Tom Pedulla presents five major takeaways from the Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets racecard on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, which featured the emergence of yet another contender for Eclipse Award honors in the 3-year-old dirt male division and an upset loss for one of this century’s most dominant fillies:
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is not immune from the lows that seemingly are inevitable for those who work in racing. He cannot be kept down for long, though. No one expected Arrogate to lose in the TVG San Diego Handicap and TVG Pacific Classic. But he did. No one expected Drefong to duck in at the start of the Bing Crosby Stakes on July 29 at Del Mar and dump jockey Mike Smith. But he did. Baffert came roaring back with a second consecutive Travers victory with West Coast to accompany Drefong’s four-length run for fun in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes, part of the undercard.
Gunnevera, who flashed promise in the spring before tailing off, looks to be a major player again after his runner-up Travers finish. “It was a really good race,” said trainer Antonio Sano. “We expected first place when we came in, but we’re happy with the race.” According to Sano, he will train Gunnevera up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at his home base in South Florida.
Some fans snickered when Irap became the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, assuming that was a fluky result and he would never acquit himself that well again. It turned out that the Blue Grass was a sign of good things to come. Trainer Doug O’Neill was encouraged after Irap ran third in the Travers. Asked if Irap can be a major player in the Classic, O’Neill responded, “I think he can. You can see he can get the distance, and he’s still maturing.”
Those who watched Songbird tear through a 3-year-old campaign in which she won seven of eight starts and banked more than $2.2 million will always savor the brilliance she displayed. Those who watched her three starts this year, including her upset loss to Forever Unbridled in the Personal Ensign Stakes on Saturday, must be concerned. Owner Rick Porter is foremost among them. He questioned whether the filly is 100 percent healthy. Stay tuned.
Pletcher Falls Short
Trainer Todd Pletcher liked what he saw when Tapwrit finished fourth in the Travers in his first start since winning the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. He could only wince after Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming’s latest disappointment, a rapid retreat to ninth in the field of 12. Tapwrit looked as though he might have benefitted from a prep race, given that he was prominently placed but lacked punch. It may be much harder to improve the fortunes of Always Dreaming, who has made three successive poor starts since he brought home the roses.