December 6, 2023

O’Neill provides positive update on Travers-bound Irap

Irap's win in the Indiana Derby (G3) was his most dominating of the season (John Engelhardt photo)

A full field of 14 is expected for the $1.25 million Travers on August 26 and Irap figures to be one of the top betting choices, recording graded stakes victories in three of his last four starts. It will be the 3-year-old colt’s first attempt at the Grade 1 level since a troubled 18-place effort in the Kentucky Derby and trainer Doug O’Neill is looking forward to the challenge.

“He’s always been a really physically mature horse, even at a young age, but the last three months or so, he’s just really matured a ton mentally,” O’Neill said. “And he had some foot bruises here and there and that’s really turned around too. Knock on wood, his feet are really good right now and he’s coming around at the right time.”

Based at Del Mar, the son of Tiznow will log his final work Saturday and is scheduled to ship to Saratoga Tuesday.

Irap didn’t follow a conventional pattern to the Kentucky Derby, losing his initial seven starts before becoming the first maiden to win the Blue Grass (G1) with a 31-1 upset at Keeneland, and his form has improved since the first leg of the Triple Crown. He came back to edge Girvin by a nose in the Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown and was flattered when that rival captured the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park.

After registering a whopping 109 BRIS Speed Rating in the Ohio Derby, Irap followed with a five-length romp in the Indiana Derby (G3) on July 15.

“He’s been knocking heads with some good ones and if you can put your thumb over the (Kentucky) Derby, his form has been pretty consistent his whole career,” O’Neill said of Irap, who recorded three runner-up finishes in stakes races prior to the Blue Grass. “There’s tons of upside with a horse like him.”

Owner Reddam Racing and O’Neill will be represented by a pair of runners on the Travers undercard.

Grade 2 winner Frank Conversation is headed to the $1 million Sword Dancer (G1) at 1 ½ miles on turf. The 4-year-old lost his tongue tie when finishing sixth in the July 29 Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga.

“He had a tongue tie come off somewhere between the starting gate and the finish line,” O’Neill said. “When he came back to get unsaddled, Mario (Gutierrez) said he just wasn’t getting good air out there and my assistant noticed there was no tongue tie on him. It was just a freakish thing. He came out of it physically sound, it’s just that that’s a big part of his equipment, so we’ll hope for a little better luck this time.”

Multiple restricted stakes victor Ann Arbor Eddie, who exits a second to Cal-bred rivals in the Real Good Deal at Del Mar, is targeted for the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1).

The 2-year-old filly Cause We Are Loyal, a New York-bred who broke her maiden by 8 ¼ lengths on July 15 at Los Alamitos, will run in the restricted Seeking the Ante on New York Showcase Day on August 25.