Parity rules three-year-old class in wake of the Travers
If horse racing ever had a national commissioner, maybe it would be the late Pete Rozelle, commissioner of the National Football League from 1960 to 1989. Rozelle always preached parity to give every fan of every team hope before the season begins.
It looks like the concept of parity was brought to the sophomore class of male three-year-olds this year since they all seem to take turns beating each other. I thought Saturday's 148th renewal of the Travers (G1) at Saratoga would favor the horses that prepped in the Jim Dandy (G2) stakes over those that used the Haskell Invitational (G1) but the real answer was "none of the above" since the first three finishers ran in neither race.
On a Saratoga main track was that watered heavily, like the one the Jim Dandy was run over, Mike Smith sent WEST COAST to the front right out of the gate and received none of the expected pace pressure from Kentucky Derby (G1) winner ALWAYS DREAMING. With the first half-mile run in :48.12, Smith had West Coast in a rhythmic stride that continued down the backstretch into the far turn.
Nobody was making any menacing moves as CLOUD COMPUTING was content to sit the pocket and IRAP stalked three wide. TAPWRIT made a middle move down on the inside and the only horse that loomed a danger was GUNNEVERA who, after a very rough start, was passing horses alarmingly easy on the far outside.
Jim Dandy winner GOOD SAMARITANwas far back, 12 lengths behind after six furlongs, and Haskell winner GIRVIN was wide early and 11th of 12.
It wasn't as dramatic as ARROGATE pulling away in the stretch of last year's Travers, but West Coast widened his margin in the stretch to finish 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Gunnevera who had 2 1/4 lengths on Irap. He paid $14.20 to win and keyed a $357.50 exacta.
The three winners of the Triple Crown races finished fourth, eighth and ninth and West Coast's final time of 2:01.19 was very solid. The second half of the 2017 racing season for the foals of 2014 has been interesting, to say the least, and I can't say that I would like any of their chances when they meet older horses.
West Coast proved that West Coast speed is stronger than East Coast speed and once Smith put him on the lead and he built up momentum, the race was all his. DREFONG did the same thing in the Forego (G1) going seven furlongs on the main track when he broke the race open of the gate for Baffert and Smith.
In the Personal Ensign (G1), SONGBIRD was sent to the front through easy fractions of :47.91 for the half and 1:12.39 for six furlongs. She had the lead turning for home and with a furlong to go, had over a length lead.
But, FOREVER UNBRIDLED had all the momentum when Joel Rosario wound her up on the turn and he surged by last year's champion three-year-old filly by a neck at the wire. Songbird fought back when she saw her rival on the outside but it was too late. Mike Smith would win two Grade 1 stakes races on the front end Saturday but Songbird was not one of them.
Hopefully, all is well with Songbird physically, but the fire that was in her last year was just not there on Saturday over a main track that she loves. Not knowing anything about her physical condition, she doesn't seem to be there mentally. Like RACHEL ALEXANDRA after winning the Woodward (G1) in a gut-wrenching win, it's possible that Songbird will never be the same after using every ounce of energy in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1).
(Adam Coglianese Photography)