08/20/2006 11:00PM

Bright One too sick for Travers

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Bright One, the West Virginia Derby winner who most likely would have been the third choice in Saturday's $1 million Travers, will miss the race due to illness, trainer Dale Romans said Monday.

Romans said Bright One was coughing a couple of hours after he breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning, and an endoscopic examination detected mucus his lungs. Depending on how quickly Bright One recovers, Romans said, he could be pointed to the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 23 or the $500,000 Indiana Derby on Oct. 7.

"He's not coming, as much as I would like to," Romans said. "Better to not be compromised going into a race like this."

The defection of Bright One leaves the Travers with a field of six, including the John Oxley-owned and John Ward-trained duo of Minister's Bid and Dr. Pleasure. Because the Travers has a $1 million purse, New York rules allow the two horses to run as an uncoupled entry. The field for the Travers will be drawn on Wednesday morning in Saratoga's paddock.

The probable field, with riders, is: Bernardini (Javier Castellano), Bluegrass Cat (John Velazquez), Dr. Pleasure (Cornelio Velasquez), Hesanoldsalt (Eibar Coa), High Cotton (Garrett Gomez), and Minister's Bid (Edgar Prado).

Bright One would have been one of the speed horses in the Travers. In the Jim Dandy, won in gate-to-wire fashion by Bernardini, Minister's Bid was the closest to Bernardini from the gate until the quarter pole when Bernardini began to open up. Ward said Monday he does not want Minister's Bid that close to the pace in the Travers. Ward is hopeful that Hesanoldsalt and High Cotton will be the early pacesetters.

"Our friends in racing will be out in the front chasing Bernardini and we won't have to be the animal to take the giant on early in the game," Ward said. "I don't think we're going to be way back, either, but one thing about it, we're not going to be chasing the speed."

On Monday, Minister's Bid completed preparations for the Travers by working five furlongs in 59.93 seconds on Saratoga's main track under exercise rider Danny Ramsey. The time was the fastest of 40 recorded workouts at the distance. Minister's Bid was clocked in fractions of 12.52 seconds, 24.02, 35.77, and 47.52, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.04.

"He worked along pretty good," Ward said. "If he looks all right [Tuesday], I would say we're probably going to be up for the game. There wasn't anything in that work to show me that he doesn't need to run."

Though Minister's Bid suffered his first career loss in the Jim Dandy, Ward said he believes the race was more than a useful one to get him ready for the Travers. Minister's Bid was wide down the backstretch while chasing Bernardini. After Bernardini opened up, it appeared as though Hemingway's Key was going to pass Minister's Bid along the rail, but Minister's Bid came on again to get second.

"I think he's better prepared than he was in the Jim Dandy, when he hadn't been around two turns at all, so I'd have to say he's one step up," Ward said. "And that was a real difficult race around two turns. He never got to come out of the bridle. He was on the bridle the whole time chasing that horse, trying to get position."

The Ward/Oxley tandem will also run Dr. Pleasure, who has not won since taking his career debut over this track last September. He finished fourth in the Jim Dandy.

"Dr. Pleasure is probably going into the race with more uptick than any horse in the field," Ward said.

Ward said that Dwyer winner Strong Contender is available to run in the Travers if something happens to Bernardini or Bluegrass Cat by entry time. Barring that, Strong Contender would most likely be pointed to the Super Derby.