08/13/2012 4:05PM

Saratoga: Travers hopefuls Liaison and Stealcase put in solid works

Barbara D. Livingston
Liaison (right), with Simon Harris up, works five furlongs in 1:00.28 in company with Gun Boat on Monday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – On the day that owner Ahmed Zayat finally came to terms with the fact his Haskell winner Paynter will not make the Travers Stakes – and officially declared him out of the race – three horses that figure to offer juicy odds in the Mid-Summer Derby put in workouts over Saratoga’s main track Monday morning.

Though Haskell third-place finisher Stealcase put in a fast five-furlong move in 59 seconds under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, it was Jim Dandy third-place finisher Liaison who impressed more visually with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.28, working in company with Gun Boat. Five Sixteen, the Curlin Stakes runner-up, worked five furlongs in 1:00.35, also in company.

Under exercise rider Simon Harris, Liaison broke off about two lengths in front of Gun Boat and sped three furlongs in 36.10 seconds. He opened up another length or two on Gun Boat in the stretch, getting his last quarter in 24.18, and galloped out well.

Trainer John Terranova oversaw the work for Liaison’s trainer, Bob Baffert, and said the move went according to plan.

“He gets a better workout when he’s in front,” Terranova said of Liaison. “When behind, he can be a little bit lazy breezing; [Baffert] wanted him a little bit out in front. He worked exceptional. The other horse worked good, and he needed the work, too.”

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Gun Boat, who stumbled badly at the start when finishing sixth in the Amsterdam on July 29, is being pointed to the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug. 25.

Baffert, via text, confirmed that Rafael Bejarano would get back aboard Liaison for the Travers. Martin Garcia rode him in the Jim Dandy. Bejarano was aboard for Liaison’s Grade 1 win in the CashCall Futurity last December.

A few hours earlier, shortly after 6 a.m., Stealcase put in his breeze. Equipped with blinkers and with Bridgmohan up, Stealcase went his first three furlongs in 35.49. Bridgmohan was urging Stealcase, first with the reins and then with a tap of the whip to finish in the stretch, and he got his final quarter in 23.51.

“It was important that he had a good work,” said Norm Casse, assistant trainer to his father, Mark. “He didn’t have any company, so he was under a little mild encouragement, but that was by design. He’s always shown from this year and last year that he seems to like the racetrack. He only ran here one time as a 2-year-old, and he broke bad and his race was compromised right there.”

In the Haskell, Stealcase turned his head when the gates opened, causing him to break slowly.

“We weren’t going to beat Paynter that day, but we could have been a whole lot closer, possibly finished second had he not broke so bad,” Casse said.

Five Sixteen, second to Street Life in the Curlin, worked five furlongs in company with Live for Today. The pair went off very fast early and got noticeably tired late.

Others pointing to the Travers are Alpha, Street Life, Neck ’n Neck, Nonios, and Hansen.