08/17/2013 3:12PM

Saratoga notes: Moreno and War Dancer finish Travers preparations

Barbara D. Livingston
Moreno works five furlongs in 59.84 seconds at Saratoga on Saturday under Jose Ortiz.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – While Palace Malice, Verrazano, and Orb will garner most of the attention coming into the Grade  1 Travers, a couple of 3-year-olds who figure to be flying under the radar, Moreno and War Dancer, had their final tune-ups for Saratoga’s marquee event here on Saturday.

Moreno worked over the main track for trainer Eric Guillot, breezing five furlongs in 59.84 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60. Moreno was under just mild pressure to the wire from jockey Jose Ortiz, completing his final quarter in 24.42. Ortiz will ride in the Travers.

“My horse worked great,” said Guillot of Moreno, who set the pace before finishing third in the Jim Dandy earlier in the meet, 3  1/4 lengths behind winner Palace Malice. “He went off slow and came home the last half-mile in 47 with his ears pricked. What more can you ask? Now it’s going to be up to the kid to ride a smart race and get some better fractions. It’s all about the fractions.”

Guillot said he’s leaving no stone unturned in his effort to win the Travers.

“I even got me a voodoo doll to try to stop the favorites in the race,” said Guillot.

War Dancer had his final Travers prep over the Oklahoma training track, where he went five furlongs in 1:02.33 for trainer Ken McPeek. War Dancer will try the main track for only the second time in his career and first since finishing fourth in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9. War Dancer won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on the grass at Colonial Downs in his last start.

“It was a nice breeze,” said McPeek. “Bryan Walls, the clocker over there at Oklahoma, said not much breaks 1:02 on that track. I’m real pleased with him. I just think the upside for him as a stallion if he runs well in the Travers is dramatic. He’s only been given one shot on the dirt and he ran respectable. He seems to be better now and he’s already won at a mile and one-quarter.”

McPeek has already had success with lightly regarded horses in the Travers, the most notable being Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for the win with Alpha at odds of 33-1 last year.

A field of nine is tentatively set for the Travers. Along with Jim Dandy and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (Mike Smith to ride), Haskell hero Verrazano (John Velazquez) and Kentucky Derby winner Orb (Joel Rosario), the field is expected to include Moreno, War Dancer (Alan Garcia), Golden Soul (Robby Albarado), Romansh (Javier Castellano), Transparent (Irad Ortiz Jr.) and Will Take Charge (Junior Alvarado).

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Departing, who is among the nominees for the Travers, will make his next start in the Grade 2 Super Derby on Sept. 7. Trainer Al Stall Jr. said Departing will be sent to Churchill Downs on Monday where he’ll have his final preparations for the Super Derby before continuing on to Louisiana Downs the week of the race.