Travers workers out in force
Leading the group was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) hero TEXAS RED, who finished second in both the San Vicente S. (G2) and Dwyer S. (G3) prior to a half-length victory in the Jim Dandy S. (G2) in his three starts this year.
With jockey Corey Lanerie aboard, Texas Red recorded in his penultimate breeze on Saturday when covering five furlongs in 1:01.66 for trainer Keith Desormeaux.
"We were happy with that," assistant trainer Julie Clark said. "Corey said he gallops out strong; he's not tough to pull up but he's ready to keep going a little bit further. It was nice."
Texas Red developed a foot abscess following his February 1 San Vicente run and missed the entire spring season. The Afleet Alex colt wouldn’t reappear until the Dwyer on Independence Day.
"Going into the Dwyer, we felt like he kind of needed a couple of preps leading up to the Travers," Clark said. "The Jim Dandy wasn't a pleasant surprise exactly, but I was impressed that he was as far along in his fitness as he was, for sure. I think that anytime you can get acclimated to a track and get a feel of it (is a good thing) and he showed that he liked it here, so that certainly helps him."
Southern California-based Desormeaux is expected to be on hand at Saratoga for Texas Red’s final Travers workout, scheduled for next Saturday.
Texas Red photo courtesy of NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography
UPSTART, third to Texas Red in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, posted his first move on Saturday since finishing third behind Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the August 2 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park.
Under regular exercise rider Rodney Payne, Upstart went six furlongs in 1:14.84 for trainer Rick Violette, who has yet to confirm his plans for the Travers pending a possible appearance by the Haskell winner.
"We'll point for the Travers. I doubt that (we'd want to) hook American Pharoah, and if he doesn't come then we'll be ready to roll," Violette explained.
"(Upstart) went terrific. It was a little bit of a combination of maintenance and to get some air in his lungs; he went the last quarter in :23 and change. It was a great breeze, and he cooled out well."
Upstart opened 2015 with a pair of Grade 2 wins at Gulfstream Park, though disqualified to second in one of those, before a runner-up effort in the Florida Derby (G1). He suffered his only off-the-board placing to date when last of 18 in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and entered the Haskell off that May 2 contest.
"He needed the Haskell, there's no question. I got him ready, but I didn't pound on him to get him ready," Violette said. "He really hadn't had a real race since March. The Derby, he didn't run, so you can hardly count that. He needed a race and he got one in a Grade 1.
“He'll move up off the Haskell, looking at the numbers and a little bit of common sense. If he moves up, absent American Pharoah I think we're very much in the mix."
Violette plans to give Upstart a faster, more serious work next weekend.
"He's really had kind of an easy couple weeks to let him recharge, especially the first week. The second week he got back to regular gallops," he said. "The Haskell was a good race and he bounced (out) of that and now we get back into serious mode. He'll have a fast breeze maybe Saturday or Sunday, depending on the weather. He likes to run off his fast breezes."
Upstart photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Mooshian/Adam Coglianese Photography
A fast-charging second to American Pharoah in the Haskell was KEEN ICE, who returned to the work tab with a five-furlong breeze over the main track on Saturday in preparation for the Travers.
With jockey Javier Castellano up for the first time, the Dale Romans trainee was timed in 1:01.25 in company with stablemate Lulu LeMon.
"(Javier) said he felt like a classic distance horse. He went smooth and did everything right," Romans said. "He worked super. If you don't know the horse, he's never going to blow you away watching him breeze because he's a big freight train, but that's as good as he works. The big thing is he comes back off the racetrack prancing and happy and wanting more."
Keen Ice ended up taking the Fair Grounds route to the Kentucky Derby, placing in the Risen Star S. (G2) and running fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2), before rallying for seventh in the Run for the Roses. The bay son of Curlin got up for third in the Belmont S. (G1) prior to his game late run behind a geared down American Pharoah in the Haskell.
"He's just a smooth, long-striding horse, and that's why the mile and a quarter hits him in the head so well," Romans said. "The longer the better. He's not one that you want to get stopped and have to restart him, but when he gets clear sailing and gets over on his right lead down the lane, he'll be rolling by the end of it."
The Travers would be Keen Ice's seventh start this year, and Romans said the colt has thrived on the racing.
"Even the day after the Haskell, he was bouncing around the barn. I was going to walk him a few more days because we had time and he was so fit coming off the mile and a half and coming back in the Haskell, but I couldn't keep him on the ground," Romans said.
"He's a horse that's improved every day in training. Every day he's trained since I've had him, we've seen little improvements; a little more focus, a little more agility. He's really figuring things out."
Though the connections of American Pharoah are still undecided about coming for the Travers, Romans isn't worried about facing the Triple Crown champion.
"We haven't ducked him yet," Romans said. "There's not a bigger Pharoah fan around than me, but he's had a rough campaign and they can all lose. Picking up the scraps behind him hasn't been very bad.
“It's a tough year to have a three-year-old. Now I know what Shecky Greene's trainer felt like."
Shecky Greene was named champion sprinter in 1973. He led through the first seven furlongs of the Kentucky Derby before fading to sixth behind Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
Keen Ice photo courtesy of NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography
Trainer Todd Pletcher kept busy despite a fog over the main track Saturday morning, overseeing a number of works from runners probable for upcoming stakes on Travers Day.
In company and possible for the $500,000 King's Bishop S. (G1) and Travers, respectively, Competitive Edge and MADEFROMLUCKY worked a half-mile in :49.49.
Competitive Edge, who last out finished fourth in the Haskell, is likely to cut back in distance to seven furlongs for the King's Bishop.
"The parts we could see in the fog he looked very good," Pletcher said. "He seemed to come to the finish line full of run, on the bridle, and moved really well."
Madefromlucky, who most recently won the West Virginia Derby (G2) on August 1, is still possible for the Travers.
"He looked good as well," Pletcher said of Madefromlucky. "We're happy with the way both of them came back. Madefromlucky is under consideration for the Travers or the ($1 million) Pennsylvania Derby ([G2] on September 19)."
Other Pletcher horses working on Saturday were Daredevil and Stopchargingmaria, who got :49.22 in company. Daredevil, unraced since a fourth-placing in the April 4 Wood Memorial (G1), is probable for the King’s Bishop, while last-out Shuvee H. (G3) heroine Stopchargingmaria is being pointed to the $750,000 Personal Ensign (G1) on August 29.
Curalina, winner of the Acorn S. (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in her past two, logged a half-mile in :48.66. The chestnut miss is expected to stretch out to 1 1/4 miles for the $600,000 Alabama S. (G1) on August 22.
Madefromlucky photo courtesy of NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography