Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at HorseRaceInsider.com.
 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Travers Muddles Three-Year-Old Picture


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, August 25—In the wake of yesterday’s Travers Stakes result, which three-year-old rates to be the division’s leader?

And it doesn’t make me feel better that many I’ve spoken with don’t know either. There just are too many disparate scenarios.

I realize plenty of racing remains and there’s the matter that, with the exception of the Pennsylvania Derby here in the East, the three-year-old class will need to deal with those pesky elders when leaves begin to fall.

In the interim, when I fill out my weekly NTRA poll ballot by noon Monday I’m going to shade Orb as owning the slightest of divisional leads.

It couldn’t be Verrazano who was invisible on two of the biggest stages he’s graced. He had a legitimate excuse in the Derby—although top horses are supposed to handle anything thrown their way.

The surface wasn’t the midsummer problem, however. It likely was his enervating Haskell. Just because you win by almost 10 doesn’t mean you have won easily; an effort is an effort is an effort. That, and he might have been a little intimidated, too.

Neither can the division’s leader be the Travers winner. Will Take Charge should be acknowledged surely, but the G2 Rebel is by definition a prep for the Arkansas Derby in which he was not competitive.

Saturday was the only time Will Take Charge has run two good ones back to back in top company. But it looks like there’s more in store for this scopey late developer.

With Oxbow on the shelf, the remaining Triple Crown race winners are what remain.

Palace Malice, presumably best in the Travers given a poor start and questionable handling, he would have rated higher placement had he won the Saturday’s show photo.

(And recall that he lost the G1 Blue Grass by a neck when he began gawking around).

It’s difficult to fathom that Palace Malice was beaten one length for all of it on Saturday but that’s horse racing. His future is as bright as the winner’s—brighter, actually.

Orb won the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, and that counts for a lot. The G2 Fountain of Youth, and his Belmont and Travers show finishes, is just a little more icing.

He’s no cinch to hold the slimmest of divisional leads. Not surprisingly, Wayne Lukas, who has a vested interest in these things, has an opinion about all this:

“I think [the Travers result] muddles it a little bit,” he said Sunday morning. “I think if you’re one of the voting group, you’re going to have trouble until we get father down the basepath.

“It’s going to have to be sorted out in a race or two more. Maybe it will get all the way down to the Breeders’ Cup. The fight’s not over.”

So, What's Next?

Lukas, meanwhile, is not sure, but he’s weighing the situational options: “[The Jockey Club Gold Cup] is a Grade 1 and very prestigious. If you stay in your division [Pennsylvania Derby], the million dollars is not necessarily bad, either.

“We’ll weight all the things. You get an extra week [freshening] if you go to the Jockey Club, so that’s also something.”

Speaking of extra time, Todd Pletcher will need a few more days to consider what's next for both Palace Malice and Verrazano.

If the Travers winner elects to go to the [September 21] Pennsylvania Derby, he’ll find Moreno, the narrowest of runners-up, in waiting. If he opts for the JCGC, he should expect to find Orb there.

“Now we’ve got a good, solid race under his belt, we’ve got all last winter and spring stuff behind us,” said Shug McGaughey. “I think we can really move forward now.

“I’m going to look at the Gold Cup. That’s not to say the Pennsylvania Derby or the Indiana Derby or something is completely out of the picture, but I think we want to go to the Gold Cup.

Pretty sure that ‘Dinny’ Phipps and Stuart Janney wouldn't mind going there, too.

Written by John Pricci

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