My last couple of blogs have been about super filly Rachel Alexandra, but today it's time to shine the spotlight on some of the up and coming 3yr olds in the Travers Stakes, coming up this Saturday. Today i will just give an overview of the stars that are ready to use the Travers as their claim to glory and to vault themselves to the top of the 3yr old division, for colts. Many horses in the Travers field could use this race to become top three year old if they have a breakout performance. Among them are the spring sensation, Quality Road, Dwyer/ Jim Dandy winner, Kensei, and Belmont winner and Haskell runner up, Summer Bird. These colts are in a three way tie for top division honors and any one of them could step up to the plate and use this race to vault themselves into super stardom.
First, we start off with Quality Road. This big, handsome colt not only has the looks, but has proven before, earlier this spring, that's he's got the speed. Quality Road was the early KY Derby favorite, before a pair of quarter cracks, knocked him out of the running. Before the Derby he won the one mile Fountain of Youth Stakes, where he beat This Ones For Phil, Notonthesamepage, and Capt. Candyman Can. His final time was 1.35.01. In his next race he returned in the FL Derby, where he won by 1 3/4 lengths, beating Belmont runner up, Dunkirk, in record time. This race not only proved that he could handle two turns, but cemented his status as one of the top KY derby contenders. Unfortunately, quarter cracks ended his derby hopes, and kept him on the sidelines for four months. The layoff, and quarter cracks proved no match for this talented colt, as he came back with a bang in his comeback race the Amsterdam Stakes. In this race he beat Customs for Carlos, a late to mature sprinter, and an old foe in Capt. Candyman Can. His final time was 1.13.74, for six and a half furlongs, a new track record. What made this win even more impressive was that he stumbled at the start, was forced very wide on the last turn, and still showed his grit by closing for the win while keeping Capt. Candyman Can at bay. A win in the Travers would put him back at the top of the division, but this is the best field he's faced in his career, going farther than he's ever had too, against a proven classic winner.
This now brings us to Summer Bird. He has won only two races this year, a maiden and the Belmont Stakes, but he is lightly raced and appears to be on the improve with every race, and at this distance of 10 furlongs, he is extremely dangerous. Summer Bird was not on the top of every one's Derby lists, but in only his fourth start he ran a creditable sixth in a field of nineteen horses in the KY Derby. Then his trainer, opted to wait until the Belmont, to let the colt rest, grow, and mature, instead of running him in the Preakness, and it paid off big time. Summer Bird, came form off the pace, to fly by Dunkirk and Derby winner Mine That Bird to win the Belmont going away. In his next start he went up against a talented sprinter/mid distance horse in Munnings and the super filly Rachel Alexandra, in the Haskell Invitational. Summer Bird showed a new dimension in this race, racing only a half length from the lead, on a hot pace, after being a confirmed closer. Despite being taken out of his element he ran a valiant second, over Munnings. Coming into the Travers he is fit and ready to go. Tim Ice, his trainer has said he is training better than he was before the Belmont, suggesting that he is ready to go. The pace in the Travers should be a solid one, making Summer Bird, whom Ice has said will sit farther off the pace than in the Haskell, very dangerous.
The last horse that could use this race to spurt to the head of the 3yr old colt division is Kensei, Jim Dandy/Dwyer winner, and Rachel Alexandra's stablemate. This colt has show talent from day one, but hasn't really grasped the concept of racing to win until just recently. In the Dwyer everything just seemed to click, and he won the race easily, defeating Warriors Reward, who had a bad break and could only rally to pick up third. The Jim Dandy was suppose to be Warriors Reward's redemption, but Kensei had other plans, snatching the lead away, and pulling away easily to win. Kensei doesn't win by much, and seems like the type of horse from his most recent scores that will just do what he need to win, saving himself for another day. That day might just be Travers Day, where he may have to call upon every ounce of heart and grit.
These are the Travers Top Three, but don't count out the rest of the field. You have Hold Me Back, who didn't have the easiest of trips in his KY derby, when trying to prove that he could be just as effective on dirt as he is on Polytrack. Then there is Our Edge, the winner of the Barbaro Stakes, by a dominating seven lengths. Warriors Reward is back for more as well, looking for some redemption, and whose to say he won't turn the tables on his rival Kensei. Lastly you have Charitable Man, who has shown glimpses of talent, but has yet to really have a breakout performance, could the Travers be his time to shine. All the underdogs will be reviewed tomorrow, in my next edition of The Battle At Saratoga, stay tuned for more...