Exactly one year after beginning his career with a loss here, Good Magic will seek to achieve a career-defining victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
To do so, Good Magic will have to defeat, among others, Gronkowski, his stablemate who finished second in the Belmont Stakes; Wonder Gadot, who is seeking to become the first filly in 103 years to win the Travers; Catholic Boy, hoping to transfer his Grade 1-winning turf form to dirt; and Bravazo, a tough-as-nails colt who stands now as the only active 3-year-old to have competed in all three Triple Crown races.
At 11:35 a.m. on the 2017 Travers card, Good Magic finished second as the 3-5 favorite to Hazit in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race. Good Magic has competed exclusively in graded stakes since, winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Grade 2 Blue Grass and Grade 1 Haskell while finishing second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby and fourth to that eventual Triple Crown winner in the Preakness after dueling with him for more than a mile.
Good Magic, coming off a visually impressive three-length victory in the Haskell at Monmouth, will likely go favored in the 1 1/4-mile Travers, and will break from post 9 under Jose Ortiz.
“I knew early on this horse was special, and over the course of his development I learned he’s extremely tough, extremely durable,” trainer Chad Brown said. “So, I’m not surprised he’s held up, but I am relieved.”
While Good Magic has had a busy schedule, Gronkowski, also trained by Brown, enters the Travers having raced once in 21 weeks. That was the Belmont Stakes, where after a slow break from the gate while making his U.S. debut Gronkowski rallied to finish second, 1 3/4 lengths behind Justify.
After an ankle injury kept him off the work tab for a month, Gronkowski has delivered a series of workouts at Saratoga that has Brown excited to see what he can do in the Travers.
“I feel Gronkowski is coming into the race in fine condition,” said Brown, who is seeking his first Travers victory in his fifth appearance. “I feel he’s moved forward off his race in the Belmont. If he has moved forward, he’s one of the main contenders no matter who’s in the race.”
Catholic Boy won the Remsen at 2 and had tried the Triple Crown trail before a bleeding episode in the Florida Derby knocked him out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby. He has come back with two solid victories in graded stakes on turf, and with a new forwardly placed running style that trainer Jonathan Thomas will likely employ on Saturday. Catholic Boy will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who has won the Travers a record five times.
“I’d like to break away from there running and see what develops,” Thomas said. “Obviously, we’re in great hands with Javier. Basically, it’s going to boil down to his instincts and what he wants to do.”
Wonder Gadot is the first filly to run in the Travers since Davona Dale in 1979. A filly hasn’t won the Travers since Lady Rotha in 1915. Wonder Gadot is coming off victories against males in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. Her best races have come at nine furlongs or farther, and trainer Mark Casse expects her to be in contention early under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“You have to get her into the race a little bit early, not let speed get too far away,” Casse said. “She doesn’t have a big turn of foot, it’s more of a big, continuous motion. You don’t want to leave her too much to do.”
Tenfold, who was up close in winning the Jim Dandy, and longshot Trigger Warning, who set the pace in the Indiana Derby before getting run down by Axelrod, are other potential pace factors.
Tenfold and Vino Rosso, third in the Jim Dandy, are sort of the forgotten souls of this Travers. Tenfold shied from something in the stretch before regaining a straight course to win the Jim Dandy by three-quarters of a length over Flameaway.
“We’re freakishly concerned about whatever it is he ducked from on the inside,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who seeks his first Travers victory with his fifth starter. “We cannot do that again and expect to have any success against a field as talented as this.”
Asmussen will also start the longshot Meistermind.
Vino Rosso, the Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner, ran spottily in the Jim Dandy, perhaps owing to moisture in the track. The track should be dry and fast Saturday. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has won the Travers twice.
Trainer Dale Romans won the 2015 Travers with Keen Ice, who upset the Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. On Saturday he sends out King Zachary, who won the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs and finished fourth in the Indiana Derby, a race in which the horse bled, Romans said.
Mendelssohn is looking to replicate the performance that made him an 18 1/2-length winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby. He has not run well since.
The Travers is the highlight of a 13-race card that begins at 11:35 a.m. Eastern and includes five other Grade 1 stakes – the Sword Dancer, H. Allen Jerkens, Personal Ensign, Forego, and Ballerina – as well as the Grade 2 Ballston Spa.
The Sword Dancer and Travers will be televised live on NBC in a two-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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