Appearances by Flintshire, Lady Eli bookend Travers

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

August 24th, 2016

Appearances by the country's leading older turf male and a beloved filly making a remarkable return to the races will bookend Saturday's Travers (G1) at Saratoga. Flintshire will look to make it three-for-three this season in the $1 million Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) over 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf, while Lady Eli seeks her seventh victory from as many starts in the $400,000 Ballston Spa H. (G2), her first race since coming down with a near-fatal case of laminitis more than a year ago.

Flintshire has outclassed his rivals in the Manhattan (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) already this year, but the latter was a close-run thing as Grand Tito walked on the front end in :53, 1:19 2/5 and 1:44 1/5 in the 11-furlong fixture. Overcoming both the pace and a little race-riding from the opposition, Flintshire finally found an open path in the stretch and came home fast to win by three parts of a length.

So that similar tactics are not repeated again, trainer Chad Brown has entered the Group 3-placed Inordinate, ostensibly to serve as a rabbit or in a pressing role.

In addition to Grand Tito, Flintshire once again faces Grade 1 veteran Twilight Eclipse, third in last year's Sword Dancer to Flintshire and the aforementioned Bowling Green. Money Multiplier is another legitimate contender coming off an allowance victory that followed seconds in the Man o' War (G1) and United Nations (G1).

Lady Eli is one of the top stories on a tremendous Travers Day card. Undefeated at ages two and three, including wins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Belmont Oaks (G1), the daughter of Divine Park has been out of action since the latter victory on July 4, 2015. Returning to the barn following the Oaks, the now four-year-old stepped on a nail and developed laminitis.

After many months of care and medical attention, Lady Eli made a miraculous recovery to stave off the oft-fatal disease. She resumed serious training this summer and is sure to be the favorite against seven others in the 1 1/16-mile Mellon turf test.

"It's a big deal," trainer Chad Brown said. "She's been a long way back and I think she's training outstanding right now. I'm really excited to get her back out there racing again. She is, too. This filly is so competitive. I can just see that she wants to run and I'm letting her run.

"She has a strong string of workouts and I think she's fit enough, but we'll see Saturday. She's such a talent and she's shown no ill effects."

The salty field includes Miss Temple City, who beat the boys in the Maker's 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland and April prior to a fourth-place effort in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot. Last time, she finished fourth as the favorite in the nine-furlong Diana (G1) in a blanket finish.

Sentiero Italia, who took the Lake Placid (G2) and Sands Point (G2) last term, returned from a layoff of more than eight months to take a July 22 allowance over this course-and-distance by 2 1/4 lengths.

"She came back with a nice win off a long layoff, so we're ready to go," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "The issue for everyone else in the race is that Lady Eli will be in the gate. It's good for racing that she's back. We're just hoping to catch her. But we're doing great.

"She's probably going to lay close. If there's a rabbit in the race, we'd be laying second, third or fourth and hope we get the jump on Lady Eli."

Grade 3 scorers Strike Charmer and Onus might land a share with their best.

(Flintshire: Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography, Lady Eli: Adam Coglianese Photography)