Weekend Lineup Presented By NYRABets: Blockbuster Travers Showdown

Four Grade 1 winners will enter the eight-strong starting gate for Saturday’s Midsummer Derby, the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. The winners of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Rich Strike and Early Voting, are expected, as well as the runner-up from both of those races, Epicenter. The only dual Grade 1 winner in the field is Cyberknife, who has captured the Arkansas Derby and the Haskell this year.

Saturday’s Saratoga card features four other Grade 1 races, offering top-class contenders from multiple divisions. Reigning champion Jackie’s Warrior will star in the Forego, while the Personal Ensign features another matchup between exciting distaffers Clairiere, Malathaat, and Letruska. The “Win and You’re In” Sword Dancer drew a solid field of 10, including international millionaire Broome for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Friday’s graded stakes action takes race fans to the West Virginia bullring at Charles Town, where Art Collector will seek a repeat victory in the $1 million Classic (G2).

On Sunday, reigning champion Ce Ce ships to Saratoga from the West Coast to take on the G1 Ballerina.

Also worth noting that Monmouth Park will offer a $200,000 stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday, which could offer a preview at talent for future graded stakes races.

Here’s a quick look at some of this weekend’s graded stakes:


10:18 p.m. – Grade 2 Charles Town Classic

Art Collector returns to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Friday night as he looks to defend his crown in the track’s marquee event of 2022 – the $1,000,000 Charles Town Classic (G2). Art Collector will look to replicate the path he took to West Virginia’s eastern panhandle in 2021 when he also captured the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga prior to his run in the Classic. Unlike last year, Art Collector came into the 2022 Alydar off a lengthy layoff following his trip to the Middle East and the $20 million Saudi Cup but didn’t disappoint with a dominating effort that could have signaled a return to his 2021 form that saw him capture the Charles Town Classic and Grade 1 Woodward.

Charles Town Classic Entries


1:55 p.m. – Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga

Reigning Champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior, who raced his way into history last month, will continue his assault on the Saratoga Race Course record books when he goes for a sixth career stakes victory over a track where he is undefeated in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Forego.

Jackie’s Warrior won as he pleased in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt July 30, a two-length triumph that made him the first horse in Saratoga’s 154-year history to win a Grade 1 race for three consecutive years following the Hopeful in 2020 and H. Allen Jerkens in a memorable 2021 throwdown with Life Is Good.

Forego Entries

3:52 p.m. – Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga

Jack Christopher, who suffered his first loss last out in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 23 at Monmouth Park, will return to the sprint distance in search of a third Grade 1 triumph in Saturday’s $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial.

Trainer Chad Brown will also saddle maiden winner Accretive, who nearly defeated Gunite last out in the Grade 2 Amsterdam on July 31 at the Spa. The gelded son of Practical Joke was an impressive winner on debut by 5 3/4 lengths sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on June 26 at Belmont. He followed with a gutsy neck loss in the Amsterdam after closing from 3 1/2 lengths off the pace and coming up just shy to earn a 101 Beyer.

Gunite returns to the scene of his Grade 1 Hopeful victory in search of another top-level score for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. A son of Winchell-owned and Asmussen-trained 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, Gunite returned to graded form with gusto last time out in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, earning a neck victory over the aforementioned Accretive in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint.

Allen Jerkens Entries

4:32 p.m. – Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga

This spring, multiple Grade 1-winner Clairiere was an underdog when facing reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat, never having finished ahead of her in four matchups last year. Now, Clairiere has gotten the better of her familiar rival twice and will look to do so once again in Saturday’s Personal Ensign. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Clairiere arrives from a strong victory over Malathaat in the Grade 2 Shuvee on July 24 at the Spa.

Clairiere’s abilities will be tested once again in the Personal Ensign as she faces a loaded field that includes two champions. In addition to the aforementioned Malathaat, she’ll face the reigning Champion Older Dirt Female Letruska, who was the quick pacesetter in the Ogden Phipps and faded to be a well-beaten fifth-of-5.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher is hopeful Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat will bounce back from a disappointing runner-up effort behind Clairiere in the Grade 2 Shuvee last out. The day of the Shuvee was particularly hot and humid, which Pletcher blames for the dullness Malathaat showed in the paddock and while warming up for the race. She broke well under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, but settled in third-of-4 before making a mild run down the stretch and coming up 1 1/2 lengths shy.

This year, Letruska boasts wins in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream and a repeat win in the Apple Blossom, an effort in which she bested Clairiere by 1 1/4 lengths. Letruska has been training strongly at Churchill Downs leading up to the Personal Ensign, posting four bullet works since July 10 and breezing one mile in 1:40.80 on August 4 at the Louisville oval. Her latest move was a half-mile in 48 seconds flat on August 19.

Personal Ensign Entries

5:05 p.m. – Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga

Internationally acclaimed trainer Aidan O’Brien will be represented by Group 1-winning millionaire Broome in the Sword Dancer. The 6-year-old Australia bay has made three starts this season led by a 3 1/4-length score in the 12-furlong Group 2 Hardwicke on good-to-firm ground in June at Ascot. He enters from a prominent fourth in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at 12 furlongs on July 23 at Ascot.

