Travers: Speightscity Draws Rail, Will Be Sent Early
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (August 22, 2012) – In keeping with the theme of the summer in the 3-year-old division, the focal point of Wednesday’s post position draw for Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes was more about who was not in the race than who is running.
Two hours before posts were drawn for the 143rd Travers, the connections of Hansen, last year’s champion 2-year-old, announced the horse had a 20 percent to 30 percent tear of the tendon in his left foreleg and would not only miss the race, but would most likely be retired. That news came one day after Bodemeister, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up, was retired. Paynter, the Haskell winner – who unlike his stablemate Bodemeister was at one time considered for the Travers – is recovering from an illness. Ironically, he arrived in Saratoga on Wednesday afternoon. On July 20, Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags was retired due to injury.
But they will still run the Travers and disperse $1 million in purse money to the 11 horses that were entered for the 1 1/4-mile race, the 12th of 13 races on a card that begins at 11:35 a.m.
The defection of Hansen figures to have a serious impact on the pace scenario in the Travers. Hansen was a confirmed front-runner in a field seemingly void of speed. However, Gary Contessa, trainer of longshot Speightscity, announced his intention to have jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. send his horse – who has not been out since running second to Alpha in the Feb. 4 Withers at Aqueduct – to the front from the rail.
“We’re going to the lead,” said Contessa, who had wanted to run Speightscity in an overnight stakes here Friday that failed to fill. “Hansen’s not in here. I was thinking about whether I wanted to go head-and-head with Hansen or not, but from the rail, if all goes well, we will be on the lead.”
Alpha drew post 6 and was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite by NYRA’s Eric Donovan to become the 10th Jim Dandy winner since 1969 to also win the Travers. Alpha, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, won the Jim Dandy in front-running fashion over a sloppy track. He also has been effective from off the pace.
“Most of it will be up to Ramon, how he breaks and where we are early,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of how the pace changed without Hansen in the field. “If they go from the one-hole, we’ll lay second like we thought we might have to to Hansen anyway. We’ll leave it up to Ramon, but we will be forwardly placed.”
Chad Brown, trainer of the late-running Street Life, was perhaps the most deflated by the defection of Hansen.
“I definitely would rather him be in the race, I thought he would help the pace for sure,” Brown said. “But he’s not in there; we’ll have to see how it plays out. Our horse has shown in his last race he may be a little more willing to lay closer than he has been. If the pace is slow, I’m sure Jose [Lezcano] will keep him within earshot of the field.”
Speightscity was not the only late addition to the field. Ken McPeek entered Golden Ticket, runner-up in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March who has not been out since finishing second in a first-level allowance race at Churchill on May 5. Like Speightscity, Golden Ticket was entered in the Bernardini Stakes, which didn’t fill.
“I think this thing is wide open,” McPeek said. “I think there is more to gain than there is to lose.”
McPeek also will saddle Atigun, the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes. However, McPeek will not add blinkers to the colt’s equipment, fearing they will make him too aggressive in the race.
McPeek thought a soft pace compromised Atigun’s chances in the Jim Dandy, where he finished sixth, beaten seven lengths.
Asked if he was concerned about a similar scenario developing Saturday, McPeek said, “Sometimes you think there’s going to be a lot of pace and there isn’t, and sometimes you think there isn’t going to be and if everybody thinks there isn’t going to be there might be some.”
The Travers field, from the rail out, with rider and odds, is: 1. Speightscity (Irad Ortiz Jr., 30-1); 2. Five Sixteen (Rosie Napravnik, 15-1); 3. Golden Ticket (David Cohen, 20-1); 4. Stealcase (Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1); 5. Street Life (Jose Lezcano, 5-1); 6. Alpha (Ramon Dominguez, 5-2); 7. Atigun (Mike Smith, 12-1); 8. Neck ’n Neck (Leandro Goncalves, 9-2), 9. Liaison (Rafael Bejarano, 8-1); 10. Nonios (John Velazquez, 4-1); 11. Fast Falcon (Junior Alvarado, 20-1).