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NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

Saturday’s 139th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes presented by Shadwell Farm offers the victor the opportunity not only to make his mark on the three-year-old division, but to engrave his name alongside such recent stars as Bernardini, Point Given, and Holy Bull and past champions such as Man o’War, Whirlaway, and Gallant Man.

In order to do so, he will have to fight his way through the largest field assembled for the 1¼-mile race since 1990, when 13 horses went postward in the “Mid-summer Derby” at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Included in this year’s contentious field are the 1-2 finishers in the Saratoga’s July 27 Jim Dandy Stakes in Macho Again and Pyro; Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara, and a handful of graded stakes winners looking to crack the upper echelon of the division.

The Travers, the centerpiece of the prestigious Saratoga meet, will be televised nationally on “NTRA Summer Racing” from 4:30-6:00 p.m. ET. Also on the telecast will be live coverage of the Grade I, $250,000 NetJets King’s Bishop Stakes for top three-year-old sprinters, and the Grade II, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap for older male grass runners. Radio coverage will be available from 4:00-6:00 p.m. ET on Horse Racing Radio Network affiliates and at

While the Jim Dandy winner has come back to win the Travers each of the past three years, the morning line favorite at 7-2 in Saturday’s race is Pyro, the beaten favorite behind Macho Again in the nine-furlong prep. “We were disappointed he didn’t win the Jim Dandy, but it was a good effort,” said Pyro’s trainer Steve Asmussen. “When we lead him over, we are going to lead him over with confidence.”

Equally confident is Macho Again’s trainer Dallas Stewart.
“He’s a fighter,” said Stewart. “And he likes Saratoga. He ran second in his first start here last year, and he’s bigger and more mature than he was last year.”

Also coming out of the Jim Dandy is Da’ Tara, who upended a Triple Crown bid when he led every step of the mile and one-half Belmont Stakes to stop Big Brown. But in the Jim Dandy, the Nick Zito trainee got caught in a speed duel and finished last. Zito will also be saddling two other colts: Cool Coal Man and Amped.

“If they have a big race, they should be right there, and we’ll be happy,” said Zito, who won the Travers in 2004 with Birdstone. “If you win the Travers, you want to win it again. It’s a great feeling.”

The complete field for the Travers Stakes Presented by Shadwell Farm, in post position order, is: Tale of Ekati (jockey: Edgar Prado, morning line odds: 20-1); Colonel John (Garrett Gomez, 8-1); Da’ Tara (Alan Garcia, 8-1); Tizbig (Cornelio Velasquez, 30-1); Macho Again (Julien Leparoux, 6-1); Cool Coal Man (John Velazquez, 15-1); Amped (Jorge Chavez, 30-1); Harlem Rocker (Eibar Coa, 4-1); Mambo in Seattle (Robby Albarado, 5-1); Tres Borrachos (Tyler Baze, 15-1); Pyro (Shaun Bridgmohan, 7-2); and Court Vision (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1).

A deep and highly competitive field of 11 older horses were entered yesterday at Del Mar in San Diego for Sunday’s 18th edition of the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic.

The lukewarm favorite in the mile and a quarter centerpiece event OF THE Del Mar meeting is the Eastern invader Go Between, who’ll carry a morning line of 3-1 and break from Post 6 in the well-matched lineup. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott shipped his charge to Southern California for the fourth time this year and once again commissioned the saddle services of the 2007 Eclipse Award-winning rider Garrett Gomez for his Pacific Classic run.

Some feel, however, that the eventual betting favorite will be Well Armed, who finished a good third behind Curlin in March’s $6 million Dubai World Cup, and was an impressive winner of Del Mar’s San Diego Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth last time out.

“I think it’s a wide-open race,” said Well Armed’s trainer Eoin Harty. “It’s going a little farther than I think the horse’s optimum distance is, but he’s really in top form right now. I couldn’t be any happier with him and I really wouldn’t want to trade with anybody right now.

The Pacific Classic will be one of four major Sunday stakes at Del Mar. All are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” program that affords starting berths in various races at the October 24-25 event at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. The three other stakes are the $400,000 Del Mar Mile, the $300,000 Pat O’Brien Handicap and the $200,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap. Those three races, plus the Pacific Classic, will be televised on ESPN2 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. (ET). The day’s card at Del Mar will also feature a guaranteed $1-million Pick Six wager and a guaranteed $500,000 Pick Four bet.

Genuine Risk, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, died last Monday at the farm in Upperville, Va., where she spent the last of her 31 years. Winner of the 1980 Kentucky Derby, Genuine Risk had been the oldest living Derby winner, a status that now belongs to 1987 winner Alysheba.

“Genuine Risk was an amazing horse with tremendous heart that lived a life befitting a champion.” said Genuine Risk’s owners, Bert and Diana Firestone. “We are truly blessed that she was a part of our life and we are deeply saddened by her passing.”

When Genuine Risk won the 1980 Derby, she was the first filly to capture the “Run for the Roses” since Regret did so in 1915. Later, Winning Colors joined that select group with a Derby win in 1988.

“She was a wonderful and outstanding filly–everyone fell in love with her,” said Genuine Risk’s trainer Leroy Jolley. “She had a place in everyone’s heart. Everyone involved with her took care of her up to the end. She was special to all of us.”

Big Brown, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Haskell Invitational, is expected to return to Monmouth Park, site of the Haskell, on September 13 to make his next start in the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes, a mile and an eighth turf contest for 3-year-olds and up.
Big Brown rebounded off a last place finish in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 to capture the Oceanport, N.J., racetrack’s signature race, the $1 million Haskell on August 3.

“We were looking for a grass race for him, and the Monmouth grass surface should be perfect for Big Brown,” said Michael Iavarone, co-president and co-CEO of IEAH Stables. “Monmouth was cordial enough to put up a nice purse for him and the fans really took to Big Brown last time he was there. We’ll use this race to go to the synthetic surface at Santa Anita and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”

As part of the conditions of the race, the $200,000 purse for the Monmouth Stakes will be increased to $500,000 should Big Brown indeed start in the turf test.

“We’re overjoyed that Big Brown will be returning to New Jersey,” said Bob Kulina, vice president and general manager of Monmouth Park. “Big Brown coming back to the Jersey Shore will provide added excitement to September racing at Monmouth and should be an across-the-board winner for his connections, the fans, and the racing industry in New Jersey.”
Big Brown broke his maiden in his career debut last September 3, winning by 11 ¼ lengths over the Saratoga turf course. The Monmouth Stakes will mark the colt’s second race on turf.