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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lukas Takes Charge of Travers

Getting ready to head up to Saratoga - cleverly leaving the morning after the Travers - so a few thoughts on the race before we go.  It was an exciting finish, but, from a historical perspective, can't say I missed much.  Just another Travers that will go down in the annals of Saratoga as Graveyard of Favorites, rather than any kind of coronation.  Though I'll feel differently about it should Will Take Charge go on to win the Classic!

As often seems to be the case on big race days on tracks east and west, north and south, the main track appeared to heavily favor speed.  I don't know exactly what track crews do to prepare their tracks for big days.  But whatever it is, they should stop.  One would think that tracks would go out of their way to ensure that their main strip is not speed favoring.  If anything, you'd think they would want it slightly the opposite; fair, but generating finishes that potentially involve all of the contestants rather than tilted towards the ones on or near the lead.

Of course, one might argue that the successful closing rallies by Capo Bastone ($58.50) and Will Take Charge ($21.20) disproves the whole notion that the track favored speed; but I don't necessarily agree.  The pace of the King's Bishop was the kind that really should have, especially in a Grade 1 field, produced a cavalry charge in the final eighth instead of a sole horse coming to run the leader down.  Other than Pletcher's longshot, that stretch run looked a lot like the Grade 1 Test, in which the entire field seemed to hang in the stretch, a mass of floundering equine flesh as the winner staggered home in 13 2/5.

The Travers is different in that it was the only two-turn dirt race, and in that Moreno was able to set a sensible pace.  So it's harder, I think, to judge whether a bias came into play.  Moreno is a tough horse and, as opposed to the Jim Dandy, in which he was pressed to sub-24 second quarters after the initial one, here he loped along, going, uncontested, at a clip of 24 2/5, 24 2/5, 24 3/5.  That easy pace allowed him to accelerate to 24 flat to the mile and further discourage his opponents.  Still, to see him last as he did at a mile and a quarter was a surprise to me, and I'll be willing to back the opinion that he was aided by a bias in races down the road.

And he surely benefited from the fact that Palace Malice was at the back of the pack.  Wasn't apparent watching at first, but he did stumble a bit at the gate, and then had Transparent come in and squeeze him.  Thought he did extremely well under the circumstances to get as close as he did at the end; one can surely argue that he was best.  Once again, as has been the case more often than not this year, it's a race in which it's impossible to judge his true ability, and we can only project what might have been.

Orb had every chance to pass Moreno and, as was the case when he had dead aim in the Belmont, faltered near the end.  You look at those two races, and what can be described as his indifferent effort in the Preakness, and I wonder if the colt has lost his competitive spirit for now.  Don't know if hyperbaric chambers can do anything about that.  Makes me more convinced than ever that he left his best racing in the spring and that we won't see him in the winners circle again this year.

Hearing people say that the Travers proves that Verrazano is not a mile and a quarter horse.  But truth is he was done long before the eighth pole.

As for Will Take Charge, I suppose we and the sport could all do worse than to see Wayne Lukas' smiling face on TV after big races such as these.  The son of Unbridleds Song looked perfectly logical coming off, and stretching out from, his closing second to Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy.  I don't think anyone would ever have thought however that it would be the Belmont winner trying to catch Will Take Charge instead of the other way around.  But it's a goofy game, as we've noted lately.

Transparent had picked up some wise guy support especially with his trainer Kiaran McLaughlin so hot (another winner, with Celebrated Talent ($4.80) in the second); but both he and Romansh, the two to come out of the Curlin Stakes, were totally dead on the tote.  And they didn't do much better than that on the track.  Transparent showed absolutely nothing, finishing dead last and Romansh faded to 5th.  I had mentioned that the TimeformUS figures showed the Curlin as coming up faster than the Jim Dandy; so, in this particular case, the Beyers proved to be closer to the mark.  Still, by far the most accurate measure of all turned out to be the one that Figless players would pay most attention to - the teletimer.  The Jim Dandy was over two seconds faster than the Curlin, and the Travers certainly played out that way, both on the tote and on the track.

That's all I have time for now.  We'll be in Saratoga through the end of the meet, hope to speak to you from there.  You can also follow me on Twitter to get some bad horse picks in real time.  Best of luck and have a great day.


Figless said...

Good to see the Jim Dandy return to the roll of key prep, as it used to be back in the good old days.

Malice was in fact best, making up all that ground over that track.

Moreno ran to his pre-Jim Dandy hype, but was helped when V broke bad/stumbled and the Sheikh's horses BOTH rated, you would think one of them would be under orders to least I thought so, assuring a fast pace. The days of the rabbit appear behind us, I suppose.

But my big mistake was believing Unbridled's Song couldn't get a Classic distance runner, and it cost me. Made sense on paper, with "Blinkers Off" providing a very logical explanation for the improvement, but couldn't get past his pedigree. Oh well.

By now I am sure Verazzano has come down with the usual mystery ailment that will require immediate retirement to stud.

El Angelo said...

While I'm surprised that Orb couldn't get by Moreno in the stretch, I disagree that he "has lost his competitive spirit for now." The most likely answer is that he was a short horse, having not run in 11 weeks. Now we can blame Shug for not giving him a prep race, but we know that Shug likes to look at the big picture, and probably thought that of the 3 races Orb had remaining in the year (Travers, JCGC, BC Classic), this was the least important one. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him move forward off the race.

Figless said...

Orb was inside as well, where they claim he doesn't want to be, but the most logical explanation is he was predictably short and looking at it again he ran a pretty good race going 10f off that layoff.

Figless said...

Laying the ground work for the inevitable sale of Big A land to the Port Authority, all you need to know is they wont even spend a few bucks on a new coat of paint.

They also seem to be creating road blocks to re-privatization, raising the bar to what is probably an unreachable goal with the current labor contracts.