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Glorious Empire gets a pat from jockey Julien Leparoux after winning the Sword Dancer
The 49,418 fans who crammed into historic Saratoga Race Course for the 149th 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 Churchill Downs. Conditions were ideal for racing, with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70's, with the main track fast and turf courses firm. Despite the early retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify, a new record Travers Day total handle of $52.1 million was set, with $11.5 million bet on track, shattering the old record set during the 2015 card which featured Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Glorious Empire wins the Sword Dancer
Jockey Julien Leparoux sent 16-1 shot Glorious Empire loose on the lead immediately through fractions of 23.16, 48.18, 1:13.88, and 1:38.82 while pressed by 7-1 Channel Maker and stalked by 6-1 Funtastic. Entering the stretch for the last time, Glorious Empire continued to lead through 10f in 2:01.86. Kept to task by Leparoux, Glorious Empire cruised the rest of the way to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Channel Maker in 2:24.41. It was another 2 lengths back to Spring Quality third, while favorite Sadler's Joy checked in 6th.
Previous winners of the Sword Dancer
Full results chart
Left: Glorious Empire in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chuck Lawrence said, "We knew this horse had this kind of talent, it was just a matter of getting it to come out, so here we go. I thought the 23 quarter got us, but then he really slowed it down for Julien, luckily. When he slowed it down, I was pretty happy and I just kept yelling throughout the turn, 'Julien, let him go, let him go.' I knew he was fit, it was just a matter of getting the wire to come fast enough. He responded at the top of the lane. That was really special. This is my first Grade 1 and we're going to bask in it. Of course, the Breeders' Cup is going to be a big option." Jockey Julien Leparoux added, "He traveled very good for me, and he's got that kick, you know, and at the end he just exploded. It was a rough race, like the last time. The first quarter was fast, but today he settled very nicely and picked the pace up pretty quickly."
Right: Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Sadler's Joy in the post parade. Trainer Tom Albertrani said, "He didn't quite have any kick today. I don't know why; the horse went into the race as good as ever, I thought, and for whatever reason, we just didn't have any horse today. They slowed [the pace] down, but he usually comes within a little bit of a run. This is the first time I saw him run that may have been probably his worse race. He normally is right there, but for some reason, he had no fire turning for home.
The $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) featured 6 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles with the winner earning a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Ogden Phipps (G1) winner Abel Tasman was sent off as the 3-4 favorite over 2-1 Elate, winner of the Delaware Handicap (G2), and 9-2 Wow Cat, 2nd in the Shuvee (G3) after winning the Chilean St. Leger (G1).
Jockey Eric Cancel sent 56-1 longest shot She Takes Heart to the lead first time by through a quarter of 23.31 before Abel Tasman took over through fractions of 46.62 and 1:10.26. Entering the lane, Abel Tasman continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:34.85. Elate, 5th early, put in a strong late rally but Abel Tasman, confidently ridden by Mike Smith, held her off by a neck in 1:47.19. It was a long 9 3/4 lengths back to Wow Cat third. Jose Ortiz aboard Elate claimed foul against Smith for interference but the claim was disallowed by the stewards.
Previous winners of the Personal Ensign
Full results chart
Left: Abel Tasman in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "She's just phenomenal. She's just getting better with age and she's brought us so much satisfaction. I could have easily run her at Del Mar, but I wanted to come to Saratoga. It doesn't get any bigger than this, when you can win here in front of all these people on Travers Day. There were some other good fillies that looked really good in there. It's a great rivalry (with Elate). We're still ahead of her, but that was two great fillies there just laying it down. I didn't see that [contact] during the race. I thought she was going to get by us there, but I could tell by the way Mike was riding he wasn't really worried.
Right: Abel Tasman heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "Down the stretch, we came together. [That was] the reason for the foul, but we didn't knock each other outside. We just came together nice and easy and then after that, we actually did the same thing again when she came down. It didn't cost either filly anything and the best filly won today. What a gallant race she ran today. It was a really big race she won today."
The $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (G1) featured a field of 8 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. Desert Stormer (G3) and Great Lady M (G2) winner Marley's Freedom was sent off as the 9-5 favorite over 11-4 Lewis Bay, winner of the Bed O'Roses (G3), and 3-1 Finley'sluckycharm, winner of the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2).
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. sent Finley'sluckycharm to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 23.11 and 45.44 while pressed by Lewis Bay and stalked by 7-1 Ivy Bell. Turning for home, jockey Mike Smith moved Marley's Freedom 5 wide for room and she swept to the front through 3/4 in 1:08.92. Kept to task by Smith, Marley's Freedom drew off late to win by 3 1/4 lengths over late-running 9-1 Still There in 1:21.39. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Lewis Bay third.
Previous winners of the Ballerina
Full results chart
Left: Marley's Freedom in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "Winning her last two races was pretty impressive. The quality is there and you have to come to Saratoga if you are looking for a championship. That is why I brought her, to see how she fits [and] this is a pretty good field. She handled it well and we saw what's she's made of. Not sure what she'll do next. We'll just get her back and see if she needs another race. [It was an] unbelievable race today. When I saw her at the top of the stretch on the outside, I felt pretty good. She had an extra gear, that's how she works. She and Abel [Tasman] have been working unbelievably. I didn't think she would win by that far."
