Upstart confirmed for Travers; Texas Red, Smart Transition gallop
Trainer Richard Violette on Friday confirmed that multiple Grade 2 hero Upstart will run in Saturday’s Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga.
"He's doing great. We're going to run," Violette said. "That's the plan. American Pharoah looked fabulous, too. He looked great, but my horse is doing good, too, so we're going to take a shot."
Like many of the Travers runners, Upstart took to the Spa’s main track during the 15-minute window just after the renovation break reserved for the race starters. The dark bay son of Flatter galloped 1 3/8 miles.
"It was incredible," Violette said. "The crowd was incredibly respectful. I thought we were going to hear big roars and everything, and there were, but very respectful. When he jogged back here, everybody was quiet. They didn't want to upset him. It was pretty cool."
Violette added that Upstart, who is currently two-for-two at Saratoga after taking his maiden debut by 5 1/4 lengths and capturing the Funny Cide S. last August, will have light gallop early Saturday morning.
"It's a mile and a quarter, and American Pharoah's most difficult race was in the Derby going the mile and a quarter," Violette said. "I know even Bob Baffert is concerned when the traveling and the long, steady series of training and performances might catch up to him. Obviously, he thinks he's got his 'A' game or he wouldn't have brought him, but sometimes you don't know until the afternoon."
Texas Red photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Susie Raisher
Fellow Travers runners Texas Red and Smart Transition were also out-and-about on Friday morning.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor Texas Red came out after American Pharoah and Smart Transition and galloped one time around the 1 1/8-mile track.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux said his charge didn’t appear to be affected by the large crowd on hand to see American Pharoah’s gallop.
"That's the best I've seen him gallop, (but that's) splitting hairs," Desormeaux said. "He's always galloped really nice, but today was especially nice, nice and limber. Maybe the cool air that came in this morning invigorated him a little more. He looked great. It looked like he enjoyed the quietness on the track."
Texas Red will have a routine morning walk on Travers Day, according to Desormeaux.
"He's pretty laid back in his stall so I'll let him rest, leave him alone," he said. "It'll help keep his energy level at the top level."
Smart Transition photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Susie Raisher
Trainer John Shirreffs is used to huge crowds thanks to superstar mare Zenyatta and was enjoying the fan support for American Pharoah even as his colt Smart Transition took a spin around Saratoga.
"It was exciting, and it was great to see all of the fans turn out. It was really a great morning," he said. "I think it's great that American Pharoah came to the Travers, which is such a historic race. I think the fans are really looking forward to it, and I am as well.
Hall of Fame rider John Velasquez was in the irons and will ride the son of Smart Strike for the first time in the Travers.
"I don't know if my horse thought all of the cheering was for him this morning, but the crowd definitely was cheering for Johnny (Velazquez) when they went by and were announced," Shirreffs said. "For this morning's session, there was such a huge crowd cheering and clapping when they announced Johnny Velazquez. As my horse was starting off, American Pharaoh went by and there was even more clapping and cheering. I thought that was good test for him and he handled it well. He's come a long way and we're excited about the race."
Smart Transition enters the Travers owning just two wins, one of which came in the Curlin S. while going the Travers’ distance of 1 1/8 miles last out.
"That was the thing that made us think about this race after the Curlin because he finished so well," Shirreffs explained. "I always liked this horse but he never really got the trip he needed, and then in the Curlin, (jockey) Junior (Alvarado) gave him a great trip.
“As far as physically, he is able to do a lot more now than what he could four months ago. He's much fitter and much more experienced on the racetrack."