Travers Contenders Breeze, Letruska, Swiss Skydiver Work At Saratoga

A number of prominent graded stakes contenders for next Saturday’s Runhappy Travers Day card breezed this morning at Saratoga Race Course, including Grade 1 Belmont Stakes-winner Essential Quality, the likely favorite for the $1.25 million Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The 152nd edition of the Travers is the centerpiece of a blockbuster day of racing featuring seven stakes, including six Grade 1 events, offering $4.6 million in total purse money with automatic berths in the Breeders’ Cup to the winner of the $750,000 Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer [Turf], the $600,000 Grade 1 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti [Distaff], and the $500,000 Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina [Filly & Mare Sprint].

In addition, the Travers Day card will also include the $600,000 Grade 1 Forego, a seven-furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and upward, and the $500,000 Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. Rounding out the signature day at the Spa is the $400,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa on turf for older fillies and mares.

Godolphin homebred Essential Quality, the reigning 2-year-old Champion and last-out Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner, breezed at 8:45 a.m. after the break, going five furlongs in 1:01.58 on the main track in company with Juddmonte homebred Bonny South, who is targeting the Personal Ensign.

Essential Quality, with Luis Saez up, worked outside of Bonny South and was caught by NYRA clockers working five-eighths from the half-mile pole through splits of :11.40, :23.22, :47.81, and out in 1:15 flat.

“He seems to be a little more forward leading up to this race than he was in the Jim Dandy,” said trainer Brad Cox. “We’ve tried to sharpen him up the last few weeks and I feel like we have mentally. He’s ready to go. Luis was super excited with how he worked. His last two works were better than his first two leading up to the Jim Dandy, so I feel like we have a horse who is every bit as good as we were leading into the Jim Dandy; maybe even better.”

Cox said the work was a good follow-up to the bullet five-eighths in :59.40 last weekend that was also over the main track.

“Last week, we were looking to do a little more, we weren’t going quite as quick this week,” Cox said. “Overall, he was doing everything the right way.”

FTGGG Racing’s Masqueparade, winner of the Grade 3 Ohio Derby in June at Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio, worked four furlongs in :48.11 seconds in company with Sum Kinda Pretty on the main track after the break.

“I got him in 47 and four and out in a minute and change. He was traveling like a winner, hopefully. Visually, with what I saw, I’m happy,” Stall, Jr. said.

Stall, Jr. said the Upstart bay, who was a prominent third last out in the Jim Dandy, should improve second time out over the Spa main track.

“With the shipping, I only worked him twice from the Ohio Derby to the Jim Dandy,” Stall, Jr. said. “When we got up here, we noticed the track was a little deeper than it was in the past or at least it seemed that way. I think he got a little bit out of that race and it should help him for this race.”

Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith, and Spendthrift Farm‘s Keepmeinmind, runner-up in the Jim Dandy last out, worked a solo half-mile in :47.55 under exercise rider Dennis Means on the main track after the break.

“He went very good,” said trainer Robertino Diodoro. “He was doing it nice and easy all on his own and with a strong gallop out once again. Touch wood, everything is on schedule. This was easy as could be and I thought Dennis did a good job because he’s not an easy horse to slow down.”

A number of the morning works, including those for Essential Quality and Masqueparade, were moved back due to a wet track from overnight rain.

“I thought the maintenance crew did a great job. The track, after the break here, looked good,” Diodoro said.

Keepmeinmind, who graduated in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in November, competed in two-thirds of the Triple Crown finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Grade 1 Preakness.

Diodoro said the Laoban bay will need to bring his best to topple Essential Quality.

“He needs to have his game face on for game day and be ready to run the race of his life,” Diodoro said.

Trainer Kenny McPeek sent last year’s Grade 1 Preakness-winner Swiss Skydiver out to breeze on the Oklahoma training track at 7:30 a.m. under Jose Ortiz, covering five furlongs in 1:00 flat.

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver, who is targeting the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, maneuvered around a work team down the lane and galloped out strong.

“We tried to time it so it wouldn’t be so crowded out there but it was,” McPeek said. “I think she needed that. She galloped out great and cooled out good. No problem.”

Three Chimneys Farm and Fern Circle Stables’ King Fury went to the Oklahoma dirt training track at 9:30 a.m. under Jose Ortiz and covered five furlongs in 1:01.13 solo in preparation for the Travers.

“It was a solid breeze. We caught him in a minute,” McPeek said. “It was a nice solid maintenance breeze. The horse can run all day. He’s coming into the race great. I think a mile and a quarter will be right up his alley.”

The Curlin chestnut captured the Grade 3 Lexington in April in his seasonal debut and followed with a rallying second in the Ohio Derby, finishing a half-length back to Masqueparade.

Last out, King Fury finished tenth in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational after a wide trip in his turf debut.

