08/18/2013 1:57PM

Saratoga: Palace Malice, Verrazano put in final works for Travers

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Barbara D. Livingston
Palace Malice, the winner of the Belmont and Jim Dandy stakes, breezed a half-mile in 48.30 seconds at Saratoga on Sunday.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Following Princess of Sylmar’s victory in Saturday’s Alabama Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher has won 11 stakes, including three Grade 1 scores, from his 27 winners at the 2013 Saratoga meet.

And the best may be yet to come.

On Sunday, Pletcher’s two candidates for this Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes put in their final workouts over Saratoga’s main track, leaving Pletcher very much looking forward to the meeting of his two superstar 3-year-olds in the meet’s marquee event.

“I’m as interested to see it as everyone else,” Pletcher said. “They’re two horses that are doing unbelievably well coming off really good races. It’s going to be interesting.”

Palace Malice, the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, worked four furlongs by himself in 48.30 seconds under exercise rider Jake Nelson. He went his first quarter in 24.77 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.08, six furlongs in 1:14.87, and pulled up seven furlongs in 1:29.79.

“I thought he was very good,” Pletcher said. “He was going very well, well within himself. It was pretty much what we’ve come to expect from him every time we breeze him.”

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A few minutes later, Verrazano, the Haskell and Wood Memorial winner, worked four furlongs in 48.86 seconds in company with fellow 3-year-old Capo Bastone. With John Velazquez aboard, Verrazano went his first quarter in 23.96 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.29, six furlongs in 1:14.73, and pulled up seven furlongs in 1:28.82.

“I thought it was very good,” Pletcher said. “We flip-flopped their gallop-outs from last week. As far as time-wise, Palace Malice last week was a little bit stronger, so we wanted to do a little bit more with Verrazano on the gallop-out, and I think we got what we’re looking for.”

Palace Malice and Verrazano figure to vie for favoritism in the Travers along with perhaps Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, who in the Travers will be making his first start since his third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. Orb, who has spent about two months at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, is due to breeze Monday morning over the Oklahoma training track.

A field of nine is expected for the Travers when entries are made and post positions assigned Wednesday. The expected field, with riders, is: Golden Soul (Robby Albarado), Moreno (Jose Ortiz), Orb (Joel Rosario), Palace Malice (Mike Smith), Romansh (Javier Castellano), Transparent (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Verrazano (Velazquez), War Dancer (Alan Garcia), and Will Take Charge (Junior Alvarado).

Several other Pletcher horses targeting Grade 1 stakes at this meet worked Sunday. Whitney Invitational winner Cross Traffic worked four furlongs in 48.17 seconds in company with Forty Tales, who started slightly behind Cross Traffic and finished on even terms. Forty Tales is credited with a time of 47.97 for the distance.

Pletcher said that based on the work, he is more inclined to run Cross Traffic in the Woodard on Aug. 31 than to wait for the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 28.

“He’s been showing us pretty good energy here since the Whitney, and I actually feel he’s training even better coming out of it than he was going into it, so we’re just trying to make sure the Woodward is the right spot,” Pletcher said. “Certainly, the way he worked this morning indicated he’s come out of the Whitney in good shape.”

Forty Tales, who has won the Woody Stephens and Amsterdam in his last two starts, is targeting Saturday’s Grade 1 King’s Bishop.

“I thought it was an exceptional work for Forty Tales, who’s not generally a really good work horse,” Pletcher said. “Today, I thought he was very good.”

Shanghai Bobby, last year’s juvenile champion, and Graydar, this year’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner, both coming back from lengthy layoffs, worked a half-mile in company in 49.13 seconds.