08/25/2009 11:00PM

Travers comes up strong despite defections

Barbara D. Livingston
Summer Bird's trainer, Tim Ice, said he "can't feel good about" the defection of Mine That Bird from the Travers, but added that he liked his horse's chances "with or without him in there."

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Tim Ice has been involved in racing long enough to know that it could have just as easily been him declaring his horse out of Saturday's $1 million Shadwell Travers Stakes on Wednesday morning as it was fellow trainer Chip Woolley.

That's why upon learning of the defection of Mine That Bird from the 140th Travers, Ice, the trainer of Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, said, "I can't feel good about it."

What Ice is feeling good about, however, is how his horse is doing coming up to the 1 1/4-mile Travers. While he certainly feels sympathy for his newfound friend Woolley, Ice knows he will have one less horse to worry about in the stretch.

"I like my horse going into the race, with or without him in there," Ice said. "I don't have to worry about somebody coming from behind me. He was going to be a horse to watch out for in the stretch."

Summer Bird drew post 6 of 7 and was installed as the 3-1 second choice behind winner Quality Road, who landed in post 4 in the Travers. The Travers will go as race 12 on a 13-race card that begins at 11:35 a.m. The Travers is the third leg of a pick-four wager that has a guaranteed $1 million pool.

Summer Bird will seek to become the 30th winner to also take the Travers. The last to do it, in 2004, was Birdstone, who is the sire of Summer Bird. In finishing second to Rachel Alexandra in the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2, Summer Bird raced within a length of the early lead. Ice doesn't expect him to be that close Saturday under Kent Desormeaux.

"Monmouth Park is known to be a speed-favoring track," Ice said. "Our colt has enough speed. We could have been up there and we were. I think there's going to be plenty of enough pace in the Travers where we can take our normal seat right behind a wall of horses."

One of those horses he figures to lay behind is Florida Derby winner Quality Road, who enters the Travers off of just one 6 1/2-furlong race in five months. But in the here on Aug. 3, Quality Road set a track record of 1:13.74 for the distance.

The task of attempting to win the Travers off limited preparation became easier with the defections of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra and winner Mine That Bird in the last 72 hours.

"There's no doubt that without Rachel Alexandra and without Mine That Bird that it is an easier race than it would have been," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Quality Road. "That being said, there's still some very good horses in here. Anybody that can step up and win this race will be a deserving Travers champion. This is still a quality field."

The reason Rachel Alexandra is not in the Travers is so her connections can run Kensei, who will try to add this race to his victories in the here. Kensei will break from the outside post in the seven-horse field under Edgar Prado.

Warrior's Reward and Charitable Man, who finished second and third behind Kensei in the Jim Dandy, also are in the Travers, as is Our Edge, winner of the Grade 3 Barbaro Stakes, and Hold Me Back, winner of the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes who has yet to win on dirt.

$1 million Shadwell Travers Stakes

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Hold Me Back Julien Leparoux Bill Mott 15-1
2 Charitable Man Ramon Dominguez Kiaran McLaughlin 8-1
3 Warrior's Reward Calvin Borel Ian Wilkes 8-1
4 Quality Road John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 8-5
5 Our Edge Alan Garcia Nick Zito 15-1
6 Summer Bird Kent Desormeaux Tim Ice 3-1
7 Kensei Edgar Prado Steve Asmussen 7-2