Essential Quality Outruns Midnight Bourbon in Travers

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BloodHorse.com 28 August, 2021 - 05:33pm 39 views

What time is the Travers Stakes?

Fox will broadcast this year's 152nd running of the Travers starting at 5 p.m. Post time is 6:12 p.m. Lock Haven ExpressTravers Stakes 2021 to take place today | News, Sports, Jobs - The Express

Who won the Travers Stakes?

Belmont States winner Essential Quality won the 152nd running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, holding off Midnight Bourbon in a stirring stretch duel. Aug. 28, 2021, at 7:37 p.m. SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. U.S. News & World ReportEssential Quality Wins 152nd Running of Travers Stakes

Essential Quality - 2021 - The RunHappy Travers

The New York Racing Association, Inc. 28 August, 2021 - 10:00pm

Travers Stakes 2021 results and payouts

Daily Racing Form 28 August, 2021 - 06:44pm

Essential Quality battles to 2021 Travers Stakes win

Horse Racing Nation 28 August, 2021 - 05:25pm

It is always a bad idea to engage in a fight with Essential Quality.

Midnight Bourbon became the latest victim of the Godolphin homebred that will almost surely be crowned 3-year-old champion, succumbing to him a neck in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

In an age when too many horses are either retired abruptly or are unable to retain their form, hard-nosed Essentially Quality showed in the 152nd edition of the Travers that he is standing the test of time. He became the 29th horse to complete the Belmont-Travers double. He stands as the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to capture the Travers since Street Sense in 2007.

When trainer Brad Cox was asked what those factoids say about the gray son of Tapit, he offered a ready response. “He’s a true champion, that’s what it says,” Cox responded.

In reflecting on Essential Quality’s eighth victory in nine starts – one that hiked his career earnings to $4,215,144 – the element that towers above the rest is his willingness to slug it out with the best of his generation and dispatch them in the end.

He did that to Hot Rod Charlie in rallying to win the Juvenile and the Belmont Stakes. He fought to a neck decision against Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes. He endured a wide trip in the Jim Dandy, but he still found a way to be half a length better than Keepmeinmind in the Jim Dandy.

He had every reason to fall short in the Travers. Midnight Bourbon showed no ill effects from a hair-raising Haskell in which he clipped heels with Hot Rod Charlie and nearly fell, leading to the disqualification of Hot Rod Charlie. He broke sharply from the rail for jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., and was allowed a comfortable lead in the Travers. He covered the opening quarter of a mile in 24.18 seconds. He barely broke a sweat in a half that went in 48.96 seconds. He was still coasting through three quarters in 1:14.49 seconds on a fast track while Essential Quality and his rider, Luis Saez, patiently tracked them in second.

“We got the racetrack, the set-up, the chances we wanted, the right trip,” acknowledged trainer Steve Asmussen.

Still, Essential Quality and Saez always had the leader measured.

“Luis did a good job of recognizing that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of pace,” Cox said. “He asked him to run out of there and established good position and didn’t let Midnight Bourbon get too far away up the backside. I was a little worried up the backside once (Midnight Bourbon) cleared up with softer fractions.”

Saez gave Essential Quality his cue that it was time to brawl with three furlongs remaining. Cox no longer had to worry.

His colt sliced into the lead with every stride. Once he edged past Midnight Bourbon, there was no doubt he would stay on top. “He gets past the horse and he can stay there,” Saez said. “He don’t waste energy.”

Cox had entered the “Mid-Summer Derby” with a world of confidence. “He’s been touting himself for the last 10 days, two weeks. He had his game face on,” he said.

Asmussen pointed to the final time of 2:01.96 as a testament to the top two finishers. “For them to go from 14 and change to 2 and 1, they ran home. That’s picking it up,” he said.

Miles D, testing Grade 1 company for the first time in four lifetime starts, was impressive in finishing third for jockey Flavien Prat. “He’s lightly raced and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him,” said trainer Chad Brown.

Keepmeinmind, King Fury, Masqueparade and Dynamic One completed the order of finish.

Essential Quality clearly has the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6 in his future. But will he be given one more race as a prep to get there?  

“I have no clue right now,” Cox said. “We’ll take a deep breath and, obviously, watch him over the next week and go from there.”

It might be the only time Cox has been stumped since hard-hitting Essential Quality began demonstrating his quality at the start of his career.

Travers weekend a big boom for Saratoga businesses

WNYT 27 August, 2021 - 03:41pm

If opening day of the Saratoga season is Christmas in July for racing fans, then Travers weekend is Christmas in August for business owners.

After last season without fans, the business community is thrilled with their return this year.

Sales at Impressions of Saratoga have been even stronger than owner Mare Barker expected.

