Genaro previews Travers Day

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TwinSpires Staff

August 25th, 2016


There was no way this year’s  Travers (G1) would get the buzz that last year’s did, when American Pharoah descended on Saratoga Springs like a visiting head of state and was treated accordingly. No Triple Crown winner this year, no Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, and no three-year-old that is of much interest to anyone outside of the most committed of racing fans.

The Belmont Stakes (G1) winner is here, and the Preakness (G1) winner, too, who also won the Haskell Invitational (G1) last month.  But even if either Creator or Exaggerator wins on Saturday, can a Travers victory boost their chances of end-of-year honors? And what about Laoban? Does a Travers win throw him into the conversation?

The divisional leader is still Nyquist, even with his off-the-board finish in the Haskell, even though Exaggerator has three Grade 1 wins this year to Nyquist’s two.  A trip to the Saratoga winner’s circle on Saturday vaults Exaggerator over the Kentucky Derby winner, even with that 11th-place Belmont finish.

Creator was awful in the Jim Dandy (G2) and 13th in the Kentucky Derby. A third Grade 1 added to his Arkansas Derby and Belmont wins would tie Exaggerator. Would it be good enough to push him past both him and Nyquist?

And then there’s Laoban, who broke his maiden and got his first graded stakes win in the Jim Dandy. Let’s say he wins the Travers. What would he have to do to get in the conversation about champion three-year-old?

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, it seems clear that the road to three-year-old championship honors lies outside of Saratoga. With no clear leader, should connections of contenders be looking to avoid yet another three-year-old contest like the Pennsylvania Derby, and head straight to races against older like the Jockey Club Gold Cup?

None of Chad Brown’s three Travers horses will have to worry about the right path to an Eclipse Award, but a first win for the trainer in Saratoga’s premier race would certainly burnish an already gleaming summer here. He leads Todd Pletcher by 10 in the trainer’s race; he got his 1,000th win on August 24; and arguably, the Travers is the least of his concerns on Saturday.

Brown’s got three in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, including 1-5 morning line favorite Flintshire, undefeated in two starts since joining Brown’s barn. He won the Sword Dancer last year for trainer André Fabre, then ran second in both the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and the Hong Kong Vase (G1) before returning the United States earlier this year.

And in Saturday’s 12th race, the one after the Travers, Brown will saddle Lady Eli for the first time in more than a year, in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2). The undefeated filly returns to the races after she sustained an injury last July at Belmont, when she stepped on a nail going back to her barn and subsequently developed laminitis. No matter what happens in the Travers, whether he wins or whether he loses, it’s hard to think that the trainer’s mind won’t be on the filly that’s been made the even-money favorite on the morning line.