February 28, 2024

Six stakes featured on Travers undercard

Sadler's Joy winning the 2017 Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga (c) Joe Labozzetta/Coglianese Photography

The $1.25 million Travers (G1) serves as the main event and six additional stakes races, including five Grade 1s, support the centerpiece program of the Saratoga meet. Four are “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races and all appears to have implications for the Breeders’ Cup on November 2-3.

The $1 million Sword Dancer (G1) precedes the Travers and the 10-horse field features several American-based contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) including Sadler’s Joy, who finished fourth in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf and will make a title defense in the Sword Dancer; Man o’ War (G1) and Pan American (G2) winner Hi Happy; Manhattan (G1) victor Spring Quality; United Nations (G1) scorer Funtastic; and Bowling Green (G2) winner Channel Maker.

The stakes action kicks off with the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens (G1), a seven-furlong sprint for three-year-olds, and Promises Fulfilled is the one to beat following a 3 ¼-length triumph in the July 29 Amsterdam (G3) at Saratoga. Luis Saez rides the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hopeful for Dale Romans.

Rivals include nine-length Dwyer (G3) hero Firenze Fire; Woody Stephens (G2) winner Still Having Fun; and multiple stakes winner Gidu, who switches from turf to dirt for Todd Pletcher.

A top-heavy cast of six will square off in the $700,000 Personal Ensign (G1). Abel Tasman and Elate, leading candidates for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), will renew their rivalry in the 1 1/8-mile event. Abel Tasman, last year’s champion three-year-old filly, exits a seven-length romp in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Multiple Grade 1 queen Elate returned to action this year with a facile 3 ¼-length tally in the July 14 Delaware H. (G2).

Mike Smith guides Abel Tasman for Bob Baffert. Jose Ortiz sticks with the Bill Mott-trained Elate.

The $500,000 Ballerina (G1) will award an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) and a field of nine is set for the seven-furlong test. Finley’sluckycharm and Lewis Bay, who exit respective wins in the Honorable Miss (G2) and Bed o’ Roses (G3), are the main principals.

The $600,000 Forego (G1) is a “Win & You’re In” for the Sprint and a nice group of eight will travel seven furlongs. Malibu (G1) and Triple Bend (G1) conqueror City of Light should appreciate the cutback following a third to Accelerate in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1). Limousine Liberal and Whitmore, who were separated by a neck in the July 7 Belmont Sprint (G2), are quality foes and C Z Rocket merits respect after registering a 108 BRIS Speed rating for a convincing win in the Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs.

The $400,000 Ballston Spa (G2) concludes the stakes fare and Brown holds a strong hand with three of the six distaffers in the 1 1/16-mile turf affair. The leading conditioner will send out A Raving Beauty, Quidura and Off Limits.