Thursday, August 27, 2015

Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah Heavy Favorite for Travers

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was installed the overwhelming 1-5 program favorite after drawing post 2 for Saturday’s $1.6 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Probable post time for the Midsummer Derby is 4:46 p.m. (Central).

Oaklawn will have the complete simulcast of the 13-race Saratoga card Saturday. Gates will open early at 10 a.m.
 
American Pharoah was flown Wednesday from his Southern California base to New York, the same travel schedule he used before winning the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11 at Oaklawn.

American Pharoah was also flown to Arkansas three days before each race.

“I feel like I’m bringing The Beatles to town, you know?” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said during an NTRA teleconference Tuesday. “He’s learned to handle it pretty well.”

After winning the Arkansas Derby, American Pharoah swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978. He was a dazzling 2 ¼-length winner of his last start, the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational (G1) Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park. American Pharoah earned a career-high 109 Beyer Speed Figure after recording his eighth consecutive victory.

“I thought in all his races he's run pretty well,” said Baffert. “The Del Mar Futurity, when he won that race, that's when he tipped me off that he was way, way better than that usual or anything I've ever had. He went two turns and did it pretty handily. The Arkansas Derby, the Kentucky Derby, all of his races have been really just over the top. That's what surprised me is that he keeps bringing it like he does. I've had really good horses that when they put in a great performance it's hard for them to keep bringing those great performances, and he does. We want to get another great performance out of him.”

Although the Travers had been the preference of owner Ahmed Zayat, Baffert didn’t sign off on the cross-country trip until American Pharoah worked 7 furlongs in 1:23.20 Sunday morning at Del Mar.

“The Travers has always been a major race to run in and to win,” said Baffert, who won the race in 2001 with Point Given.

Regular rider Victor Espinoza has the mount on American Pharoah, who is scheduled to face nine rivals Saturday. Also entered – from the rail out – are Upstart, Mid Ocean, Texas Red, Frammento, Frosted, Keen Ice, Tale of Verve, King of New York and Smart Transition. All starters carry scale weight of 126 pounds.

King of New York (50-1) broke his maiden March 14 at Oaklawn, winning about a half-hour before American Pharoah made his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel.

The only other Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Travers was Temperence Hill in 1980. Temperence Hill also won the Rebel that year. Will Take Charge won the Rebel and Travers in 2013 en route to an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. The colt didn’t run in the Arkansas Derby.

Travers undercard

Champion Untapable, winner of the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10, is among numerous Oaklawn-raced horses entered in stakes races on the Travers undercard.

Untapable draw post 6 for the $750,000 Personal Ensign (G1) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Also entered is Stopchargingmaria, fourth in last year’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the Personal Ensign, which drew a field of six, is 1:35 p.m. (Central).

Sarah Sis and Street Story are among eight fillies and mares entered in the $500,000 Ballerina (G1) at 7 furlongs. Sarah Sis won Oaklawn’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7. Street Story was a two-time stakes winner at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting ($100,000 Dixie Belle and $100,000 Instant Racing).

Probable post time for the Ballerina is 2:10 p.m. (Central).

Holy Boss, winner of the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes April 10 at Oaklawn, seeks his fifth consecutive victory in the $500,000 King’s Bishop (G1) at 7 furlongs. Three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is named on Holy Boss, who also won a March 19 entry-level allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn. Mr. Z, who finished third in three Kentucky Derby prep races at Oaklawn, including the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, will be cutting back to a sprint for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Probable post time for the King’s Bishop is 2:47 p.m. (Central).

Race Day, the top older handicap male at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, drew the rail for the $700,000 Forego (G1) at 7 furlongs. Race Day won the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 14 and the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11. Bourbon Courage, runner-up in a 2014 allowance race at Oaklawn, drew post 3. The Big Beast, a March 1 allowance winner at Oaklawn, is scheduled to break from post 5. Den’s Legacy, who snapped a 19-race losing streak in a March 18 allowance race at Oaklawn, drew post 11 for trainer Ron Moquett. Santana is named to ride. Falling Sky, fourth in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2013, drew the extreme outside, post 12.

Probable post time for the Forego is 3:25 p.m. (Central).

The Personal Ensign (Distaff), Ballerina (Filly and Mare Sprint) and Forego (Sprint) are designated Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events.
 
Finish Lines

Trainer Ron Moquett said he’s still considering options for Far Right, who wasn’t entered in Saturday’s Travers and/or King’s Bishop at Saratoga or Saturday’s $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) at Parx. Moquett has said Far Right is a candidate for the $400,000 Super Derby (G2) Sept. 12 at Louisiana Downs. Far Right won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) earlier this year at Oaklawn. … King’s Bishop nominee Hebbronville, who wintered at Oaklawn, is entered in a $100,000 allowance sprint Sunday at Parx. Hebbronville ran sixth behind Far Right in the Smarty Jones, was third in the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes and third in the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes earlier this year at Oaklawn. … Three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is named to ride Oaklawn Smarty Jones runner-up Bayerd in Sunday’s allowance sprint at Parx. Bayerd hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the Bachelor.

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