddmonte so well, that’s why we have a horse at age 6 that’s still at the top of his game.”

What the Personal Ensign lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.

Curalina is the 9-5 favorite off her 91⁄4-length win in the Shuvee, and will face Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled, Delaware Handicap winner I’m a Chatterbox, 2015 Test winner Cavorting, who will be making a rare start in a route race, and Grade II Fleur de Lis winner Paid Up Subscriber.

Curalina and I’m a Chatterbox butted heads twice at Saratoga last year. I’m a Chatterbox finished first in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but was disqualified and placed second behind Curalina, and they were both beaten by Embellish the Lace in the Alabama.

“For as convincingly as she won [in the Shuvee], she was geared down the last part and won pretty easily,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of Curalina. “I thought she bounced out of it really well.”

A.P. Indian has won three straight and is the 5-2 favorite in the Forego off his victory in the A.G. Vanderbilt, and the Brown-trained Wavell Avenue, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, is the 3-1 Ballerina favorite over 3-1 Carina Mia, who cuts back in distance after running well but losing to Songbird in the CCA Oaks.

Lady Eli, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, was sidelined by laminitis last summer, but Brown said she is raring to go in the Ballston Spa.

“It’s a big deal,” Brown said. “I’m really excited to get her back out there racing again. She is, too. This filly is so competitive. I can just see that she wants to run, and I’m letting her run.”

“It’s a mix of emotions; I feel that excitement, adrenaline, energy and fear,” co-owner Jay Henley said. “The fear is for all my horses to just make sure they stay well. It’s kind of like watching your child go off to kindergarten for the first time. We’ve been here before and she’s been great. But this is the first time she’s been back off the injury.


Former NFL coach Bill Parcells’ horse Hit It Once More ran away from the field to win the $250,000 Albany on New York Showcase Day on Friday, which featured six stakes totaling $1.15 million in purses restricted to New York-breds.

Hit It Once More got to the front under Kendrick Carmouche, and when Extinct Charm ranged up behind him at the top of the stretch, Hit It Once More motored away in much the same way he won the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 23.

“They didn’t go that fast, so that put him right in the driver’s seat,” trainer Gary Sciacca said.

Syndergaard, named for New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, turned in another impressive performance. In his second career start, he won the Funny Cide for 2-year-olds by 101⁄4 lengths, to go along with his three-length win at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

“Yeah, he came with the heater today,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “As fast as he’s going, he’s doing it in pretty relaxed fashion.”

Pletcher said Syndergaard might turn up in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park next time out.

Six days after losing a tight one in the Grade II Fourstardave, the 7-year-old King Kreesa picked up a gutsy win in the West Point by a nose over one of his longtime rivals, Kharafa.

“Listen, this is a really good horse,” trainer David Donk said. “I think that’s why myself and the owners and the media, the fans enjoy him. The longevity of horses, that’s what’s fun.”

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