10.44 Runhappy Travers Stakes (Grade 1)
THE Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga tonight certainly justifies its title of the Midsummer Derby. It not only features the first three home in the Kentucky Derby but also the winners of the Grade 1 Preakness, Haskell Invitational and the traditional trial, the Jim Dandy Stakes in a field of eight.
Epicenter is back in pole position that he enjoyed before finishing second as the favourite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes after his decisive win in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes here last month and the son of Not This Time is the morning line favourite again.
Chad Brown’s Zandon was third in the Kentucky Derby, three-quarters of a length behind Epicenter, and was a length and a half behind in second in the Jim Dandy.
Cyberknife has two Grade 1 wins, returning to form in taking the TVG.com Haskell Stakes in July after capturing the Arkansas Derby in early April.
Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting returns after tiring to fourth in the Jim Dandy.
Cyberknife, a son of Gun Runner, is trained by Brad Cox, who won the Travers with Essential Quality last year. He beat Taiba by a head in the Haskell for his second Grade 1 win of the year, a step up from finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby after being on the early pace. Cox was not worried by the colt’s stall-one draw.
Rich Strike is the enigma. After rallying from 18th to win the Kentucky Derby by three-quarters of a length, he failed to fire when he was sixth in the Belmont Stakes.
Juddmonte’s Artorius is a having his fourth career start and first in a graded stakes for Chad Brown in a race where his sire, Arrogate, announced his greatness.
Epicenter, though he has yet to win a Grade 1, looked a horse that could deal with any pace set up in the Jim Dandy and can put himself clearly back on top of the division.
Next best: Cyberknife
The evening kicks off with a Chad Brown-trained trio in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes for turf fillies and mares.
Brown has won the Ballston Spa six times and in five of the last seven years. This year, Brown has favourite Technical Analysis, backed up by Lemista and Fluffy Socks.
Technical Analysis, a four-year-old daughter of Kingman, won the Grade 3 Lake George Stakes and the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes during the 2021 Saratoga meeting. She was last seen finishing second in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes.
Warrior looks a certainity
ACTION continues with a bang at 6.55 in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes with one of the fastest horses in the world, Jackie’s Warrior, bidding to add to his already formidable Saratoga record in this seven-furlong contest.
Barring a below-par run, he looks a certainty, and Cody’s Wish, winner of his last two, from Bill Mott can chase him home. Dave Duggan’s eight-year-old warrior Drafted could come closer to the $1million earnings mark if the gets a share of the prize money.
The next Grade 1 is the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (8.51pm) for sprinting three-year-olds over seven furlongs and Jack Christopher is the headline act, coming back down in distance from his third in the Haskell when he faltered in the final furlongs.
Gunite from the Steve Asmussen stable could be the danger after he stayed on resolutely to win the Grade 3 Amsterdam Stakes over six and a half here on August from two of today’s rivals.
The Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes for females over nine furlongs is a cracking race at 9.32, despite the field of five. Four of the five are Grade 1 winners with last year’s top female Letruska having five to her name, including this race last season.
However, this may be the first time in nine starts that she will not be the favourite.
Clairiere and Malathaat have met four times with victory going to Clairiere on the last two occasions. Letruska proved a length and a quarter too good for Clariere in the Apple Blossom in April but Letruska was a disappointing fifth when eased up last time in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont behind Clairiere and Malathaat. She has a bit to prove tonight to get back to the top if the division.
Broome in Sword Dancer
AIDAN O’Brien provides the only European interest on the card when he sends Broome for the Grade 1 Sword Dancer (10.05pm). The six-year-old is the likely favourite under Ryan Moore.
Last seen in the King George, his front-running style should be an asset against the usual crew of US turf runners. The eight-year-old Channel Maker will run in the Sword Dancer for fifth time; he won it in 2020.
The Christophe Clement-trained, ever consistent, Gufo won this race a year ago and is second favourite on the morning line. Adhamo, Rockemperor and Tribhuvan give Chad Brown a strong hand to control the early pace.
Sunday’s feature is the seven-furlong Ballerina with Ce Ce up against Bella Sofia, winner of the seven-furlong Longines-sponsored Grade 1 Test Stakes at the Spa last year by over four lengths.
Ce Ce was the champion female sprinter and winner of the 2021 Filly & Mare Sprint. Third to Gamine in last year’s Ballerina, she is coming off a dominant over six-length victory in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream.