Wonder Gadot has won five races from 13 starts. Six of her eight losses have come by less than a length. In her two most recent victories, both against Canadian-bred males, she has won by a combined 10 1/2 lengths.
So, what’s changed? Is it the blinkers that she has worn in each of her last two starts? Trainer Mark Casse doesn’t think so. Is it the restricted company she’s been beating in the first two legs of Canada’s Triple Crown? Perhaps.
Casse believes it’s distance. Wonder Gadot’s last two victories have come at 1 1/4 miles and 1 3/16 miles. In three starts at 1 1/8 miles, Wonder Gadot has a win and two seconds, including a half-length loss to Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I’m going to upset some people with this, but I really believe if we had not gotten in some trouble early on the turn it could have been a different outcome,” Casse said. “At a mile and an eighth and beyond, she’s been a superstar.”
Casse will put Wonder Gadot’s stardom to the test Saturday when she looks to become the first filly in 103 years to win the Travers Stakes, run at 1 1/4 miles, at Saratoga. A field of 11 was entered Tuesday, and Wonder Gadot drew post 2 and was made the 5-1 third choice. She will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Wonder Gadot is seeking to become the first filly since Lady Rotha in 1915 to win the Travers. That victory came via disqualification. She is the first filly to run in the Travers since Davona Dale finished fourth as the favorite in 1979.
While Casse said owner Gary Barber likes to think outside the box when it comes to placing his horses, Casse said he truly believes that Wonder Gadot belongs in this year’s Travers field. While this year’s field doesn’t include Triple Crown winner Justify, it does include the second-place finishers from the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes – Good Magic, Bravazo, and Gronkowski.
“I feel she’s as good as any of them,” Casse said. “We’re going to try and accomplish something that hasn’t happened in 100 years. I think it makes sense. Gary thinks it makes sense.”
The horse to beat in the Travers is Good Magic, last year’s 2-year-old champion male by virtue of his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a maiden. This year, at 3, Good Magic has won the Blue Grass and Haskell while finishing second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby and fourth to him in the Preakness. In the Preakness, Good Magic dueled with Justify and gave way late, finishing behind Bravazo and Tenfold, both of whom are in this year’s Travers field.
Good Magic drew post 9 and was installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite by New York Racing Association linemaker David Aragona. Good Magic is trained by Chad Brown, who also trains Belmont runner-up Gronkowski, who drew post 3 and was installed as the 4-1 second choice in the Travers.
“I’ve been trying to win this race for a while now,” said Brown, a native of nearby Mechanicville who has run six horses in four Travers without success. “To have the top two choices coming in, I can’t be in a better position than that. But it’s a strong field, either of these horses will have to run their ‘A’ race to win for sure.”
Catholic Boy, winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby on turf, drew post 11. There have been 16 runnings of the Travers that have had 11 or more horses, with the only winner from that post being Jatski, via disqualification in 1977. Interestingly enough, that year, like this year, the Triple Crown winner – Seattle Slew then, Justify now – was not in the gate.
The Travers field, in post order, with riders and odds: Trigger Warning (Irwin Rosendo, 30-1), Wonder Gadot (Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1), Gronkowski (Joel Rosario, 4-1), Bravazo (Luis Saez, 12-1), Vino Rosso (John Velazquez, 10-1), Meistermind (Manny Franco, 30-1), King Zachary (Robby Albarado, 15-1), Mendelssohn (Ryan Moore, 12-1), Good Magic (Jose Ortiz, 2-1), Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr., 8-1), and Catholic Boy (Javier Castellano, 8-1).
The Travers will go as race 11 on a 13-race card that is scheduled to start at 11:35 a.m. Post time for the Travers is 5:44 p.m.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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