SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ny Traffic has spent plenty of time on the open road.
That is, he’s run in way more open graded stakes, including the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, than he has in stakes restricted to New York-breds.
Most recently, Ny Traffic took on the best sprinter in the country, Jackie’s Warrior, in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course.
That was less than two weeks ago, but trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., will send Ny Traffic right back out in the $125,000 John Morrissey sprint on Friday as part of a card featuring three stakes for New York-breds.
Bred by Brian Culnan of Saratoga Springs, Ny Traffic has run in 11 graded stakes since the 2020 Risen Star at Fair Grounds without a victory, but is 3-for-3 in New York-bred races since then, so, as Joseph said on Wednesday morning, “It’s a good fallback option.”
“The Vanderbilt was an ambitious spot last time,” Joseph said. “Obviously, Jackie’s Warrior’s the best sprinter in the country, and we were hoping we could run second or get a piece of it.
“He ran credible. He wasn’t far off of second, and it was a decent race, but we’re going to come back in the right kind of spot. It’s coming back a little quick, but he’s come out of the race well, and we’re happy where we’re at.”
In the Vanderbilt on July 30, Ny Traffic finished fourth, six lengths behind last year’s Eclipse Award-winning sprinter.
His last two starts against New York-breds resulted in stakes victories, by 3 3-4 lengths in the Affirmed Success at Belmont Park on April 29 and by 8 3-4 lengths in the Hudson Handicap at Belmont on Oct. 30.
The 5-year-old horse has finished second four times in graded stakes, including three straight as a 3-year-old in the Louisiana Derby, Matt Win and by a nose to Authentic in the Grade I Haskell.
That led to starts on the pandemic-disrupted Triple Crown schedule in the fall, but Ny Traffic was a non-factor in the Derby and Preakness.
“It was a weird year, the first year of COVID, so everything was kind of messed up,” Joseph said. “The Derby was a bit disappointing, and the Preakness was one race too many at that point.
“We gave him a break after that, and he’s come back well. Since we’ve run in New York-bred races, he’s basically won every single time. That’s where he fits best. He is a graded stakes horse. He’s probably not a Grade I type, but he’ll win the right kind of Grade III. He hasn’t won it yet, but if he does get the right kind of Grade III, he’ll win it, also.”
Joseph said Ny Traffic bounced back well from the Vanderbilt, so running in the John Morrissey will just be a matter of reloading.
“He sat back and kind of made one kind of run, so he was doing his best work the latter part of the race,” he said. “So as far as taking a lot out of him, I don’t think it did.
“I don’t mind coming back. I like horses with between a six-day or 13-day comeback. I find they kind of lull more between 14 and 21 days, so I think 6-to-13 is fine on a short rest.”
Like the Vanderbilt, the John Morrissey is six furlongs, a distance at which Ny Traffic is 3-for-5 lifetime.
The days of trying longer distances, like he did in the nine-furlong Charles Town Classic and Monmouth Cup last summer, appear to be over.
“That’s what we’ve also done, cut him back in distance,” Joseph said. “Since we’ve cut him back, he’s been a better horse. This horse will still go a mile, I think, in a high-quality race, but I think a mile to six furlongs is his forte.”
Ny Traffic will break from the No. 6 post in a six-horse field that also includes Saint Selby, Wudda U Think Now, Listentoyourheart, My Boy Tate and Reggae Music Man.
Ny Traffic broke from the No. 3 post against five rivals in the Vanderbilt.
“Love the post,” Joseph said. “That was a little tricky last time, because he’s not a horse that takes a lot of dirt good. He likes to be in the clear, so the post is good for him. Obviously, he needs to break well from there, but if it was a post we could pick, that’s the one we would want.
“It would be nice to get a graded stakes, but we haven’t really thought beyond this race. We’d like to win this one because it’s a stake at Saratoga, and to win any kind of stake at Saratoga is nice. Just hopeful he can run well. There’s some good, decent horses in there, and he’s going to need to fire his ‘A’ game.’
MORE NEW YORK-BREDS
The card also includes the six-furlong Union Avenue for fillies and mares and the Evan Shipman at a mile on the main track for horses 3 and up.
As of Wednesday morning, trainer Michelle Giangiulio was happy to be down to one crutch.
