Inside The Trip: A Look at the Weekend's Stakes Action


V. E. Day beat fellow Jimmy Jerkens-trainee Wicked Strong to the wire in the Travers. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

The summer might not be officially over, but Travers and Pacific Classic weekend is beyond us and there is plenty of data to review from the premier races at the season’s premier venues.

Travers Stakes

V. E. Day bested stable companion Wicked Strong in a thrilling renewal of the Travers. When they hit the finish, the 19-1 longshot winner had covered the shortest trip of the first five finishers. Wicked Strong went 28 feet more than V. E. Day, while Tonalist covered 14 feet more and fourth-placer Kid Cruz endured the widest trip in the race, going 31 feet more than V. E. Day. Ground loss matters, and a combination of the wide trip and contested early tempo likely added to Wicked Strong’s late stretch tiring.

As is often the case in these types of races with a strong early tempo, a closing rival isn’t often going faster as much he is slowing to a lesser degree. V. E. Day got the final quarter in 25.48 seconds compared to Wicked Strong’s 26.17, a difference of 0.69 seconds. The biggest difference came late, though, as V. E. Day’s final furlong was clocked in 12.75 seconds, 0.55 seconds quicker than Wicked Strong’s 13.30.

The son of 2007 Eclipse Award winner English Channel, V. E. Day was under a drive for more than a half-mile, and he actually recorded the fastest individual intra-race two-furlong split. V. E. Day ran the third quarter of the Travers in 23.46 seconds as jockey Javier Castellano began asking his mount to get closer. From the half-mile pole to the quarter-pole, pretty much entirely around the far turn, V. E. Day’s run was not as slick, managing to only run that segment of the race in 24.79 seconds, just the fifth fastest in the race. Take note of the individual sectional times recorded by Trakus for the first four finishers in the race. Despite that exertion through the third quarter of the race, where one could argue Wicked Strong and Tonalist got breathers, V. E. Day had enough to power home as the early speed his rivals showed caught up to them.


1st 1/4

2nd 1/4

3rd 1/4

4th 1/4

Final 1/4

V. E. Day






Wicked Strong












Kid Cruz






Make no mistake, Wicked Strong and Tonalist ran great races, but there should be little doubt that the individual fractions tell a meaningful part of the performances from both horses late in the race. Asked to go quite quick early, there just wasn’t enough left in the tank late for either.

It should be noted that times collected by Trakus do differ from those shown on the simulcast as Trakus is not the official timer at Saratoga.

Imperia impressive in debut

Face the Music got the job done in wire-to-wire fashion in the second-race maiden but it was first-time starter Imperia caught the eye. This son of Medaglia d’Oro was easily the fastest finisher, with a final quarter in 22.65 seconds compared to Face the Music’s eased 23.08 seconds. Imperia’s last eighth was a sensational 11.16 seconds. Keep an eye on this son of multiple surface graded stakes winner Cocoa Beach.

Pacific Classic

Shared Belief was drawn wide in this year’s Pacific Classic and stayed wide throughout, but was clear to the finish in an impressive performance, his first time against older company.

Third placer Imperative was one of the few horses to really close into the hot pace, and came from last at the five-sixteenths pole. Over the final quarter, Imperative ran as fast as Shared Belief, clocking that segment in 24.84 seconds. Shared Belief was 0.02 seconds quicker in the final furlong, home in 12.62 compared to 12.64 for Imperative. The top three finishers essentially covered the same amount of ground in the race.

Game On Dude’s performance really should not go unnoticed. This was a run to stay on for fourth beaten just more than five lengths after being involved in the torrid early pace. While Argentina’s speedster Mystery Train, a new private purchase for U.S.-based connections, could not go the pace on the Polytrack, he was really just doing what he had done in his previous starts on dirt in his native country. Mystery Train’s tactics did not translate in last week’s race, but Game On Dude’s run was one of his best, reminiscent of his Breeders’ Cup Classic second when nipped late by Drosselmeyer. The individual fractions of the first four finishers are below.


1st 1/4

2nd 1/4

3rd 1/4

4th 1/4

Final 1/4

Shared Belief






Toast of New York












Game On Dude






Obviously not, Panthera prowls

Obviously was a monster favorite in the Del Mar Mile but a stutter-step start and subsequent rush-up led to a sizzling pace. The subsequent result was an incredible. The early pace set by Obviously took its toll in the final quarter. The heavily-backed favorite finished fourth and ran his final two furlongs in 24.70 seconds. Winner Tom’s Tribute came home in 23.86 seconds while second placer Rock Me Baby was home fastest in 23.69 seconds. Fifth place finisher Tigah had the fastest final furlong in 11.86 seconds.

Conquest Panthera had an easy debut win at the seaside oval on Sunday, a much-the-best winner when well-backed at 1-2. The son of Kitten’s Joy came home with a final quarter in 23.52 and a final furlong in 11.91 seconds. The race was somewhat oddly run as the early splits were very slow early and quick late, but Conquest Panthera negotiated traffic and propelled through the stretch to give Mark Casse another win at the meet. 

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