"Foot traffic has been amazing," Baker said. "People have just pent-up demand, more people are saying, 'God, we missed last year's, and we just want to make up for lost time. We missed it so much not being here.'"

Up the street at the upscale and sold out Saratoga Arms hotel, Travers week means big business and reunions.

"All weekends are big weekends, but Travers is something special," said Saratoga Arms General Manager Amy Smith. "This is the weekend where we see our returners. So of the thirty rooms we have, I would say 20 to 22 of them are people that have been with us at least 10 to 15 years."

Smith says many of her guests made Travers weekend a week this year – drawn in early for a Tuesday night James Taylor and Jackson Browne concert at SPAC.

Just off Broadway, the Travers makes Saratoga Candy Company's season even sweeter. Owner Dawn Oesch says sales are up over 25% from 2019 – a pleasant surprise.

"Were people still going to come out and people still be a part of the track? Wasn't sure. So it's blown my expectations," Oesch said.

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce says a sold-out Travers weekend is more than the exclamation point to a busy summer.

"To be honest with you, the fall might be stronger," said Todd Shimkus of the Chamber of Commerce. "Live Nation's going to deliver a lot of concerts that normally would've been done in July or August in September, even into October and the City Center is booked solid,"

But first the Travers, and a time for Saratoga Springs businesses like Cantina to put their best foot forward.

 "It's super important for the brand, and you really want to deliver on those days that resonate with people because it sells the rest of the year," Jeff Ames of Cantina said.

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Super Screener: Finding alternatives to the Travers fave

Horse Racing Nation 27 August, 2021 - 02:39pm

Let’s take a look at the Travers, which is contested at the classic distance of 1 1/4-miles.

Essential Quality is the top win contender and most likely to hit the board. However, for the more adventurous horseplayer, Super Screener has identified a top value play at a square of 8-1 price on the morning line, as well as a long shot play that could spice up the exotics at the very least.

To dig into this week’s Super Screener, click here.

Analysis, selections for Saratoga's all-stakes Pick 5

Horse Racing Nation 26 August, 2021 - 06:48pm

For all the years I have been coming to Saratoga, I’ve never been there for Travers Day. I wish I had a cool anecdote from a day at the track for Travers Day where I singled Arrogate to win it all, but I don’t have one.

When I used to make the trip with my grandfather, he used to say Travers Day was too busy and hectic for him, so we never went, and my friends and I are usually more interested in spending our money on big tickets rather than paying up to stay in town for Travers weekend. Still, this is one of the biggest race days of the year, comparable to Kentucky Derby Day, Belmont Stakes Day, and the Breeder’s Cup. 7 graded stakes, 6 of them of the Grade 1 variety, and a mandatory P5 with all G1s. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Before playoff games, one of my old football coaches said, “If you need a pregame speech to get your blood pumping for this game, you’re already dead.” Travers Day is the playoffs for any horse racing fan or handicapper, so even though I don’t have a Travers Day story, it shouldn’t matter.

#3 Lexitonian was my sneaky big-ticket add-on last out in the G1 Vanderbilt, and he delivered at a massive price (34-1). Tactically, the horse has changed styles dramatically from a stalker/closer type to an on the pace runner. To me, this race is screaming speed across the board.

Lexitonian should go, #7 Yaupon is going, and #6 Chance It, #3 Mind Control and #1 Mischevious Alex all could go as well. I hate to say it because I know I am going to bite my tongue later, but this race couldn’t set up better for #2 Whitmore.

I know his regular rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., jumps off to ride Yaupon, but Joel Rosario on a closer going 7F just feels like the right spot. He’s my top selection in here and I expect him to come rolling up the rail in the stretch. I’m a little surprised to see Yaupon stretched out to 7F, but he’s hard to ignore with some of his gaudy speed figures, so he’ll be on my ticket as well.

The heart Lexitonian showed to pull off the upset in the Vanderbilt, coupled with his strong showing in the Churchill Downs Stakes at 7F makes me a believer here as well.

For the big ticket, I also added in Mischevious Alex and Mind Control. I know it has been a tough meet for the Saffie Joseph barn, but this horse is going to bounce back after an extremely disappointing Vanderbilt. Mind Control also matched a career-best Beyer in his first run for the Todd Pletcher barn, and if he steps forward at all, he’s going to be right in it at the wire. 

I know that #1 Drain the Clock was impressive two back when upsetting the Woody Stephens at Belmont, but #2 Jackie’s Warrior ran him off his feet last out in such a dominating way that I have no faith that the Saffie Joseph trainee can turn the tables in this one.

What’s scary is that Joel Rosario had Jackie’s Warrior wrapped up for the final 1/16th of a mile in the Amsterdam, and he still put up a 7+ length win and a 102 Beyer figure. In most worlds, that would make him the easy single here.

