Saratoga Springs, NY--August 24, 2007

Dear Diary,

The 138th renewal of the Travers Stakes is more coronation than horse race, no matter how its sliced.

But what does that matter? Its been 12 years since a Kentucky Derby winner showed up for the Midsummer Derby. And, in this game, nothing matters more than history.

Winning it twice would be a dream come true, said the man who will saddle the only multiple Grade 1 winner in the field, Street Sense. None of the others have won even one.

But like Carl Nafzger also says; if youre a horse trainer, you dont look for competition, competition finds you.

Late summer being the start of racings second season, racings championship season, youd expect to see some late developers. This Travers has nothing if not late developers.

C P West is one of these. He proved in the Preakness he could run with the divisions best. In the Belmont he proved that he shouldnt have run, that his trainers first inclination to pass was correct.

But his Travers prep was good. He set a pressured pace in the Jim Dandy and fought with Street Sense in the stretch until he had enough in the final hundred yards. Like Nafzger, Nick Zito did not have his three-year-old tightly wound.

C P West will very likely improve. Ten furlongs is another matter.

Grasshopper has a big win over the track, a huge Spa plus. Hes 2-for-2 rounding two turns and his last was a breakthrough effort. Hes in talented hands, Neil Howards, and stable rider Robbie Albarado, having no Curlin to partner tomorrow, is up from Kentucky for the ride.

Late developing three-year-olds are loaded guns this time of year in the right hands. Which brings us to Sightseeing, too.

Trainer Shug McGaughey knows how to win this race, having done it three times, and he began thinking Travers soon after his colt finished second in the Wood Memorial, knowing there would be no Derby run for this late developer.

I want to win the Derby as much as everyone else, McGaughey was saying the other day, but when youre wrong about that race you can be really wrong. I didnt want to go down there and be 30-1.

Hell be a lot shorter price tomorrow, somewhere in the vicinity of 4-1 second choice. Among the champions rivals, Sightseeing is the only Grade 2 winner in the group.

It was the Jim Dandy, in which Sightseeing was third, thats given McGaughey confidence that an upset is not out of the question. I like the way he finished up and he galloped out good.

In terms of mental development, the light bulb probably went off even before the colt shipped to Saratoga. We worked him at Belmont before we left and I finally saw something I liked. He was coming around.

McGaughey saw it again Aug. 19 when Sightseeing worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 over the slightly slower Oklahoma training track.

He pulled up in 1:13. And he really had to be pulled up. [The work] was nothing less than sensational.

McGaughey is not given to hyperbole. Further, his colt has the stoutest 10 furlong pedigree in the field.

Betting the Travers wont make you rich. An exacta box of Street Sense and Sightseeing, with extra tickets featuring Street Sense first, is the logical play.

There are 11 other races on the Travers undercard that are far more interesting as betting opportunities. But none more compelling than a Kentucky Derby winners continuing date with history.


* * *

First Race: Good horse race. Refined Royalty left like a rocket from his outside slip in the grassy two turner and open a long early lead. It was not insurmountable. On the far turn, Galaxy Express rallied into strong contention three wide. Meanwhile, Cornelio Velasquez was biding his time aboard Cardiff Road. Soon after straightening away, Velasquez altered course to the fence and that proved the difference. Galaxy Express, however, never stopped trying and placed gamely; bet back. Third finisher Sky Dragon made a sustained stretch run while wide, a good effort. Longshot Bulle Rock raced wide throughout, losing all chance.

Second Race: Velasquez completes the double in a different way. This time, in a dash for juvenile maiden fillies going 5- furlongs on the grass, Cornelio managed to save ground all the way to midstretch despite breaking from an outside slip, at which point he tipped Cato Major out into the four path, the filly taking it from there, racing past pace stalker Libor Rate in the final strides. Good effort by both fillies. Third finisher Equally had good energy crossing the line, which is more than can be said for heavy favorite Delta Weekend, who showed nothing in a dreadful performance.

Third Race: Your attention please, ladies and gentleman, in the third race, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares at nine furlongs, your sponsor, Marriott Courtyard, has been scratched. The new sponsor is Heavenly Prize. What a coincidence? The man who trained that star filly, Shug McGaughey, also trained odds-on race winner, Altesse. Hey, if Lady Joanne can win the Banshee Breeze, why not Altesse in the Heavenly Prize. Sometimes this game is easy, but only sometimes.

Fourth Race: It was a two-speed number in a turf route until, that is, Alan Garcia shifted Absolute Heaven outside for the drive, where she nailed a very game Jocasse right on the line. Good thing Garcia waited to make the last run, the difference in the outcome, as pacesetting Cagey Girl weakened, third. Nice job. Michaelas Angel lot all chance when Dale Beckners saddle slipped.

Fifth Race: Mike Luzzi can draw a deep breath. Finally. With all the attention given Todd Pletchers 30-race losing skein, Luzzis streak was all but ignored. Winless in 54 rides. Almost unheard of, especially for a top journeyman. But Philharmonic, compromised by an awkward start in his special-weights debut, welcomed the drop into claimers and simply outran the entire field. We mentioned yesterday how the breaks are beginning to balance out for George Weaver and continue to do so. Glowing Image chased all the way, hard ridden for three-eighths of a mile, and just missed place in the final strides to Fufty, who sneaked up the fence and nailed him.

Sixth Race: On our way to a Travers day Pick Six carryover. Autumn of My Years was able to gain an easy loose lead going 5- furlongs on the turf and was only briefly threatened when Prime Obsession made a stiff challenge in midstretch, only to hang badly late. Skillful rating by Raul Rojas but bad race riding by the rest. Alys Tough, racing without a whip, was a good, willing third after rallying up four wide on the turn to challenge briefly.

Seventh Race: Zayat Stables, meets leading owner, continued its roll as Premium Wine took his second straight here and is now out of state-bred conditions. Now its Rick Schosbergs turn to get a little lucky. All his horses are running well, runnerup Run With the Lark the 14th horse to finish in the money from 17 starters, including three wins.

Eighth Race: Forgive the local clich, but Auto City ran huge. He set the pace from the middle of the course, under heavy pressure throughout, then found more when even-money R Loyal Man slipped through on the fence, looming a certain winner. But Chris Englehard-trained turf-sprint specialist held with bulldog determination to hold the favorite safe, Cornelios third of the day.

The Personal Ensign, Grade 1: There are no adjectives left to describe the remarkable Allen Jerkens. In his day he was the youngest trainer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame--the voters clearly knew what they were doing. Miss Shop came from last beneath Javier Castellano and ran down the very sharp Unbridled Belle who received a perfect trip and ride from Dominguez. Indian Vale ran an improved race, but lost too much ground in the 10-furlong fixture. (And I made it through that entire paragraph without mentioning the sobriquet Giant Killer. Not even once).

Tenth Race: When hot-pace setter Go On the Go bore out and stopped soon after entering the stretch, Champchu inherited a wide opening on the rail, and the lead, to steal the nightcap, the fourth of the day for Cornelio. With little more than a week remaining in Spa 2007, the jockey race figures to get even hotter. Stay tuned.