Gufo posted a neck score over the O’Brien-trained Japan in last year’s Sword Dancer for conditioner Christophe Clement. The multiple Grade 1-winning 5-year-old son of Declaration of War, who captured the 2020 Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, boasts a ledger of 18-8-3-5 for purse earnings in excess of $1.5 million. He has made four starts this season, including a win in the Grade 2 Pan American in April at Gulfstream Park ahead of a runner-up effort to Highland Chief in the Grade 1 Man o’ War in May at Belmont Park. Last out, the Kentucky-bred chestnut closed to finish fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 23 at Monmouth Park, defeated 2 1/2-lengths by returning rival Adhamo.

Channel Maker will make his fifth Sword Dancer appearance which includes a win in 2020 en route to Champion Turf Male honors. The 8-year-old English Channel gelding has amassed earnings in excess of $3.6 million through a record of 46-9-6-5. His other Grade 1 wins came at Belmont Park in the 2018 and 2020 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the 2019 Man o’ War. Channel Maker has won 2-of-3 starts this season, taking the Grade 2 Elkhorn in April at Keeneland and the Grand Couturier by a neck over Soldier Rising last out on July 8 at Belmont Park.

Chad Brown will saddle a trio of contenders in Adhamo [post 1, Flavien Prat, 124 pounds], Rockemperor [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 122 pounds] and Tribhuvan [post 7, Manny Franco, 124 pounds].

Sword Dancer Entries

5:44 p.m. – Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga

Three-time graded stakes winner Epicenter leads a competitive group of eight in this year’s Travers, including four Grade 1 winners. Epicenter enters from a victory in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 30 and will attempt to become the 12th horse to sweep the Jim Dandy-Travers double. One of five millionaires in the field, Epicenter boasts field-best earnings of $2,270,639 and a record of 9-5-3-0.

Chad Brown will unleash three contenders in Grade 1 Preakness winner Early Voting [post 7, Jose Ortiz, 8-1], Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Zandon [post 8, Flavien Prat, 5-1] and rising star Artorius [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 9-2]. 

Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will try for a second straight Travers with Cyberknife, who is the only two-time Grade 1-winner in the race. The son of Gun Runner was a last out-winner of the G1 Haskell on July 23 at Monmouth Park against fellow Grade 1-winners Taiba and Jack Christopher. The last horse to capture both the Haskell and Travers was Point Given in 2001. 

Rich Strike will seek his first win since his memorable 80-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Eric Reed. The son of Keen Ice, who upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers, skipped the Preakness in favor of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, where he finished a distant sixth. The last Kentucky Derby winner to capture the Travers was 2007 winner Street Sense. 

Gilded Age is only horse in the field without a stakes victory, but arrives off a late-closing second to Artorius in the Curlin for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. 

Completing the field is Iowa-bred Ain’t Life Grand for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. The son of Not This Time owns five lifetime wins in eight starts, including wins against his Hawkeye State-bred counterparts in last year’s Iowa Cradle and the last out Iowa Stallion on July 23, both at Prairie Meadows. He also defeated open company in the July 9 Iowa Derby as well as last year’s Richard Radke Memorial at the Altoona, Iowa oval. 

Travers Entries

9:00 p.m. – Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar

Speaker’s Corner, a 4-year-old colt by Street Sense who has been shipped west from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s barn at Saratoga for the test, comes into the feature with a stellar record that shows six wins, two seconds and two thirds in 11 starts for earnings of $722,130. He’s been hooking into some of the best horses in the country of late – namely Flightline and Life Is Good – and though the O’Brien is hardly a soft spot, it surely will be an easier one for the homebred bay.


5:39 p.m. – Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes At Saratoga

Now a 6-year-old, Ce Ce won last year’s G2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park to earn a berth in the Breeders’ Cup, then ran third behind Gamine in the Ballerina before reeling off wins in the G3 Chillingworth at Santa Anita and G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar, beating Gamine to unseat her as North America’s top female sprinter. Impressive as she was winning last year’s Princess Rooney, Ce Ce was even more so last month in a 6 1/2-length romp July 2 that matched her career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 101. It was the 10th win from 20 lifetime starts for the daughter of Elusive Quality to go along with nearly $2.3 million in purse earnings.

Lady Rocket will be chasing her fifth career stakes win, third in graded company and first in a Grade 1 in the Ballerina. The front-running 5-year-old mare exits a gate-to-wire 2 3/4-length triumph in the G3 Chicago June 25 at Churchill Downs under Ricardo Santana Jr., who returns to ride from post position 4 at 120 pounds.

Bella Sofia is looking to bounce back in the Ballerina after running third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss July 27. The 4-year-old Awesome Patriot filly won the G1 Longines Test last summer at Saratoga and began this year with victories in the G3 Vagrancy Handicap May 14 and G2 Bed o’ Roses June 10, both at Belmont.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott entered the trio of Caramel Swirl, Obligatory and Travel Column, and Chad Brown trainee Midnight Olive is the final entrant in the seven-horse field.

Ballerina Entries

The post Weekend Lineup Presented By NYRABets: Blockbuster Travers Showdown appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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