Exaggerator: has shown his best form on a sloppy track
PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport
By Jon Lees 12:01pM 27 AUG 2016
Preview: USA, Saturday 10.44pm BST, ATR
Saratoga: Travers Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f, 3yo, dirt
AMERICAN racing fans on both sides of the pond can gorge themselves on a feast tonight when Saratoga hosts six Grade 1 races, including a Travers Stakes rematch between two of the three winners in the Triple Crown series.
Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator takes on Creator and Destin, inches apart when first and second in the Belmont Stakes, in a capacity field for the $ 1.25 million contest popularly known as the ‘midsummer Derby’.
It will be the highlight of a star-studded card that also features the $ 1m Longines Sword Dancer, the Personal Ensign, the Ballerina, the King’s Bishop, and Forego Stakes, which will be shown on At The Races.
In an additional bonus, unbeaten Lady Eli is scheduled to make her long-awaited return after a battle with laminitis in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa (11.20).
Lady Eli, whose six wins include the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf, has been off for 14 months but trainer Chad Brown said: “I’m really excited to get her back out there racing again. This filly is so competitive. I can just see she wants to run and I’m letting her run.”
The Travers is the race in which American Pharoah suffered his only defeat last year and has attracted its biggest field since 1977, with the battle to top the three-year-old division wide open.
Morning line favourite Exaggerator, who came to prominence at Saratoga last year, reaffirmed his candidacy with victory in the Haskell Invitational but now also meets some late developers in Connect, trained by Chad Brown, and the Bob Baffert pair American Freedom and Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate.
Exaggerator has recorded all three of his Grade 1 wins on a sloppy track and was beaten in the Kentucky Derby when it was fast, the likely conditions at Saratoga.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux said of Exaggerator, who bids to become the eighth Preakness winner to land the Travers: “His success isn’t dependent on a sloppy track, but his success is dependent on a pace to run at.”
Flintshire: dominant in the USA since moving across from France
PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
There is a familiar figure in the turf feature the Sword Dancer (9.49) where Flintshire, Khalid Abdullah’s highest-earning horse and two-time Arc runner-up, bids to enhance his dominant status since moving to the US.
He has won both starts since leaving Andre Fabre for Chad Brown to take his earnings past £5.3m with wins in the Grade 1 Manhattan and Grade 2 Bowling Green and is being prepared for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in which he was second two years ago.
Brown said: “He came to us in outstanding condition from Andre Fabre. He had been managed by both Mr Fabre and Juddmonte so well, that’s why we have a horse at age six who’s still at the top of his game.”
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Cavorting, who has won all three Graded stakes around one turn at Saratoga, seeks her first two-turn victory as she steps up to 1m1f in the Personal Ensign (7.23), a ‘win and you’re in’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
The filly likes to sit off the pace and her trainer admitted some concern at the challenge. “We hope she settles toward the rear again and makes a big run,” he said. “The distance isn’t a big deal, but two turns is different.
“In my experience as a trainer at Belmont Park and coming here, you have those few horses who want one turn, not two. Cavorting might be one of those, but we hope not. It can happen, but you don’t know until you try.”
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Sprint winner Wavell Avenue is the headline act in the Ballerina (7.59), while Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Mohaymen, once a leading hope for the Kentucky Derby, drops back in distance for the 7f Kings Bishop (8.35).