With horse racing being as much about sport as about business, trainer Mark Casse’s reasoning for entering Wonder Gadot in the Travers Stakes is a sound one.
“We’re trying to make history,” he said. “And I think she has a good chance to do it.”
Sure enough, a lot of eyes at Saratoga and around the racing world will be on the three-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro when she starts from post two as the 5-1 third choice in Saturday’s $1.2-million classic.
She will be in a field of 11 headed by Haskell Invitational winner Good Magic, who was made the 2-1 favourite, and Belmont runner-up Gronkowski who was listed at 4-1.
Wonder Gadot is the first filly to run in the Travers since Davona Dale in 1979 and is looking to be the first since Lady Rotha in 1915 to win it. A product of Anderson Farms of St. Thomas, Ont., Wonder Gadot is also looking to become only the second Canadian bred to win the Midsummer Derby.
Runaway Groom, who like Wonder Gadot, entered the Travers off a win in the Prince of Wales Stakes, took a famous edition of the race in 1982, defeating all three winners of that year’s U.S. triple crown races.
Wonder Gadot is a study in consistency. In 14 races, she has five victories but also has eight other races in which she was beaten less than a length.
“She lost a million dollars in purses by less than four or five feet,” Casse said.
She is also consistent in her schedule, racing almost monthly since debuting at Woodbine, oddly enough on Travers day last year. And according to Casse, she can’t sit still.
“We ran her in the Breeders’ Cup (at Del Mar in November where she was a troubled sixth) and then brought her back home trying to give her some time. She was so full of energy, I told (owner Gary Barber) that I don’t know if we can give her some time so we took her (to Aqueduct) and she won the Demoiselle.”
It took her a few races to get going this season but she appeared to put it all together in the Kentucky Oaks, where she narrowly lost to Monomoy Girl.
“I might upset some people, particularly in the Monomoy Girl camp, but I really believe if she had not got into trouble early around the turn that it would have been a different outcome,” Casse said. “If you look at her races at a mile and an eighth and beyond, she has been a real superstar.”
Unfortunately, she ran into even greater trouble at the start and during the run of the Woodbine Oaks, when second to Dixie Moon but has nicely reversed that with her wins in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales.
Wonder Gadot has trained well for the Travers, drilling four furlongs in 47 3/5 last Friday after a 48-second work at Saratoga a week ago. Even with extra attention, she appears to be focused and won’t be fazed by the noise and crowd in upstate New York.
“She is a professional in every way. Nothing bothers her,” Casse said. “And I think she enjoys the attention. She has always been a cool, calm customer.”
If there was any hiccup, it came last Sunday when jockey John Velazquez opted to ride Vino Rosso in the race, leaving Casse to find a new rider.
The search only lasted a day and went much better than expected when trainer Bill Mott announced Hofburg would miss the race with a fever, freeing up Saratoga’s leading rider, Irad Ortiz Jr. to get the mount on the filly. Casse’s instructions to him will be simple.
“The only thing his has to do is get her into the race early,” he said. “She doesn’t have much of a turn of foot. She just has a good continuous motion and she had no quit in her.”
Casse turned heads when deciding to run her in this race instead of a couple of spots where she would have been heavily favoured last weekend, the Alabama at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine, where she could well have become the eighth horse to win the Canadian triple crown and the first since 2003.
But even with a field that includes Good Magic, Gronkowski, and Vino Rosso along with Jim Dandy winner Tenfold, Preakness runner-up Bravazo, and European runner Mendelssohn, who won the UAE Derby earlier this year, Wonder Gadot has plenty of support and some legitimate arguments in her favour.
“We feel the mile and a quarter is her game,” he said.
“We get five pounds (she will carry 121 pounds whereas the colts will carry 126), which at a mile and a quarter means something.”
“She may be the biggest, strongest horse in the race. She has beaten colts a couple of times. It’s a very good race. But I think we have as good a chance as anybody.”
Saturday at Saratoga, Post time: 5:40 p.m. (NBC)
1.Trigger Warning (Irwin Rosendo/Mike Rone) 30-1
2. Wonder Gadot (Irad Ortiz, Jr./Mark Casse) 5-1
3. Gronkowski (Joel Rosario/Chad Brown) 4-1
4. Bravazo (Luis Saez/D. Wayne Lukas) 12-1
5. Vino Rosso (John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher) 10-1
6. Meistermind (Manny Franco/Steve Asmussen) 15-1
7. King Zachary (Robby Albarado/Dale Romans) 30-1
8. Mendelssohn (Ryan Moore/Aidan O’Brien) 12-1
9. Good Magic (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown) 2-1
10. Tenfold (Ricardo Santana, Jr./Steve Asmussen) 8-1
11. Catholic Boy (Javier Castellano/Jonathan Thomas) 8-1
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies