08/19/2014 7:42PM

Travers: Wicked Strong draws outside Bayern, Tonalist

Barbara D. Livingston
Wicked Strong, shown training at Saratoga on Aug. 8, is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line for the Travers Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A big smile came over the face of jockey Rajiv Maragh when his mount, Wicked Strong, drew post 7 in a field of 10 for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga, positioning him outside his two main rivals, Bayern in post 2 and Tonalist in post 6.

“I think that’s very ideal to be drawn outside of Bayern and Tonalist as opposed to being inside,” Maragh said. “I think we’re very fortunate with the way the posts are drawn. It gives me many options.”

Bayern, the Haskell Invitational winner, figures to be on the early pace in the Travers. Tonalist, the Belmont Stakes winner, has shown the ability to be effective from on or off the lead.

Despite his victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes, Wicked Strong was made the 7-2 third choice on the morning line of the New York Racing Association’s Eric Donovan, behind Bayern (2-1) and Tonalist (3-1). Post positions for the Mid-Summer Derby were drawn Tuesday night at a downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y., restaurant, Druthers.

The field, from the rail out, is: Commanding Curve (jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1), Bayern (Martin Garica, 2-1), Charge Now (Junior Alvarado, 15-1), V. E. Day (Javier Castellano, 15-1), Viva Majorca (Julien Leparoux, 20-1), Tonalist (Joel Rosario, 3-1), Wicked Strong (Maragh, 7-2), Kid Cruz (Irad Ortiz Jr., 12-1), Ulanbator (Brian Hernandez, 30-1), and Mr Speaker (Jose Lezcano, 10-1).

C J’s Awesome, initially expected to enter, was withdrawn from consideration Tuesday by trainer Ken McPeek.

Wicked Strong, fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a dead-heat fourth with Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes, was equipped with blinkers for the Jim Dandy by trainer Jimmy Jerkens. While they put Wicked Strong right into the race, they also kept him more focused, according to Maragh.

“He wasn’t necessarily headstrong; he just kind of put it all together. He was focused. He was only thinking about running; he wasn’t uncontrollable by any means,” Maragh said. “He showed good energy and kept straight and kept to his business, which is what we were hoping the blinkers would do for him.”

Jerkens will be seeking his second Travers victory with Wicked Strong or the late-running V. E. Day, the winner of the Curlin Stakes. V. E. Day will be ridden by Castellano, who was aboard Afleet Express when he won the 2010 Travers for Jerkens.

Castellano, the leading rider at the Saratoga meet, was able to pick up the mount because Lezcano, who rode V. E. Day in the Curlin, decided to stick with Mr Speaker, the winner of the Belmont Derby on turf in his last start. The Travers will be Mr Speaker’s first start on dirt since he finished seventh in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 25.

Bayern was expected to be flown from Southern California to Saratoga on Wednesday morning. He will attempt to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Travers victory. Baffert won the race with Point Given in 2001.

The Travers will be shown live along with the Grade 1 Ballerina on NBC Sports in a 90-minute broadcast beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. The Travers is scheduled for 5:46 p.m.