“He’s a horse that won’t have any trouble with the distance. He fits fine,” McPeek said. “The horses that ran in the Jim Dandy, he’d actually beaten the horse that ran second [Keepmeinmind] in the Ohio Derby and he had a troubled trip when he did that. If he jumps to another level, I think we’re good. The turf race was probably a bad idea in hindsight.”

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher worked a number of his stakes contenders on the Oklahoma dirt training track Saturday, including Repole Stable, Phipps Stable, and St. Elias Stables’ Dynamic One, the last-out winner of the nine-furlong Curlin on July 30 at the Spa.

With Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, Dynamic One worked in company with graded-stakes winning filly Spice Is Nice through a half-mile in :50.67.

“I caught them in 50 and 1. I thought it was a good steady work with a solid gallop out over a track that’s not very fast,” Pletcher said. “He’s had two solid works back now and two good gallop outs.”

Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable’s Mind Control, last-out winner of the Grade 2 John A. Nerud in July at Belmont, breezed a half-mile in :49.52.

The 5-year-old Stay Thirsty bay captured the 2018 Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa as a juvenile and followed up a year later with a score in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens.

“It was a very straightforward work. He’s a good workhorse,” Pletcher said. “He’s easy to train and likes to do his job. He was very professional as usual.”

CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good, undefeated in three starts, worked five-eighths in 1:00.61 under exercise rider Amelia Green.

The Into Mischief bay captured the Grade 3 Sham in January and Grade 2 San Felipe in March, both at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert before being transferred to Pletcher.

Pletcher said he was impressed by the colt’s fifth breeze at Saratoga in preparation for the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens.

“Another very impressive breeze with a tremendous gallop out,” Pletcher said. “He seems to do things effortlessly. He’s impressive to watch and it should have him ready to go in what is a demanding task going seven-eighths in a Grade 1 off a layoff. He seems to be training extremely well.

“I would argue that today was his best work of all, particularly the gallop out,” Pletcher continued. “I had him out the mile in 1:39 and one under a motionless rider. He has a good foundation of fitness.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will travel to Saratoga to retain the mount.

“I would expect some pretty fast fractions, so we’ll just have to play it by ear off the break and see how it unfolds,” Pletcher said.

Whisper Hill Farm’s Graceful Princess, the last-out winner of the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, worked four furlongs in :48.95 in preparation for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign.

“It was a very good work. She’s a very good workhorse and seems to be in good form at the moment,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher also noted that Travers-nominated Bourbonic will instead point to the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on September 25 at Parx in Bensalem, Penn.

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Trainer Chad Brown, in pursuit of his first Grade 1 Runhappy Travers triumph, worked Peter Brant and Robert V. LaPenta’s stakes-placed Miles D five furlongs over the Oklahoma training track in 1:01.16 in company with maiden-winner Southern District.

“He looked fine,” Brown said. “His last piece of work was on the training track because the main track was still wet and such, but he went well.”

Miles D, a son of Curlin, was a last-out second to fellow Runhappy Travers aspirant Dynamic One in his sire’s namesake sake on July 30 at Saratoga. He broke his maiden off an eight-month hiatus going a one-turn mile on June 12 at Belmont Park.

Trainer Fausto Gutierrez sent multiple Grade 1-winner Letruska to the main track just after 8:45 a.m. for a five-eighths work in :59.02 in her final breeze for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign.

Piloted by Ortiz, Jr., the 5-year-old daughter of Super Saver clocked eighth-mile fractions of :12, :23.20, :35.20 and galloped out in 1:12.00.

“Normally, she is a horse who likes to work fast and she worked well today,” Gutierrez said. “The idea was to feel full of horse and she’s a horse that is ready to run.”

A graded stakes-winner over four different ovals this year, Letruska arrives at the Personal Ensign off a coup in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on June 26 at Churchill Downs.

Drain the Clock, the winner of the Grade 1 Woody Stephens and the last-out runner-up in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, recorded his final work on Saturday ahead of the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens.

The Maclean’s Music colt registered a four-furlong work in :47:47 seconds over the Saratoga main for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. The ultra-consistent Drain the Clock enters the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens with momentum, posting four wins and a pair of second-place finishes through the first six starts of his 3-year-old campaign.

Joseph, Jr. also saw two contenders for the $600,000 Grade 1 Forego work Saturday at Saratoga, with Chance It and Mischevious Alex logging four furlongs in :48.12 and :48.48, respectively, on the main track.

The Forego, for 4-year-olds and up sprinting seven furlongs, will give four-time graded stakes-winner Mischevious Alex a chance to add to that total.

Chance It, second last out in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint going six furlongs on July 3 at Gulfstream, has compiled a 4-4-0 record in nine starts entering his Saratoga debut.

The post Travers Contenders Breeze, Letruska, Swiss Skydiver Work At Saratoga appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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