Irad Ortiz Jr. wasn’t without a Travers mount for long.
Ortiz, the leading rider at Saratoga with 39 wins through Sunday, will ride the filly Wonder Gadot in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga, trainer Mark Casse said Monday morning.
Ortiz became available when his scheduled mount, Hofburg, was withdrawn from consideration for the race on Sunday due to a temperature.
John Velazquez had ridden Wonder Gadot to victories in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes and to a second in the Kentucky Oaks. Velazquez is committed to ride Vino Rosso in the Travers for his main client, Todd Pletcher.
“When he became available, it made the most sense,” Casse said.
Wonder Gadot, attempting to become the first filly to win the 1 1/4-mile Travers in 103 years, is one of many storylines in the 149th Travers. While Triple Crown winner Justify is retired, the race will include the runners-up from all three Triple Crown races, including Good Magic, second in the Kentucky Derby. Good Magic will likely be favored in what is expected to be a 11-horse field.
Good Magic, winner of the Grade 1 Haskell in his last start, is trained by Chad Brown, who grew up in nearby Mechanicville and who has named the Travers as one of the races he’d most like to win. Brown also sends out the Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski.
Brown has participated in four Travers with six runners and has never finished higher than fourth.
“It seems like we’re in as good a position as we’ve ever been to take down a race that’s very special to us,” said Brown, who through Sunday had won 31 races in the first 27 days of this meet.
Gronkowski was one of six horses who on Sunday put in their final workouts for the Travers.
Gronkowski, working with Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Instilled Regard, went five furlongs in 1:00.02, getting his last three furlongs in 35.81. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.71 while pulling away from Instilled Regard.
“His work [Sunday] morning was the best I’ve seen,” said Brown, noting that he wanted another strong work from Gronkowski, who has not run since his second-place finish to Justify in the Belmont on June 9.
Gronkowski will be ridden by Joel Rosario in the Travers. Jose Ortiz, who rode Gronkowski in the Belmont, is committed to ride Good Magic.
Another intriguing Travers runner is Catholic Boy, who returns to the dirt after winning graded stakes on turf in his last two starts, including the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
Catholic Boy has previous dirt form, having won the Grade 2 Remsen last fall at Aqueduct and running second in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.
On Sunday, Catholic Boy worked a half-mile in 49.18 seconds under regular rider Javier Castellano, a five-time Travers winner. It was the easiest of his four works over the main track in preparation for the race.
“He was moving really well,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said Sunday. “We’re running a mile and a quarter in six days. I want to leave room in the tank for that. His energy level’s great. It was more putting the finishing touches on it.”
Thomas was 8 when trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran his first horse in the Travers – Dynaformer. Lukas, a three-time Travers winner, sends out Bravazo, the Preakness and Haskell runner-up who worked five furlongs in 1:00.07 on Sunday.
“I think he’s better now than I’ve had him,” Lukas said. “But he’ll have to be.”
Tenfold, despite winning the Jim Dandy, has sort of been the forgotten horse of the Travers. That’s probably because he was swerving in and out in the stretch of the Jim Dandy and won by just three-quarters of a length over Flameaway.
Trainer Steve Asmussen believes Tenfold’s credentials are as good as anyone’s in the race.
“He’s three-quarters of a length off Justify in the Preakness and has a win over the racetrack,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen will also send out Meistermind, who is making his stakes debut in the Travers.
The connections of Vino Rosso, third in the Jim Dandy, will hope for a dry track Saturday as he ran spotty over a fast track that had moisture in it in the Jim Dandy.
As of Monday, the Ireland-based Aidan O’Brien was expected to send Mendelssohn here for the Travers and Seahenge here for the Sword Dancer.
King Zachary, winner of the Matt Winn Stakes, and Trigger Warning, runner-up in the Indiana Derby, round out the expected Travers field.
The field for the Travers will be finalized Tuesday evening, when the post-position draw will be held at the refurbished Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga Springs.
The long-range weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 81 degrees and just a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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