Trainer Todd Pletcher breezed his two Travers hopefuls on the main track on Sunday and got the desired result from both of them, separated by three-hundredths of a second.
Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy winner Palace Malice went four furlongs in 49.02, and Haskell winner Verrazano, in company with Secretariat Stakes-bound Jack Milton, covered the same ground in 49.05.
“We’ve certainly never come into the Travers with two horses with credentials this strong and doing as well as these two horses are,” Pletcher said. “We’ll just cross our fingers for 13 more days, and hope everything continues to go as well as it is.”
Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who worked five furlongs in 59 1⁄5 seconds at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Saturday, arrived at trainer Shug McGaughey’s barn on the Oklahoma side on Sunday afternoon.
Preakness winner Oxbow suffered an ankle injury while finishing fourth in the Haskell and is out of the Travers, although trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he might be able to make the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 21.
There had been speculation that Pletcher would send Verrazano to the Pennsylvania Derby so that he and Palace Malice wouldn’t have to run against each other, but he said that both were pointing toward the Travers, which would take some of the sting out of losing the Preakness winner from the field.
“You hate to run two horses like this against each other, but it’s the right thing to do for each horse and each owner, so that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “Both horses are certainly in position where a win here would solidify their
status at the top of the division. What better place to decide it than on the racetrack in the Travers?”
Palace Malice is owned by Dogwood Stable, and Verrazano is co-owned by Let’s Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
Palace Malice is in position to be only the second horse to win the Belmont, Jim Dandy and Travers.
Arts and Letters did it in 1969 and went on to win Horse of the Year.
Other horses who could run in the Travers are Darley Stable’s Transparent and Romansh, the 1-2 finishers of the Curlin, in which Transparent was disqualified to leave Romansh with the victory; two from the barn of Kenny McPeek — Blue Grass winner Java’s War and Virginia Derby winner War Dancer; and Derby runner-up Golden Soul, who was ninth in the Belmont and seventh in the Haskell.
Java’s War may run on the turf in the $100,000 Stroll on Wednesday instead of the Travers.
WISE DAN ‘LOOKS GREAT’
Trainer Charlie LoPresti said that Wise Dan was feeling good on Sunday morning after his victory in the Fourstardave.
Wise Dan came out of his still for a bath and to be walked and grazed, “and it doesn’t look like it [Fourstardave] took a whole lot out of him. It was a pretty easy race for him.”LoPresti said that the reigning Horse of the Year will run in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 15 or the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 5. He won both races last year.
HANDLE AND ATTENDANCE
All-sources handle at Saratoga was up 0.5 percent from the 2012 total through 20 days of racing.
Money wagered on-track and through simulcast outlets was $286,598,192, up from $285,295,757.
On-track handle was down 2.9 percent, from $70,892,924 in 2012 to $68,809,989.
Attendance fell 2.2 percent, from 397,330 to 388,607.
Good weather allowed turf races to stay on the turf, for the most part. Only eight of 108 have been taken off so far. Last year, 21 of 106 were moved to the main track.
Pletcher didn’t have a filly in Sunday’s Adirondack — a rarity for him — but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an eye-opening filly run big on the card.
Alto Racing’s Sweet Whiskey debuted in the second race and won by 5 1⁄4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite in 1:02.81, nearly breaking the 5 1⁄2-furlong track record (1:02.51) set by Fastus Cactus in 2010.
“There were a couple of other fillies she’d been training with who had already started at the meet and ran well,” Pletcher said. “We had a good line on her, and she lived up to our expectations. I was impressed by the time; it was very fast. She seemed like every time they got to her a little bit, she had a little response, and I was particularly pleased with the way she galloped out. I don’t know what else she could have done in her debut to be more impressive than that.”
AROUND THE TRACK
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Freedom Child, 13th in the Belmont Stakes and last of nine in the Jim Dandy, has been retired to stud due to a suspensory injury.
“He came out of the Jim Dandy fine,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “The Belmont is hard to gauge what went wrong, whether it was the distance or whatever, but his last race was really disappointing. We thought he’d run better. His Peter Pan was a very impressive race.” . . .
Teen Pauline, who broke a track record for five furlongs on the main track in her career debut last year, won her turf debut in the seventh race, her first win since her maiden-breaker. . . .
The second set of “History of the Game” Saratoga Trading Cards will be available today.
The trading cards honor a number of the most memorable thoroughbreds, trainers, jockeys and races to have been associated with Saratoga Race Course over the past 150 years.
The second set of the limited edition collectible cards will be available for $2 each in the grandstand near the Saratoga Styles Gift Shop. Limit one per person; while supplies last. All proceeds benefit the Backstretch Employee Service Team.