She wasn’t as thrilled to be down to seven horses in her small stable, but at least one of them is Sea Foam, which gives her a shot at the Evan Shipman in what will be the first start of his 7-year-old campaign.
Giangiulio was getting ready to gallop one of her horses three weeks ago when he reared and fell on her as they approached the backstretch gap onto the main track.
Giangiulio broke her tibia in multiple places, but two weeks later the beaming New Jersey native hobbled her way into the winner’s circle after her horse Tiergan won an allowance optional claiming race, with Giangiulio’s parents in attendance.
“That was really special. It was amazing,” Giangiulio said while sitting in a golf cart next to the backstretch breakfast shack, very close to where the accident happened. “Just nice to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel after breaking my leg, and just being through a lot, with employees, and it’s hard getting things going. It’s been a tough road, so that was a nice reward.”
Sea Foam hasn’t raced since a victory in the Alex Robb at Aqueduct in December.
He has an affinity for Saratoga, having won four times and finished second once in six starts, and was first in the Evan Shipman last year, when it was run at a mile and an eighth.
“I’m hoping that him loving the track can get us the job done for the mile,” Giangiulio said. “He never really won anything other than a mile and a sixteenth, besides his maiden race as a 2-year-old. It’s all a matter of him getting a trip, so hopefully out of the 7 hole he can break really sharp, because that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Most of Giangiulio’s horses fall in the claiming ranks, so her numbers fluctuate all the time.
In fact, she lost Tiergan on a claim by trainer William Morey out of the Aug. 3 allowance race.
She’ll see Tiergan again soon, though, since Morey is running him right back in the Evan Shipman, as 5-2 second choice behind 9-5 favorite Bankit.
After the first 19 days of the meet without a horse death resulting from an incident during racing, two horses have died in a span of two days, according to the New York State Gaming Commission’s Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database.
On Wednesday, Awesome Gerry, a 4-year-old colt trained by Joseph, suffered a leg injury at the half-mile pole during the running of the featured Tale of the Cat stakes, the eighth race on the card, and was euthanized on the track.
During the first race on Thursday’s card, Salt Cay, 3-year-old gelding trained by Chad Brown, angled away from the field at the three-sixteenths pole on the main track, was pulled up by jockey Manny Franco and was euthanized after having been vanned off.
There have been five deaths from incidents during training, including three since Saturday.
On Aug. 6, the morning of Whitney Day, two horses trained by Brown died.
Credit Event, a 3-year-old colt who won an allowance at Saratoga on July 16, was euthanized after suffering a fracture during a breeze on the main track. The unraced 2-year-old colt Plurality died the same morning after colliding with another horse.
On Wednesday, Practice Squad, a 3-year-old gelding trained by Joe Sharp who won the Rick Violette stakes on July 21, was euthanized on the Oklahoma Training Track after suffering a leg injury on the turf course.
The NYSGC database also lists two deaths in the “Other” category, the Danny Gargan-trained Supernova, who died of “apparent peritonitis” on June 22, and the Mike Trombetta-trained Street Copper, who “fell while being walked back to the barn after race” on July 14, Opening Day.
AROUND THE TRACK
After waiting patiently in the back of the pack, jockey Jose Ortiz steered Poppy Flower to the outside, and she did the rest, closing sharply to catch betting favorite Empress Tigress to win the $150,000 Galway turf sprint.
“I could have waited longer to see if something opened up inside, but I felt like there was a blanket of horses and I didn’t want to be a hero,” Ortiz said. “I knew I had a lot of horse underneath of me, and she always finishes well, so I wanted to have a clean run home. I didn’t want to have any excuses. She came home flying.”
“He let her place herself, and sometimes you’re better off letting the horse do what they want to do rather than make them do something we want to make them do,” trainer Bill Mott said. “It was an honest enough pace or they wouldn’t have been that far in front of them. When you’re in this kind of race and you come from behind, it’s all about the trip. We know she can run, but she got the good trip.”
Poppy Flower finished second by a half-length to Empress Tigress last time out, in the July 15 Coronation Cup at Saratoga. …
Ortiz was suspended for Wednesday’s card based on a Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) rule on excessive whipping of Curlin’s Wisdom by Ortiz in the 12th race on Saturday. …
The probable challengers to Coaching Club American Oaks winner Nest in next Saturday’s Alabama include Secret Oath, Gerrymander and Nostalgic, and possibly Goddess of Fire and Skratch Kat.