The Travers is becoming something of a birthright for the Bernardini line.
The son of A.P. Indy won it in 2006, and two of his offspring — Stay Thirsty and Alpha — have won the last two renewals, Alpha in a dead heat with Golden Ticket last year.
A pair of colts in Saturday’s $1 million Travers may not have the best resumes in the field, but their breeding indicates they could be tough to handle.
Transparent and Romansh, both owned by Darley Stable, are both sons of Bernardini, who also is a Darley product.
Tom Albertrani trained Bernardini, and will saddle Romansh.
“He does have a little bit of a resemblance to his father,” he said. “He’s got the same kind of athletic look about him. Almost similar in color, physique. I can see some resemblance in him, sure.
“He was pretty special. It’s just nice having a horse by him in the barn, especially if they do well. That’s really a bonus. We’re fortunate to have horses like that in the barn. Hopefully, he can take off where his father did, both leading up to the Travers. It’d be really nice to see him come out on top. We’ll see what happens.”
Bernardini ran all eight of his career races in 2006, winning the Grade III Withers, the Preakness and Jim Dandy before winning the Travers. He then won the Jockey Club Gold Cup to extend his winning streak to six races before he ended his career with a second to Invasor, who was inducted this month into the Hall of Fame and was trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
McLaughlin now trains Transparent.
“It does make it a little special,” McLaughlin said of the Bernardini connection, which he said also serves him and Albertrani a functional purpose beside the nostalgic one. “And what it does is it makes it a little easier for both of us, as trainers. Everybody wonders about the distance. Being that we know they’re both [by] Bernardini, Bernardini won the Travers, Stay Thirsty won the Travers, and Alpha won the Travers. All Bernardini line. So we have confidence, at least, that they’ll get the distance.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, owner of Darley Stable, will be hoping for a repeat of the 1931 Travers on Saturday, when the top two finishers shared the same owner.
That year, Greentree Stable sent out winner Twenty Grand and runner-up St. Brideaux for the Mid-Summer Derby. This year, Darley Stable has entered Romansh and Transparent, who finished first and fifth in the Curlin, respectively, on July 26. Transparent crossed the wire first, but was disqualified to fifth. Had he gotten there cleanly, it would have been a 1-2 finish in the minor Travers prep for Darley Stable.
“It’s pretty special for Sheikh Mohammed,” Albertrani said. “He puts a lot of investment into horses, and that’s our goal, to get them to these types of races. Especially the Travers. Having two horses in there, I think, is very special for him. It would be pretty exciting if at least one of us could win it for him.”
Bernardini’s win was Albertrani’s only start in the Travers. He led from gate to wire, waiting until the final quarter-mile to pull away to win by 7 1⁄2 lengths over Bluegrass Cat (who was another 6 1⁄4 lengths better than the rest of the field).
McLaughlin is fresh off Alpha’s dead-heat win in last year’s renewal. He also saddled runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge in 2011, ninth-place favorite Trappe Shot in 2010 and fourth-place Charitable Man in 2009.
There was a little pride in Albertrani’s voice when discussing his former trainee’s career as a sire.
“He’s done very well,” he said. “It’s nice to see a horse you had produce such good horses. It’s like A.P. Indy himself. He’s another one that produced. It’s nice to see that sire line continuing on. It’s pretty special.”
Javier Castellano, who rode Bernardini, will replace Junior Alvarado on Romansh. Castellano also won the 2010 Travers on Afleet Express before winning on Stay Thirsty. He was second in 2005 on Bellamy Road and sixth in 2002 on Quest.
Approaching the quarter pole in the Curlin, Ortiz took a look behind him before bringing Transparent outside and interfering with the run of Proud Strike, who finished fifth before the disqualification. Proud Strike clipped heels, and rider Ricardo Santana Jr. nearly lost his seat, but only lost his left iron for a moment.
Had he not taken that route to the wire, McLaughlin is sure Transparent still would have won the race.
“He won it, he just made a little bit of an error, a jockey error,” he said. “We were real pleased with the race because it had been 112 days [since his previous start]. So I think the Curlin was a true prep race for the Travers for us. A lot of people use that term — a prep — but when it’s $600,000 in the Jim Dandy, you’re trying hard to win it. This was a true prep for us, and we feel like we will go forward from it. And we have to go forward in order to be competitive with the likes of Orb and Verrazano and Palace Malice.”
Both trainers are content with the workouts their charges have produced since the Curlin. Both used the race to come off a break,
Romansh having been unraced for 62 days and Transparent nearly twice as long. Romansh was unraced as a 2-year-old, coming to Albertrani’s barn just before December. Now, with four races under his belt, he seems a more serious competitor than he did a few months ago.
“With every race, he’s been developing, getting stronger,” Albertrani said.” He’s only got four races under him, but I can see where he’s getting more focused, sharper. I think, going into the Curlin, he was off for a couple months, but I could see a big difference after the race with how he’s really been training very focused, which I like. He’s been a little more aggressive. I like everything I’m seeing since he ran.”
Bernardini won the Travers without having raced as a 2-year-old. However, there is still a lot of ground for both these horses to cover before they can be considered as special a colt as their sire. A win Saturday, or just a good showing among a higher class of competition, would signal a major step forward for either.
McLaughlin thinks Transparent is poised to take that step, but whether he will reward his trainer’s confidence remains to be seen.
“We hope. We will find out,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t know for sure. We hope he does. We feel like he will improve from the race because of the 112 days off. So hopefully, he will improve.”