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Sadler's Joy and jockey Julien Leparoux after winning the Sword Dancer
The 47,725 fans who crammed into historic Saratoga Race Course for the 148th Travers Stakes were also treated to 6 additional graded stakes on the undercard, 4 of which are Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" qualifiers for this year's Championshps at Del Mar. Conditions were ideal for racing, with mostly sunny skies, minimal wind, and temperatures in the low 70's, with the main track fast and turf courses firm. Total handle of $47.8 million is the second highest total in Travers Day history, with $10.8 million bet on track. The 2015 card which featured Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, still holds the wagering record.
Sadler's Joy wins the Sword Dancer
31-1 longest shot Frank Conversation set the early pace of 24.42, 49.17, and 1:14.19 while pressed by Idaho and stalked by Erupt. Down the backstretch, Idaho ganed a short lead through 1 mile in 1:38.52 but Frank Conversation regained the front through 10f in 2:01.90 and held the lead to the 1/8 pole before tiring. 7-1 Sadler's Joy, last early under Julien Leparoux, came out 6 wide for the drive and rallied past the rest of the field to win by 1/2 a length over Money Multiplier in 2:24.58 over the firm going. It was just a nose back to 8-1 Bigger Picture third, while favorite Idaho checked in 6th.
Previous winners of the Sword Dancer
Full results chart
Left: Sadler's Joy in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said, "He kind of propped leaving there and Julien said he didn't know what happened. He kind of just stalled on the break and then when he got going he felt really happy with the place he was in and felt that the pace was honest and he didn't panic and just waited for the right moment to push the button. Julien has ridden him well every time. We had some misfortune, maybe, in the Man o' War when we got boxed in the whole race, but that's racing luck. Today he showed that kick. This horse has that tremendous kick and he did it today."
Right: Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Idaho in the post parade. T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O'Brien said, "I don't know, maybe the pace was a bit slow for him. He just ran a little disappointing for us, that's all. He'll go home now and Aidan will decide what he's going to do with him." Jockey Ryan Moore added, "I'm not really sure. It's disappointing how he ran. I was happy with how he was going, just disappointed in the end."
Kicking off the stakes septet on Travers day, the $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) featured a short field of 4 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles with the winner earning a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Ogden Phipps (G1) and Delaware Handicap (G1) winner Songbird was sent off as the 2-5 favorite over 2-1 Forever Unbridled, winner of the Fleur de Lis (G2), 15-2 Going for Broke, 2nd in the Shine Again, and 13-1 Eskenformoney, 2nd in the Molly Pitcher (G3).
Jockey Mike Smith sent Songbird to a clear lead first time by and she set fractions of 24.14, 47.91, 1:12.29, and 1:36.96 while as many as 3 1/2 lengths in front of Going for Broke second, in turn 2 lengths ahead of Eskenformoney. Into the lane, jockey Joel Rosario moved Forever Unbridled out 4 wide. Put to a drive, Forever Unbridled caught Songbird in the final 50 yards to win by a neck in 1:49.16. It was a long 4 1/2 lengths back to Eskenformoney third, and another 23 1/2 lengths to Going for Broke last.
Previous winners of the Personal Ensign
Full results chart
Left: Forever Unbridled in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Dallas Stewart said, "You knew (Songbird on the lead) was going to happen, you just had to go find her at the 1/4 pole. I just let Rosario do his thing. I was hoping she'd get there, but you never know when you're trying to run down a champion. She kept coming back on and coming back on (after Songbird in the stretch). It wasn't easy, but she did it. I don't think he ever hit her because she hates the whip. It's not easy to win a race like this against a champion. The way she's training and the way she's always trained, she's a great mare. She's powerful and strong like Winning Colors was; she's that type of mare."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Songbird heads out for the post parade. Jockey Mike Smith said, "I wish they would've come right next to me because I think she would've picked it up maybe held them off, in saying that I ran my race, when I asked her heading for home she accelerated, she's not supposed to get run down, and he ran me down. When (Rosario on Forever Unbridled) passed me, I saw him in the screen I knew he was too far out for me to get out there though, and she's running so hard and sometimes when a horse is running so hard, and I was going to reach back and get into it, but she was giving me what she had and sometimes when you do that you're taking away their run instead of encouraging them to run. I hate to get beat. I'm very competitive, but in saying that all I can do is my best, ask her for hers, and we just got run today."
The $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (G1) featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 7 furlongs on the main track, with the winner earning automatic entry in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Paulassilverlining, winner of 4 straight including the Madison (G1), Humana Distaff (G1), and Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) was sent off as the 5-2 favorite over 3-1 Curlin's Approval, winner of the Princess Rooney (G2), and 7-2 Carina Mia, winner of the Shine Again after finishing 4th in the Ogden Phipps (G1) .
Jockey Rajiv Maragh sent 11-2 By the Moon to the lead exiting the chute and she set fractions of 24.05 and 47.81 while pressed by 5-1 Highway Star and stalked by Paulassilverlining. By the Moon continued to lead into the lane through 3/4 in 1:10.90. Highway Star attempted to close late but By the Moon held her off by a head in 1:22.97. It was a length back to Carina Mia third, while Paulassilverlining faded to 5th.
Previous winners of the Ballerina
Full results chart
Left: By the Moon heads to the winner's circle. Winning trainer Michelle Nevin said, "It looked like there wasn't a ton of speed in here. Rajiv had talked about it yesterday and this morning that he wanted to be prepared right out of the gate to see what kind of scenario was going to unfold. Oh my God, did he give her a great ride. This was a wide-open race with some very good fillies and I think just tactics and an excellent ride won the race. Awesome job."
Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Paulassilverlining heads out for the post parade. Trainer Chad Brown said, "Paulasilverlining just didn't fire today, which is not like her. Prior to this, she's won every race for us and showed up so I'm not sure. We'll have to reevaluate her."
The $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) (formerly run as the King's Bishop Stakes) featured a field of 9 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Dwyer (G3) winner Practical Joke was sent off as the 2-1 favorite off his third place finish in the Haskell Invitational (G1). In to challenge him included 9-4 second choice American Anthem, winner of the Woody Stephens (G2), and 7-2 third choice Coal Front, undefeated winner of the Amsterdam (G2).
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 6-1 Takaful to the lead exiting the chute and he set fractions of 22.36 and 45.05 while pressed by 30-1 Phi Beta Express and stalked by Coal Front. On the far turn Joel Rosario sent Practical Joke, 5th early, through along the rail and then angled out 2 wide at the 3/16 to take over the lead through 3/4 in 1:09.39. Kept to task by Rosario, Practical Joke pulled away to a 1 1/4 length win over Takaful in 1:21.96. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to American Anthem third.
Previous winners of the H. Allen Jerkens
Full results chart
Left: Practical Joke in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "To cut back all the way to 7/8 after a tough race in the Haskell, I'm so proud of this horse. He's so versatile. It was his third race in seven weeks. He's our iron horse. The rail draw can be tricky going seven-eighths. I was a little concerned they weren't going quite fast enough and the horse I anticipated going with him didn't, so it worried me a bit. Once he came off the turn and the had the momentum, he looked like the winner to me. Looking at the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, it's a tricky race because it's around two turns. He's undefeated on one turn, but the mile distance seems perfect for him, so if I had to guess right now, that's where we'll end up. But I'll talk to the owners about it, enjoy this and of course observe the horse."
Right: Practical Joke heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "His best races are around one turn and he always tries hard. He's a very good horse. He showed that today. I had a great trip. I was just watching for traffic and waiting for the right time to make my move moving forward. Around the turn he just started picking up horses like the great horses he is. I was able to ride him with a lot of confidence the whole time."
The $700,000 Forego Stakes (G1) is a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier in the Dirt Mile division with a field of 10 older horses sprinting 7 furlongs. Last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Drefong was sent off as the 6-5 favorite after unseating jockey Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby (G1) last out, over 5-2 Mind Your Biscuits, winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) and Belmont Sprint (G1) and 4-1 Divining Rod, winner of the Polynesian.
Jockey Mike Smith sent Drefong to the lead down the backstretch and he set fractions of 22.89, 45.58, and 1:08.92 while pressed by 18-1 Stallwalkin' Dude and stalked by 29-1 Tale of S'avall. Entering the lane Drefong opened up by 3 lengths at the 1/8 pole, and cruised to a 4 length win over late-running 12-1 Awesome Slew in 1:21.12. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 44-1 longest shot Tom's Ready third.
Previous winners of the Forego
Full results chart
Left: Drefong in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said (by phone from Del Mar), "We just saw the real Drefong. You would have seen him last time if Mike Smith hadn't fallen off (last out). It's a good thing that everything turned out alright because otherwise, I would have never brought him to the Forego. He's a great horse and he's always been a champion. When he hit that third gear there, I was really happy, and happy to hear the cheers. We gave him a lot of time off and brought him back. It was a lot of patience there. To bring him back to the Breeders' Cup we wanted to get two good runs in him. Sometimes things work out for the best. This was pretty exciting. He's a beautiful horse.
Right: Drefong heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "I was hoping that he would run like he did last year here. He really likes that summer breeze here. I knew that he was liking it today and I was just thinking positive. I think he ran even better than last year."
Closing out the stakes action on Travers day was the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf course. Gamely (G1) and Diana (G1) winner Lady Eli was sent off as the 7-10 favorite in the field of 5 over 9-5 Antonoe, winner of the Just a Game (G1) then third in the Diana, and 9-1 Dickinson, winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1).
Jockey Paco Lopez sent Dickinson to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 24.34, 48.92, and 1:11.64 while pressed by Antonoe and stalked by 14-1 On Leave. Dickinson continued to lead to the 1/8 pole through 1 mile in 1:33.95 but Lady Eli, 4th early under Irad Ortiz Jr., came out for room into the lane and rallied past her late to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:39.70. It was a neck back to late-running 19-2 Roca Rojo third.
Previous winners of the Ballston Spa
Full results chart
Left: Lady Eli in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "She is amazing. I'm so glad we decided to bring her here today, for a lot of reasons. We got a good race into her again and most important, all the fans at Saratoga, and beyond got to see her race here one more time; just a great day. I have so much confidence in her. You never really know until they cross the wire, but when she tipped out I know how devastating her turn-of-foot is, and I felt confident she would get it done. She really is a horse of a lifetime. Everything she's overcome; just her natural abilities are remarkable, and she's just a rare, rare horse. Winning this race, she was unlucky losing off the layoff, so It's nice to kind of kill two birds with one stone so to speak and wipe the slate clean."
Right: Lady Eli heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "I got a perfect trip, I saved ground on the first turn and then split some horses and when I dug in, I asked her and she was there for me. She's my favorite. I have been on her for her whole life. I'm just excited for her and I'm excited that we won another race."
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