- Certainly no surprise to see Chekhov headed for the Travers. He’s eligible for a N1X and it could possibly give the colt a little confidence if he faced lesser horses. But his owners probably figure that one of these days he’ll get lucky and the race will fall apart like the West Virginia Derby did for Real Dandy. Then perhaps he’ll rally for the win and then they can retire him to banner headlines of GRADE 1 STAKES WINNER and start to really put a dent into the $3.3 million they paid for him. In the Haskell, he was beaten by 4 ¼ by Roman Ruler, who he’ll face again at Saratoga. Trainer Patrick Biancone said, "If you see the first half in :47, it means he'll win...He's a come-from-behind horse. He's coming (along). It's just a question of faith and patience." [NY Daily News]
I wonder if Steve Asmussen and the connections of Real Dandy have perhaps given a fleeting thought to the Travers after watching the son of Yankee Victor go last to first at Mountaineer. The Pennsylvania Derby or Super Derby seem more likely. Asmussen was prescient with his comments to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the day before: "The timing, this race suits him extremely well......It'll take a clean trip to win with those kinds of numbers [in the field], but I think we have a very good chance." He got the clean trip, saving ground before circling the field as the field slowed to a quarter of :26.34 after going 1:11.60 to three quarters. He earned a career high Beyer of 102.
Roman Ruler, the possible Travers favorite, blazed a half mile at Saratoga in :45 4, and Bob Baffert, speaking to Bloodhorse.com from Del Mar, didn’t sound completely pleased.
"He was supposed to work only three-eighths and gallop out another furlong....But they said the track was fast this morning, and the rider had a hold of him the whole way. He just didn't know the horse. (Regular exercise rider) Dana Barnes will work him next week, and I'll be there with the radio. This is a very good horse who is just now peaking. He's doing awesome." [Bloodhorse]Asmussen had the favorite in the 5th race at Saratoga today, a 2 yo maiden race in which none of the 9 entrants had started before. Formal Appeal was a $750,000 2 yo in training purchase by speed sire Successful Appeal, and his trainer had 3 wins and a second with 4 2 yo first timers at the meet. So you would expect him to be favored, but 7-10? Other than Pletcher’s High Cotton (4-1) and Darley’s Unification (8-1), no one else was in single digits. Formal Appeal went for the lead but Unification, a son of Dixie Union out of Grade 1 winner Devils Orchid challenged the favorite throughout, and he was nailed late by Nick Zito’s Fabled ($29.40). Brisnet’s Dick Powell had him right on the nose in his preview:
Every year Nick Zito starts a lot of debut runners and pops with one. His strike rate first time out is only 8 percent, but FABLED (Tale of the Cat), who is out of a Forty Niner mare, is training well and gets Gary Stevens.Indeed, a look at Formulator shows that it’s Nick’s first debut winner since Indy Storm took his maiden try last New Year’s Eve at Calder; he’d sent out 19 in between. He actually had 7 last year, with the longest price being Royal Assault at 16-1; the rest of them were 9-2 or less.
Fabled came from way, way back. If you bet him and were watching on TV, it was one of those races that you’re just waiting and waiting and waiting to catch sight of him as they’re rounding the turn; he appeared just as they passed the quarter pole. Durkin picked him up in midstretch – “Fabled!” he exclaimed with some surprise, “way out of it earlier, is coming up on the far outside!”
Another 3-5 shot went down in the 6th race. Frankel’s Sagita Ra, who has burned money before at 1-2, 3-5, 3-2, and 2-1, was closer than usual as Bailey tracked Elbar Coa, who was masterfully setting a slow pace on 6-1 Dynamite Lass. Sagitta Ra torched the cash again, as he couldn't solve the front runner in a long drive and lost out on the head bob.
- Pennsylvania’s latest little guy horse story, Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo, returns to the Meadows tomorrow night to race in a $34,000 Sire Stakes trot, and the first 500 fans will get a Roger Hammer T-shirt. I'd wait on line for that before I would for those Saratoga blankets.