Blue Norther Stakes
New Years Stakes
Road to the Derby
Year in Review
Letruska heads to the winner's circle after the Personal Ensign (G1)
The 44,507 fans who crammed into historic Saratoga Race Course for the 152nd Travers Stakes were also treated to 6 additional graded stakes on the undercard, 3 of which are Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" qualifiers for this year's World Championshps at Del Mar. Conditions were less than ideal, with dark overcast skies, intermittent rain, and temperatures in the low 70's, with the main track remaining fast and turf courses firm.
NYRA President & CEO Dave O'Rourke said, "The New York Racing Association thanks our fans for their tremendous support today and throughout the 2021 summer meet here at historic Saratoga Race Course, and we look forward to closing out the meet with fan appreciation week. We would also like to thank Governor Hochul for joining us today to witness history and present the Man o' War Cup." Kathy Hochul is the first female governor in New York State history after being sworn in on Tuesday.
Gufo wins the Sword Dancer
Jockey Manny Franco sent 17-2 Channel Maker to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.38, 48.59, 1:14.42, and 1:39.16 while pressed by Trubhuvan and stalked by 10-1 Rockemperor. At the top of the lane Channel Maker continued to lead through 10f in 2:04.04 but tired badly, as Gufo, last early under Joel Rosario, swept to the lead 3 wide. Japan, 4th early, put in a strong 4 wide rally but Gufo held him off to win by a neck in 2:28.30. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to 5-1 fourth choice Cross Border third.
Previous winners of the Sword Dancer
Full results chart
Left: Gufo in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "I am delighted with this horse and the way he ran today. He is a top-class horse. He's always been a top-class horse. A mile-and-a-quarter, a mile-and-a-half, it really doesn't matter for him. I am delighted to win this race. The race set up perfect. There was plenty of pace. The stable has been lucky [winning] that way this year. This is fun, and it's the kind of race we like to win."
Right: Gufo gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "I had a very good trip. It looked like they went nice and firm. It was a nice pace and on the backside, I was just moving nicely with my horse and decided to be where I was. He ran a really good race today and turning for home, it was just a really good performance."
The $600,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) presented by Lia Infiniti featured 9 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles with the winner earning a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Ogden Phipps (G1) and Fleur de Lis (G2) winner Letruska was sent off as the 3-4 favorite over 4-1 second choice Swiss Skydiver, 4th in the Whitney (G1) after finishing 3rd in the Apple Blossom (G1), and 15-2 third choice Harvey's Lil Goil, 4th in the Diana (G1).
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Letruska to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.01, 46.74, and 1:10.76 while pressed by 42-1 Miss Marissa and stalked by Swiss Skydiver. Into the lane Letruska continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:36.16. 23-1 Bonny South, 7th early, put in a strong 3 wide rally but Letruska held her off to win by 1/2 a length in 1:49.15. It was a head back to 10-1 Royal Flag third.
Previous winners of the Personal Ensign
Full results chart
Left: Letruska in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Fausto Gutierrez said, We take the lead and take the control. Finally, she take the take control running, it was 46 [half-mile] and I think today it was a good fraction. For sure, after that she had to be running. Races like this are important to win. I'm very happy because this is a race we put on the schedule. I had concerns when they were running at her because these are very good horses and they are in good form. It's not easy. She don't have nothing to show to nobody. I'm very pleased with the way she run. Every place that she's run, with all the horses she run against, she's fast. She fights and she's a real racehorse.
Right: Letruska heads back to the barn after the race.
The horses break from the gate for the Personal Ensign. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "She's a special horse. I am very excited and happy for the trainer, Fausto Gutierrez. He's done such a great job with her. She's doing great. She does all the hard work, I just pilot her. She's easy to ride. After the Apple Blossom, she was doing something that we didn't know about her. We always knew she was a nice filly, but she likes to fight. She's a fighter."
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. Gamine, winner of 4 straight including the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) and the Derby City Distaff (G1), was sent off as the 3-10 favorite over 4-1 second choice Ce Ce, winner of the Princess Rooney (G2), and 19-2 third choice Sconsin, 2nd in the Roselana after winning the Winning Colors (G3).
After bumping with Estilo Talentoso at the start, jockey John Velazquez sent Gamine to the lead out of the chute and she set fractions of 23.20 and 45.68 while pressed by 14-1 Estilo Talentoso. Turning for home Gamine opened up a 1 1/2 length advantage through 3/4 in 1:09.20, and despite drifting out late, cruised to a 1 3/4 length win over 18-1 Lake Avenue in 1:21.61. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Ce Ce third.
Previous winners of the Ballerina
Full results chart
Left: Gamine in the winner's circle. Jimmy Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "We were down in the one-hole, so you have to break and go from there. She handled the gate well, broke well and Johnny put her in the race. The 23 [second quarter-mile] felt pretty comfortable, 45 was pretty comfortable. [They were gaining on her] slightly, but once Johnny got her to switch leads, I wasn't really concerned. They were moving but we were still running. She sure does enjoy New York. She's been good and solid. The Gamine machine – that's her."
Right: Gamine heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "She just kind of waited and then by the quarter pole, I asked her for what she needed to do, and she got it done. I didn't think there was much speed in the race. She's a nice horse to relax. If they went fast, she was going to go fast. If they went slow, she was going to go slow, so that's what I like about her. When she's in the lead, she's in control of herself."
The $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) featuring a field of 6 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Sham (G3) and San Felipe (G2) winner Life is Good was sent off as the 9-10 favorite over 3-2 second choice Jackie's Warrior, winner of the Amsterdam (G2) after finishing 2nd in the Woody Stephens (G2), and 13-2 third choice Following Sea, second in the Haskell (G1).
Jockey Mike Smith sent Life is Good to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 21.97 and 44.16 while pressed by Jackie's Warrior and stalked by Following Sea. Into the lane jockey Joel Rosario sent Jackie's Warrior to gain a short lead through 3/4 in 1:08.36. The pair battled to the line as Jackie's Warrior prevailed by a neck in 1:21.39. It was a long 8 3/4 lengths back to Following Sea third.
Previous winners of the H. Allen Jerkens
Full results chart
Left: Jackie's Warrior returns after the race. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Jackie was away clean so I wasn't concerned when Life Is Good outbroke him. When they threw up 44 they were rolling along. They separated from the others. This horse is incredible. The thing you just love about him is his demeanor and the way he goes about everything that he does. We breezed Jackie and Yaupon [who won the G1 Forego a race earlier] together 12 or 13 days ago and the way that they handled it and the way they came back from it gives you all kinds of confidence. I think they both ran their race and showed their Grade 1 ability against great fields and on Travers Day. What could be better?"
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Life is Good returns after the race. Jockey Mike Smith said, "He never stops trying. It was his first race back. We're asking him to run against probably the best sprinters in the country, if not the world, to be honest with you right now, and for him to run like he did it was pretty incredible. I would like to have been able to just gear him down a little bit more down the backside, but he's very aggressive and every movement you make, he feels it and he responds to it. If you try to grab him he runs on you, he pulls more and wants to get out so you got to really be sensitive with it and I thought he ran great for his first race back, I really did."
The $600,000 Forego Stakes (G1) featured a field of 8 older horses sprinting 7 furlongs. Lite the Fuse Stakes winner Yaupon was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 15-4 second choice Whitmore, 3rd in the Churchill Downs (G1) and the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1), and 4-1 third choice Mind Control, winner of the John A. Nerud (G2).
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. sent Yaupon to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 23.09 and 45.70 while pressed by 17-2 Firenze Fire and stalked by 19-1 Chance It. Turning for home, Yaupon continued to lead through 3/4 in 1:09.25. Firenze Fire closed the gap, bumped with and attempted to bite Yaupon at the 1/16 pole but Yaupon held him off to win by a head in 1:21.74. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Chance It third. Whitmore, who finished 5th, was pulled up in distress after the finish by jockey Joel Rosario and vanned back to the barn. Trainer Ron Moquett announced that Whitmore was immediately retired from racing due to a minor injury, but did walk into his stall sound.
Previous winners of the Forego
Full results chart
Left: Yaupon in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Everybody's always known what a brilliant horse he is, the talent that he's shown and for him to show up today on a stage and beat five Grade 1 winners was amazing."
Right: Yaupon heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "The last time I took him back, but I know the horse really well. Today, there was no speed in the race, so I decided to go and he's a firing horse so thankfully we got the victory today. (The savaging at the 1/16 pole) was kind of scary. That never happened to me before and the only thing I can think is don't stop riding."
Firenze Fire attempted to savage Yaupon for a good 1/16th of a mile down the stretch. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "It's very exciting to have a winner of the Grade 1 Forego for the Heiligbrodts [owners]. But the finish made it that much more dramatic. I will watch that replay many times in my future. [Firenze Fire savaging Yaupon in deep stretch] in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable. Honestly I watched it from the apron down the stretch. I was worried he was going to bite Ricardo. We've had some not ideal finishes this year and you're not there until you get to the wire."
Jose Ortiz aboard Firenze Fire said, "I had perfect position; I stayed next to [Yaupon] and I thought I had him beat, but you saw what happened inside the 1/16 [when] my horse tried to bite the other horse and I really had to get a hold of him to get him away from him. Honestly, it was really weird, I've never been in that before. I know he did it one time but it wasn't as bad as today, he got me too close to the horse when he did that. The [gallop-out] was perfect; he came back in great order, I think he should've won that race."
Kicking off the Saturday stakes septet was the $400,000 Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) featuring a field of 6 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course. De La Rose 4th place finisher Viadera was sent off as the 4-5 favorite over two horses at 5-1, Kalifornia Queen, 2nd in the Matchmaker (G2), and Tamahere, 9th in the Just a Game (G1).
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Tamahere to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 22.60, 47.55, and 1:12.12 while pressed by 12-1 longest shot Platinum Paynter and staked by Viadera. Entering the lane Tamahere continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:35.77 but was tiring. Viadera, 3 wide under Joel Rosario, took over inside the 1/16 and held off late-running 8-1 High Opinion to win by a nose in 1:41.82. It was another 1/2 length back to Kalifornia Queen third.
Previous winners of the Ballston Spa
Full results chart
Left: Viadera in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "Joel got in really good position this time and made sure there weren't too many horses in front of him in his way when he wanted to make his run. She got a nice, pocketed ground-saving trip, and once again she showed that she knows where the wire is. She's won a couple of close photo finishes now in her career. (After a layoff) she was entered at Belmont before the meet started and she got rained out. She was ready to run. Hopefully, she has a couple more really good races in her before her career is over at the end of the year. She's in fine form now, so hopefully she stays healthy."
Right: Viadera heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "It was a better trip today with horses being in front and I was able to track there for a little bit. Turning for home, I was clear. She always tries really hard. She's a very good filly. At the last minute, I knew the horse was coming inside [High Opinion], but she was so game and fighting going forward, so I was never worried about it, but that horse came very close."
On to the Travers Stakes
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