However, #6 Life Is Good has returned from his layoff and now runs for the Todd Pletcher barn after tearing up the west coast Derby trail before getting injured. The colt is 3 for 3 with some eye-catching performances, and if he returns in similar form to earlier this year, he’s going to be a tough out. I think it would be wise for the other four horses to stay back and let the two machines fight it out in this one. There are some nice horses in here, but none of them quite match up with these two freakazoids.

First off, let me just say that I am thoroughly disappointed we likely won’t be seeing another Monomoy Girl-Letruska stretch battle this year. I am still holding out hope that Brad Cox gets Monomoy Girl back for the Breeders’ Cup, but it’s currently looking unlikely.

When we get into these premier filly & mare races, I just can’t help but think about Monomoy Girl. Let’s start with the last horse to beat her in #6 Letruska. She’s an obvious selection as she has just gotten better since the Apple Blossom back in April. Only #4 Swiss Skydiver owns a triple digit Beyer on the dirt other than Letruska, who has three in a row. She’s clearly the horse to beat, especially since she’ll be on the front end dictating the pace.

I don’t think there’s a speed horse in here who can run with Letruska, so I am tossing horses like #2 As Time Goes By and #7 Miss Marissa, but I do think they can challenge Letruska on the front end enough to soften her in the stretch drive.

I think the 2 horses that have a chance coming from off the pace are #3 Bonny South and #5 Royal Flag. Toss out Bonny South’s last race where she got absolutely no pace to run into and she can easily be due to bounce back.

Royal Flag won the Shuvee here back in July with a last to first finish, and I think she has a shot to be a factor in here again for Chad Brown & Joel Rosario.

On the big ticket, I have to include #4 Swiss Skydiver, because I’m still scared of her fastball (if she still has it), and #2 As Time Goes By, because if you toss her last start where she stumbled, she’s got plenty of class to lean on in this group. 

The Sword Dancer is one of my favorite races every year and I love that it shows up here on Travers Day. #4 Channel Maker & #7 Cross Border are still representing the old guard of Sword Dancers past, but the new guard is packing plenty of punch this year as well.

Let’s start with #1 Tribhuvan (FR), who since coming over to the US for Chad Brown has 3 triple-digit Beyers in 6 starts, including a front-running score in the G1 United Nations last out at Monmouth Park. He figured to be the early pacesetter and has shown that he can hold a lead. With Flavien Prat aboard, you have to respect his chances.

What might be concerning for the likely race favorite is the surprising amount of speed here. Channel Maker, when at his best, is running on the lead, and #5 Moretti, a surprising entry from the Todd Pletcher barn, is also likely to be gunning for the lead.

It’s a 12-furlong race, so they won’t be blazing along, but the likely traffic on the front-end should give you pause for the pacesetters.

I think the biggest beneficiary is #2 Gufo out of the Christophe Clement barn, who has done some of his best racing in these marathon distances. I love his chances coming down the stretch with a full head of steam.

Finally, on the big ticket, I included #7 Cross Border, who smoked me in the Bowling Green for the 2nd straight year a few weeks back. At the end of the day, you can’t ignore a horse who has 7 starts on the Saratoga turf and 6 wins. I don’t think he’s as talented as the other 2 horses I’ve got on top, but sometimes you can’t argue with results.

So here we are again just like on Jim Dandy Day, staring down the barrel of a potential single in #2 Essential Quality. He’s clearly going to be the odds-on favorite, and there’s not much tactically anyone can do to knock him out of that top spot. He’s just proven to be so versatile that he’s impossible to ignore.

From a pace scenario stance, I don’t really see anyone that’s going to give #1 Midnight Bourbon a hard time on the front end, except for maybe #6 Masqueparade, but the pace shouldn’t be fast regardless.

Could I see Midnight Bourbon getting away on the lead and having enough to hold on in the stretch? No. I really like the Steve Asmussen trainee, but he’s had too many chances to get over the wire first and hasn’t been able to pull it off since the Lecomte back in January.

If it’s going to be anyone, they’ll be rating along with Essential Quality from behind. #3 Keepmeinmind is another one who I’ve seen too many times come up short against Essential Quality (5 races, 0 placings ahead of Essential Quality), so he’s a toss for me, especially after he got a dream trip in the Jim Dandy and still couldn’t pull it off. If I’m taking a shot, it’s going to be with the 2 coming out of the Curlin Stakes back on July 30th.

Both #4 Dynamic One & #5 Miles D were impressive in that race. Irad Ortiz & Flavien Prat are aboard respectively, and it’s not often you’ll see 6-1 & 12-1 on horses ridden by those 2. I am including both on the big ticket, but Essential Quality is far and away the horse to beat, and I foresee this race as a coronation for him as champion 3-year-old.

No matter where you fall on these races, it is going to be another amazing Saturday in Saratoga.

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