Alpha heads Travers field
Updated: August 24, 2012, 6:20 PM ETBy Claire Novak | Bloodhorse
The TCI Boys go on location to WinStar Farm where they visited Elliott Walden and exchanged views on a power-packed weekend in Thoroughbred racing, including the prestigious Travers Stakes.
TRAVERS STAKES | PURSE: $1 MILLION | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | 1 1/4 MILES
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Morning Line Odds|
|1||Speightscity||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||30-1|
|2||Five Sixteen||Rosie Napravnik||15-1|
|3||Golden Ticket||David Cohen||20-1|
|5||Street Life||Jose Lezcano||5-1|
|8||Neck 'n Neck||Leandro Goncalves||9-2|
|11||Fast Falcon||Junior Alvarado||20-1|
Early-season sophomore stars retired domino-style off the Triple Crown trail this year, and that leaves the "B" team to pick up the pieces in the $1 million Travers Stakes Aug. 25 at Saratoga Race Course. Jim Dandy winner Alpha is the 5-2 morning line favorite in an 11-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile event, one of just two runners coming off a victory into the "Midsummer Derby" in upstate New York. The 143rd edition of the Travers will be run with an approximate post time of 5:46 p.m. EDT as race 12 on a 13-race card; it is preceeded by the $500,000 Foxwoods King's Bishop, the $500,000 Test Stakes, and the $250,000 Ballston Spa. NBC televises from 4:00-6:00 p.m. EDT, while the Horse Racing Radio Network will broadcast via www.horseracingradio.net and on Sirius 92 or HANK 96.1-FM in Lexington. This year marks the first since 2005 that a winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Preakness Stakes, or Belmont Stakes will not run in the Travers. I'll Have Another, winner of the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, and Union Rags , winner of the third, were both retired to stud several weeks ago. They were joined Aug. 21 by Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, and even more recently by 2011 juvenile champion Hansen, who actually shipped to Saratoga to run in the Travers, but was declared from the race Aug. 22 with an injured tendon signaling his likely retirement. With these top contenders out of the picture and Haskell Invitational victor Paynter skipping after spiking a post-race fever in New Jersey, it is up to Alpha -- winner of the Count Fleet Stakes and Withers Stakes earlier this year -- to perk up a flagging 3-year-old division. The son of Bernardini attempts to follow the same path taken by his sire in 2006 when he parlayed a Jim Dandy victory into a $1 million Travers score. Alpha took the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy in easy wire-to-wire fashion for trainer Kiaran McLaguhlin and Godolphin Racing July 28. It was his first race back since a 12th-place finish in the Derby off a runner-up effort in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial. With the absence of speedball Hansen, it is highly likely Alpha will assume frontrunning tactics similar to those he displayed last time out while breaking from post six under Ramon Dominguez. "I'm sorry Hansen's out for his connections," McLaughlin said. "It's tough; those bad news items aren't fun for a trainer, owner, or connections. But it does help us on the front end, I think, and now we'll probably be a lot closer to the pace, even on the lead." But Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is hoping Alpha won't get away with that easy scenario this time. He sent assistant Jim Barnes to Saratoga with Arnold Zetcher's Liaison, third in the Jim Dandy last time out. The Indian Charlie colt raced four-wide on the Jim Dandy turns and closed with a five-wide move at the eighth pole. "The track was sloppy, there was no pace to close into at all, and considering that he finished very well," Barnes said. "They walked around and he finished. There should be more speed in the race, so it should be a different scenario." Liaison is the only other runner apart from Alpha to have run in the Derby, where he finished sixth. The 2011 CashCall Futurity winner has been knocking on the door in three starts since his Derby bid, finishing second by a half length to Nonios in the Affirmed Handicap on all-weather track at Betfair Hollywood Park, then running third in the Swaps behind Blueskiesandrainbows and Nonios July 4. Rafael Bejarano rides from post nine. Nonios comes off a runner-up finish in the Haskell for owner Green B. Smith, Jr. and another Hall of Fame trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer. It was his first dirt outing in six starts on synthetic surfaces; he has never been worse than third. John Velazquez gets the mount from the 10 hole. Another recent runner-up is Neck 'n Neck, who was two lengths behind Alpha at the Jim Dandy wire. Ian Wilkes trains the son of Flower Alley for A. Stevens Miles Jr. One start before running in the Jim Dandy, Neck 'n Neck took the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs by 7 1/4 lengths June 16.
In The Gate Podcast
Trainer Chad Brown discusses his Travers Stakes hopeful, Street Life. Bill Finley breaks down the race, plus a Barry Abrams commentary.
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