Right: Marley's Freedom gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "Brilliant. I hadn't gotten to ride her in a while but last time I rode her in Florida she stumbled so bad and just never got up an got going but today everything went brilliant."
Kicking off the graded stakes septet on Saturday was the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) featuring a field of 9 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Amsterdam (G3) winner Promises Fulfilled was sent off as the 5-4 favorite over 5-2 Firenze Fire, winner of the Dwyer (G3), and 5-1 Engage, 2nd in the Woody Stephens (G2) and the Amsterdam.
Jockey Luis Saez sent Promises Fulfilled to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 22.66 and 44.34 while pressed by 11-1 Gidu and stalked by Engage. Turning for home Promises Fulfilled continued to lead through 3/4 in 1:08.44. 32-1 Seven Trumpets, 7th early under Robby Albarado, came through on the inside for his rally but Promises Fulfilled easily held him off by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:21.44. It was another 1/2 length back to Firenze Fire third.
Previous winners of the H. Allen Jerkens
Full results chart
Left: Promises Fulfilled in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Dale Romans said, "Most people in the game know that Allen [Jerkens] and I were very close. He was a good friend and mentor in life. Everybody knows what a great horse trainer he was, and he was a better person. It's an honor to win this race and I think to get up for second we might have had a little divine intervention. When they put the second quarter up, I wasn't worried, I thought that was slow for him. He's been going 43 [seconds] the last two races. He's special. It's just going to be who has the most stamina and we know the kind of stamina he has to win."
Right: Promises Fulfilled returns after the race. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "It was pretty nice. I was the speed in the race and my plan was to break and run him from there and find out who was bad, who was in the lead, so we can take it. He looked like he was very comfortable when he came to the stretch, he stretched the lead and took off."
The $600,000 Forego Stakes (G1) is a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier in the Dirt Mile division with a field of 8 older horses sprinting 7 furlongs. Oaklawn Handicap (G2) winner and Santa Anita Gold Cup (G1) 3rd place finisher City of Light was sent off as the 4-5 favorite over 11-2 C Z Rocket, winner of the Kelly's Landing, and 6-1 Limousine Liberal, winner of the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2).
55-1 longest shot No Dozing set the pace of 22.48 and 44.84 while pressed by C Z Rocket and stalked by 14-1 Warrior's Club. On the far turn, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. sent 9-1 Whitmore, 6th early, through on the inside and he surged to the lead through 3/4 in 1:08.82. Kept to task by Santana, Whitmore drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running favorite City of Light in 1:21.46. It was a nose back to Limousine Liberal third.
Previous winners of the Forego
Full results chart
Left: Whitmore in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Ron Moquett said, "To run that well here, he's as consistent as they come and he tries every time. He's made a career out of outrunning his trainer and I just hope he keeps doing it. He's a cool dude. He's fun to be around. He's a challenge. He brings that same tenacity on the track. Ricardo has confidence in him. You know you live by the sword you die by the sword. Last time we didn't make it this time we look like geniuses." Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. added, "That was the trip I wanted. We saved all the ground, and we got lucky that a whole opened on the turn for home. That's when I let him run and he was feeling good today. Last time we got in a little trouble and today we got a clean trip. Everything was perfect and we'll take the victory."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite City of Light in the post parade. Trainer Mike McCarthy said, "I thought the race kind of shaped up as we planned. It looked like leaving away from there the ground kind of broke out from him a little bit. He broke real hard and kind of went down half a step and then gathered himself up. I think had we drawn inside it might have been a lot different but he was traveling comfortably throughout, he cut the corner and put in a run but the other horse had already gotten away from him. He put in a super effort; I can't be upset with that."
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. Just a Game (G1) winner and Diana (G1) third place finisher A Raving Beauty was sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the field of 6 over 15-4 Quidura, last year's's runner-up and 2nd in allowance company last out, and 5-1 Off Limits, 4th in the Just a Game.
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Quidura to the lead first time by through fractions of 24.19, 48.11, and 1:11.37 while pressed by 8-1 Hawksmoor and stalked by 11-2 Proctor's Ledge. Entering the lane, Quidura opened up a 1 1/2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:33.74. Kept to task by Ortiz, Quidura cruised to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Hawksmoor in 1:39.67. It was another 1 1/4 length back to 18-1 longest shot Indian Blessing third, and a nose back to favorite A Raving Beauty fourth.
Previous winners of the Ballston Spa
Full results chart
Left: Quidura in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "We bought her at the sale last year and gave her plenty of time off. She's had two starts this year. In her last start, it was on really soft turf that she doesn't like and she still almost won. Coming off that race, she was training strong and got the firm ground she liked. The track helped her today. the other ones it hurt. It was very, very firm today. Very speed favoring." Jockey Jose Ortiz added, "Perfect trip. We wanted to go to the lead, but it didn't matter I had the whole inside, if I wasn't going to go, but once I led her there, she kept going."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite A Raving Beauty returns after the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "I was surprised she didn't fire. I have to re-evalute her."
On to the Travers Stakes
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