Haskell unlikely but Long Branch could bode well for Stanford’s Travers chances

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 12th, 2015

Stanford rallied to win Saturday’s Long Branch at Monmouth Park, the final local prep for the $1 million Haskell (G1) on August 2, and the victory flattered the promising Japan, who handed Stanford a 1 ¼-length setback in the June 6 Easy Goer and is likely headed to the August 1 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga.

Jockey Joe Bravo spoke enthusiastically about bringing Stanford back in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell but chances are slim Stanford would return 22 days later for trainer Todd Pletcher, who prefers more time between starts.

Look for Stanford to point toward the $1 million Travers (G1) on August 29 at Saratoga.

Pletcher views a three-week rest as a low-percentage play, referencing stats that show his stable as most effective after 35-60 days off. Case in point is the two-week Preakness (G1) turnaround, one Pletcher readily avoids for his Kentucky Derby starters despite evidence to the contrary.

Bob Baffert, who has won the Preakness six times with Derby horses, says: “Coming back in two weeks is not a big concern with them.”

Baffert showed his philosophy works with older horses this summer when bringing Hoppertunity back in the June 13 Stephen Foster (G1) off more than a four-month layoff. The non-threatening third served as a prep for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) 14 days later, with Hopppertunity moving forward with a strong second, falling short by a dirty nose after an unlucky wide trip.

Stanford registered a career-best 97 BRIS Speed with the 1 ¼-length Long Branch decision, snapping a three-race string of runner-up finishes, and the Malibu Moon colt is still figuring it out.

He ran in spots Saturday, with Bravo going to a full-out ride midway on the far turn as his mount momentarily languished in third. Stanford responded with a sharp turn of foot, blowing past the leaders into a clear lead with a furlong remaining, but appeared to idle while all alone, allowing the pacesetting Souper Colossal to reduce the winning margin in deep stretch.

Stanford is still raw with the potential to show more going forward. He’s bred for longer distances, with both his sire and broodmare sire Distorted Humor producing Kentucky Derby (G1) winners, and whether he discovers his best form this fall or as a four-year-old remains to be determined.

The 1 ¼-mile Travers, which appears unlikely to have American Pharoah, figures to be an opportunity for a break through.

Stanford photo courtesy of Bill and Ryan Denver/Equi-Sport Photo