06/09/2011 10:55AM

Belmont: Travelin Man gets rail again in Woody Stephens


ELMONT, N.Y. − Both times that Travelin Man has drawn inside posts, he has failed to win despite being a strong favorite. He will try to end that streak Saturday, when he breaks from the rail as the likely favorite in the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens Stakes, part of the Belmont Stakes undercard at Belmont Park.

The Stephens is named for the Hall of Fame trainer who won five straight Belmonts from 1982 to 1986, a feat that contributed to this seven-furlong race being renamed from the Riva Ridge. It is the eighth race on the 13-race card and kicks off a pick-four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

In his last start, Travelin Man faded to finish sixth of nine in the Derby Trial, a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs on April 30. Breaking from post 2 that day, he was part of a sharp pace and tired.

“I don’t think the mile had anything to do with how he ran in the Derby Trial,” trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday morning at Belmont Park. “I don’t think he liked the cuppy track that night. I don’t like having post 1 and top weight, but he’s doing well, so we’ll try again. It’s a very glib surface at the moment, one that he should like.”

Travelin Man has won twice in four starts. In his previous seven-furlong races, both at Gulfstream Park, he won the Swale Stakes and was second as the odds-on favorite in the Hutcheson Stakes, in which he broke from post 2.

Travelin Man and J J’s Lucky Train, who was third in the Derby Trial in his last start, are the 123-pound highweights in the race. Before the Derby Trial, J J’s Lucky Train won the Bay Shore at Aqueduct and the Miracle Wood at Laurel.

Justin Phillip was third in the Bay Shore, then was third in the Jerome. Adios Charlie, who won the Jerome, came back with a sharp performance in the Peter Pan, and Astrology, who was second, was a close third in the Preakness Stakes.

“I like the form from the last one,” Steve Asmussen, who trains Justin Phillip, said Thursday morning.

Justin Phillip, named for a son of owner Ahmed Zayat, has made one start at Belmont Park, beating maidens in his second lifetime start in September.

Arch Traveler and Little Drama both should be well supported.

Arch Traveler was an impressive winner of the overnight Ziggy’s Boy Stakes here May 12 at the same seven-furlong distance. That was Arch Traveler’s first start since fading to sixth in the Florida Derby.

Little Drama, third to Travelin Man in the Swale on April 3, won a minor stakes race at Parx Racing in his last start. This will be his first race at Belmont Park.

Bold Warrior comes off a victory against maidens in only his second start on May 21. This is a far stronger field.

Derivative won a third-level allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 14, his second win in his last three starts. In his only previous try in a stakes race, he tired to finish eighth of 11 in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park.