Travers Week opened on Sunday morning with final breezes for what will likely be the top two favorites in the race, both from the barn of Todd Pletcher.
Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano each hit the main track at 8:45.
Palace Malice, who won the Jim Dandy for Dogwood Stable four weeks ago, breezed four furlongs in 48.21 under exercise rider Jake Nelson, 17th fastest of 70 works at the distance.
Verrazano went four furlongs in 48.65 under John Velazquez.
“Palace Malice is feeling good,” Pletcher said. “He’s feeling great, actually, so we were happy to get him on the track. He seems to be thriving.”
Verrazano, owned by the partnership of Let’s Go Stable, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, worked in company with Capo Bastone.
“Verrazano always goes in company,” Pletcher said. “He’s a little different personality than the other horse. I thought he went very well. His gallop-out was very good. We kind of flip-flopped their gallop-outs from last week. Palace Malice last week was a little bit stronger, so we wanted to do a little more on the day with Verrazano. We got what we were looking for.”
Kentucky Derby winner Orb is scheduled to breeze four furlongs at the Oklahoma training track at 7:30 this morning.
He had been training at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland since the day after the Belmont.
The Travers draw will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Jockey Jose Espinoza, who broke his nose and suffered a concussion when his filly broke down after the first race on Saturday, remained in Albany Medical Center on Sunday, but is expected to be released this morning, according to his agent, Nick Soulis.
Espinoza went face first into the turf just past the wire when Heading to Toga, who finished fifth, broke her right front leg.
He was motionless on the ground for several minutes before rolling over, then was taken off on a stretcher.
Heading to Toga, meanwhile, was humanely euthanized.
The 25-year-old Soulis, an Albany Academy graduate who just started his career as a jockey agent this winter, said Espinoza was scheduled to be released on Sunday, but a second doctor requested another CAT scan, so Espinoza had to stay another night.
Espinoza has broken his nose before, and actually isn’t feeling any pain there, Soulis said.
“It’s not that bad, actually,” Soulis said. “We’re hoping maybe he can start riding again sometime before the end of the week.”
In the aftermath of the spill, Guyana Star fell over Heading to Toga as Rajiv Maragh bailed out of the saddle, then she ran off down the backstretch before being stopped by an outrider.
Joe Rocco Jr., on My Daughter’s Song, hurt his back trying to
maneuver his filly out of harm’s way and took off the rest of his mounts on Saturday and did not ride on Sunday.
It was the second fatality of the meet, after Charming Hour broke down during the Adirondack last Saturday. Black Rhino, who was fourth in the Sanford at Saratoga in 2011, broke down during training on July 18, the day before opening day, then was euthanized on Saturday, July 20, because of a slab fracture in his knee that was inoperable.
FUTURE FOR ‘PRINCESS’
Alabama winner Princess of Sylmar, owned by Schenectady native Ed Stanco, might not race again this season, but if she does, Pletcher said they will look at races like the Cotillion at Penn National or the Beldame at Belmont.
She’ll be given the usual three days off, then return to training as if she was getting ready for another race, but Stanco said after the Alabama that he wouldn’t mind if she took the rest of the year off and pointed toward a 4-year-old campaign. She probably has a strong enough resume to win the Eclise Award for 3-year-old fillies even if she doesn’t race again in 2013.
“I don’t think we’re under any time crunch,” Pletcher said. “There are plenty of reasons to stop on a lot of these horses as you go along, and you hate to stop on one when there’s no reason to. At the same time, she’s been running all year, and there are a lot of races next year, and even possibly as a 5-year-old, so you don’t want to get greedy. That’s what we’ll have to evaluate.”
Former Daily Gazette turf writer and columnist Mike Kane and National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame historian Allan Carter will discuss their new book, “150 Years of Racing in Saratoga: Little Known Stories and Facts from America’s Most Historic Racing City,” at 7 tonight in the Hall of Fame Gallery.
The program is free to attend.
AROUND THE TRACK
Whitney winner Cross Traffic, pointing toward the Woodward on closing weekend, worked four furlongs in 47.83 in company with Amsterdam winner Forty Tales on the main track.
“I actually feel like he’s training better coming out of the Whitney than he was going into it,” Pletcher said.
He called Forty Tales’ work “exceptional.”
Pletcher also sent out Starlight Racing’s juvenile colt champion Shanghai Bobby out in company with Donn Handicap winner Graydar. Both went 49.02 on the main. . . .
Mechanicville native Chad Brown couldn’t help but gush over the Saturday he enjoyed, when he won the Sword Dancer with Big Blue Kitten, then the Arlington Million with Real Solution.
“I’ll tell you, it’s incredible,” he said. “So much planning goes into these races. The best-laid plans rarely work out. But this time, we pointed to those two races and hit them both.” . . .
Willet has finished second in all three career starts at Saratoga. but nevertheless is the 8-5 morning line favorite for today’s feature, the six-furlong $100,000 Union Avenue for New York-bred fillies and mares.
She finished second to Risky Rachel in the Union Avenue last year and second by a nose to Clear Pasaj in the Lotsa Talc at seven furlongs on July 25.
Clear Pasaj comes back in the Union Avenue having finished first or second in each of her last nine starts.
She’s the only proven front-runner in the field, and never seems to win by much, but is 6-5-0 from 14 starts.
“She’s very gritty,” trainer Bruce Levine said. “She’s really a tough competitor, very feisty. I think it helps her, because she’s a real fighter, she really is.”