SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s easy to see why having the filly Wonder Gadot run against males in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 would be a boon to Saratoga Race Course.
On Sunday morning, trainer Mark Casse made the case for why it would be in his filly’s best interests, too.
No female horse has run in the Travers, the biggest race of the Saratoga meet, since 1979. No filly has won it since 1915.
After capturing the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine in Toronto, Wonder Gadot was supposed to run in the Alabama on Aug. 18, but after the Tenfold won the Jim Dandy on Saturday, Casse, who saddled runner-up Flameaway, introduced his star filly as a Travers serious candidate.
With the 3-year-old male division looking lackluster after the retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify and a variety of ailments that have sent many of the other promising colts to the sideline, having a filly in the Travers would crank up the interest level for that race.
It also makes sense for Wonder Gadot, Casse said. For one thing, the race conditions say she would carry five pounds less than the colts.
The distance shouldn’t be a problem, since Wonder Gadot won by 4 3/4 lengths in the Queen’s Plate at a mile and a quarter at Woodbine, and she has already beaten males twice, in that race and the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie last Tuesday.
All told, she was a combined 10 1/2 lengths better than the colts in those races.
“I guess some of them did run a mile and a quarter in the [Kentucky] Derby, but she’s already got a mile and a quarter under her,” Casse said. “She’s got a mile and three-sixteenths under her, and she gets five pounds.
“That’s a big deal going a mile and a quarter, and I can tell you this, when they go over to the paddock on Travers Day, she may be the biggest horse in the race. She doesn’t look like a filly. She’s a big, stout filly.”
The most notable instances of fillies beating males in recent years were Rachel Alexandra winning the 2009 Woodward at Saratoga and Rags to Riches outdueling Curlin in the 2007 Belmont.
Eight Belles was brilliant against 19 males in finishing second to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, but she broke down during the gallop-out and was euthanized.
In Rachel Alexandra’s case, she benefitted from age and gender weight allowances and carried eight fewer pounds than her Woodward rivals; Rags to Riches carried five fewer in the Belmont.
Casse recognizes the obvious historical ramifications that spice up the Travers.
“Anybody that knows me knows that I love horse racing and that it’s my entire life, and anytime we can get excitement, it’s good for horse racing,” Casse said. “I think anything that gets people’s atttention is good for Saratoga and it’s good for the Travers. We just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope everything stays well. I’m sure she’s going to have the ladies on her side.”
The Travers and Alabama are run at the same distance. The Travers carries a $1.25 million purse, compared to $600,000 for the Alabama.
“In horse racing, nothing is ever 100 percent [certain], but I would tell you I’d bet it’s about 90 percent,” Casse said. “We’ve talked about it. [Owner] Gary [Barber] always thinks outside the box, and a lot of it makes sense.”
Trainer Bill Mott has a penchant for winning a race at Saratoga on July 29, which happens to be his birthday.
On Sunday, the Hall of Famer, who turned 65, had his cake and ate it, too.
He won the third race with Glossy, and added another victory in the fifth, with Length.
Mott has won a race at Saratoga on his birthday in 17 of the last 24 years. The dark day fell on July 29 a few times during that stretch.
“It puts a lot of frickin’ pressure on you, I’ll tell you that,” Mott said with a laugh. “When it’s your birthday, everyone expects it.
“It’s fun when it works out. My family is in town, and I’ll have a nice cold beer when I get home.”
Monday’s card will begin with the Grade I A.P. Smithwick steeplechase, which was postponed last Thursday because of rainstorms.
First post will be the usual 1 p.m.
The other stakes on the card is a wide-open edition of the Coronation Cup turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
Mominou is the tepid morning-line favorite at 7-2, having finished no worse than second in her last four starts.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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