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Door left open for La Traviata to face boys
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A nose separated trainer Patrick Biancone from a perfect weekend.
Biancone looked like he was going to win Sunday's Grade 1 Ballerina with Baroness Thatcher until the final jump when Maryfield nipped her at the wire. It was the second time this year Baroness Thatcher finished second in a Grade 1 race. In February, Rags to Riches beat Baroness Thatcher by three-quarters of a length in the Las Virgenes.
"She'll win a big one one day," said Biancone, who noted that Baroness Thatcher is on the smallish side and will likely be given a break. "Except for Curlin, she's the only one to make Rags to Riches run. This filly is brave."
Baroness Thatcher's nose loss couldn't take away the excitement from La Traviata's sensational 9 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Victory Ride for Biancone. The brilliant performance was overshadowed as the Victory Ride came in the race immediately following the Travers. After stumbling at the break, La Traviata picked herself up and cruised around the track, running six furlongs in 1:09.78. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.
The win kept La Traviata undefeated in three starts and has her connections pointing to the Breeders' Cup. While the new $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint on Oct. 26 is the likely spot, Biancone said La Traviatta's owners haven't ruled out running her against males in the $2 million Sprint the following day.
Biancone said that in the euphoria of La Traviata's performance in the Victory Ride, the subject of facing males was brought up by owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and John Magnier.
"It's an emotional thing after the race - she won by nine, she can conqueror the world," Biancone said. "We need everybody to calm down. We'll see who goes where. We don't need to decide today."
Biancone did say that La Traviata will train up to the Breeders' Cup no matter what race she runs in. Biancone said there are no other six-furlong races for fillies and mares and he doesn't want to run seven furlongs with her before the Breeders' Cup.
"I don't want to take her out of her game," Biancone said. "Her game is to just jump and run. I know it was only a Grade 3, but after two furlongs, it was over. She's unbelievable. She's a freak of nature."
Frankel pleased with First Defence
Trainer Bobby Frankel couldn't have been happier with First Defence's performance in Saturday's Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes. He also couldn't help but wonder what might have been had his colleague Larry Jones opted to run Hard Spun in the Travers instead of the King's Bishop.
First Defence finished second to Hard Spun, 4 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher E Z Warrior, after making the lead briefly near midstretch in the seven-furlong King's Bishop.
"If Hard Spun had gone in the Travers, my horse might have won by four or five lengths the way he ran and would have looked like a champion," Frankel said. "As it was, I thought he ran an excellent race. The winner was just a little more seasoned and I think that's what made the difference in the end."
Frankel said he's not sure what would be next for First Defence, although mentioned the Grade 2, one-mile Jerome on Oct. 7 as an option.
"I'm not sure if he's a Breeders' Cup sprinter-type, although he's fast enough," Frankel said. "The Jerome at a mile might suit him well."
First Defence and E Z Warrior could wind up squaring off again in the Jerome. Trainer Bob Baffert said he's likely to stretch E Z Warrior out a little farther after he rallied from near the rear of the field to finish third in the King's Bishop.
"He doesn't seem to have the gate speed he had as a 2-year-old," Baffert said. "He dropped well out of it in the King's Bishop, then all of a sudden he kicked in and began weaving his way through horses. I thought he showed a lot of guts and ran awesome. I'll probably bring him back in the Jerome."
Shakis points to Shadwell Mile
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said 7-year-old Shakis came out of his victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap in good order and that he'd be pointed for the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland Oct. 6, a race sponsored by Shakis's owner-breeder, Shadwell Stable.
"It's fitting for a Shadwell horse to go to that race," McLaughlin said. "It means we'll be going from 11 furlongs to 10 to 8 with him, but I don't think that's a negative for this horse because it should mean he'll get more pace to run at."
Midnight Lute drills for Forego
Midnight Lute has had his share of physical issues over the years, but on Monday he looked quite healthy working four furlongs in 46.53 seconds over Saratoga's main track. He is being pointed to Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Forego Stakes at seven furlongs.
Midnight Lute, trained by Bob Baffert, has not run since April 14 when he finished fourth as the favorite in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. Midnight Lute has had a chronic breathing problem that has required three throat operations, including two since his last race.
"I'm telling you he's one of the top 10 horses I ever trained," Baffert said. "If I could just put a PVC pipe in his throat. He's so talented. The sky would have been the limit."
Baffert said the last time Midnight Lute ran, his throat was "completely paralyzed."
The surgery he underwent is known as a tie-back operation, which ties back a piece of cartilage, known as the flapper, which can obstruct a horse's flow of air.
Among Midnight Lute's opponents in the Forego will be High Finance, the Tom Fool winner, who on Sunday worked five furlongs in 1:00.19, and Attila's Storm, the Alfred G. Vanderbilt runner-up who on Monday worked four furlongs in 49.47 seconds.
Magna Graduate to start in Woodward
Magna Graduate, who finished fifth in last month's Whitney Handicap, will join stablemate and Whitney winner Lawyer Ron in the starting gate for Saturday's Woodward Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Despite wet conditions on both the main track and training track Sunday morning, Pletcher put each horse through his final workout over the Oklahoma training track. Lawyer Ron was credited with a half-mile in 49.54 seconds. Meanwhile, Magna Graduate went a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.15, getting his last quarter in 24.40 seconds.
Pletcher said Magna Graduate had some trouble in the Whitney that he felt cost him a placing.
"This horse is not crazy about being stuck inside," Pletcher said. "He kind of got stuck inside the whole way. Obviously, it was a large field. Horses were kind of spread out in front of him. He was unable to get position in the clear, and actually had to steady a bit at the eighth pole, which you could argue cost him a placing on the board."
Also on Sunday, Suburban Handicap winner Political Force worked a mile in 1:41.12 for trainer Allen Jerkens.
Discreet Cat gets back to work
Discreet Cat, unraced since finishing last in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in late March, officially returned to the work tab Monday morning, drilling three furlongs in 37.39 seconds under exercise rider Simon Harris.
Discreet Cat galloped out four furlongs in 49.86 seconds.
Discreet Cat, who won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last November at Aqueduct, will likely breeze here one more time before returning to Belmont, where his connections hope to start him, perhaps in the Vosburgh on Sept. 30.
Glacken's Girl retired due to injury
The Pletcher-trained juvenile filly Glacken's Gal, undefeated in two starts, has been retired after suffering an injury during a workout last week. She will be put through the Fasig-Tipton horses of all ages sale in November.
Pletcher said Glacken's Gal was found to have a fracture of the sesamoid bone of her left front ankle, presumably after working five furlongs in 1:03.62 on Aug. 21.
Glacken's Gal, a New York-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken, won her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at Belmont on May 31 and the Astoria by two lengths on July 1. She was owned by Let's Go Stable, a partnership headed by Kevin Scatuorchio.
Travers business down slightly
Attendance and handle were down slightly for this year's Travers compared to 2006.
Saturday's crowd of 38,909 was down from 40,785 in 2006. Ontrack handle was down from $8,574,822 to $7,765,702, while total handle was down slightly from $37,015,287 to $36,749,572. Both handle numbers were affected by two refunds that forced NYRA to return $670,190.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch