TRAVERS DAY 2020 TEACHES US A FEW THINGS
If we are going to be real about things, you are never too old to learn. The great John Wooden once said “It’s the things you learn after you know it all that count”. With that in mind let’s take a glance at a few things you could have been taught by a glorious Travers Day at Saratoga on August 8.
THE EMPRESS REIGNS SUPREME
Like most men, I appreciate pretty girls. Beauty is measured in many ways in my book. When you do the one digit math after the grade 1 Ballerina Stakes, there is no doubt Serengeti Empress qualifies in many aspects.
Run at seven furlongs for older females, this race has featured some gorgeous girls in the past. The Empress fit right in as some scintillating speed and beautiful determination qualifies her as a double-taker. Having dropped jaws with wins in longer races like the Kentucky Oaks and the Azeri Stakes, this seemed to be a made to order situation. Her last start in the Fleur de Lis saw her lead the race through the opening three quarters of a mile before fading to fourth. Perhaps the cutback in distance would have the guys looking over their mirrored sunglasses.
Coming into the race here was the concern. Serengeti Empress drew the rail and as her trainer Tom Amoss has pointed out in the past, she wants to be on the lead because that is where she runs the best. Like many foxy females, she is just a bit head strong, so would she use up too much gas early and empty the tank before the wire?
When the gates opened we got all the answers. Bolting for the front, the Empress, assumed her customary position and threw down some sizzling numbers. The opening quarter mile in 21.75 and the half mile in a blistering 43.74 would have been cause for concern for most. Leading by a length and a half at the top of the stretch, question was, could she get to the finish first.
This is where her inside beauty took over. Kicking for home with the heart of a champion, Serengeti Empress fended off the late challenge of Bellafina and finished a length in front. Covering the distance in 1:21.63, this four-year old daughter of Alternation did her people proud and earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland in November.
So here is our first lesson. Serengeti Empress is good enough to win at any distance, but perhaps it is the sprint races where she will draw more looks than the Swedish Bikini Team.
GAMINE PASSES THE TEST
While on the subject of freakishly fast females, let’s talk about a mercurial daughter of Into Mischief. Trained by Bob Baffert, Gamine has been a show-stopper in her brief four race career. Her performance in the grade 1 Test emboldened her name on the racing marquee.
Unraced at two, her three year old season has shown three of the qualities normally associated with a Baffert trainee. Speed, Speed, and more speed are features the hall of fame conditioner incorporates in many of his runners. She is no different. For those that had doubts about her she aced the Test.
Opening her career with a 6 ¼ length romp at Santa Anita on March 7 in a 6 ½ furlong Maiden race, the promise was present. Taking her show on the road, Gamine crossed the finish line first at Oaklawn Park on May 2, but was later disqualified because of a failed drug test.
Of course this raised questions about her quality in the eyes of some, but history tells us Bob Baffert does not have to cheat to win. Some of us simply chalked it up to unfortunate happenstance. And on June 20 she went to Belmont Park and should have cleared any doubts with a performance for the ages. Her 18 ¾ length win in the grade 1 Acorn Stakes was just .31off the Big Sandy record for the 1 mile distance…and she had no one pushing her!
Sometimes doubting is what people do because they are…doubters. If ANYONE wondered about her after that Acorn, the Test proved they are nuts. Taking command immediately out of the gates in the seven furlong race, Gamine showed the way once again. This time she ONLY won by seven lengths and her clock stopping (1:20.83) was .43 off the track record time. I think Gamine provided all the right answers.
TIZ THE LAW IS A FOR REAL RACEHORSE
Sports, much like life, are full of ups and downs. The 2020 Kentucky Derby trail has been extended because of the happenings in today’s world. That has caused some to come and some to go in the chase for the immortality a win will bring. There is one runner, however that has been there throughout.
Tiz The Law is one of the best things about this tumultuous year, period. While folks far and wide in all walks have rode the rollercoaster, this New York-bred has been solid as a rock.
Beginning in February with a determined score in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, this Sackatoga Stables owned colt has exuded brilliance. Following that with an impressive win in the Florida Derby (March 28), he once again laid down the Law with a dominating win in a shortened Belmont Stakes (June 20).
Next up was the Travers at the graveyard for favorites. Even the mighty American Pharoah had been felled here and just a week previously some heavy favorites (Midnight Bisou, Tom’s d”Etat) had suffered defeat. What did all that mean for this son of Constitution?
The 151st running of the Mid-Summer Derby solidified a certainty in what has been a very uncertain world. Tiz the Law’s powerful win proved he is a for real racehorse. Stalking the pace as has been customary during his seven race career, this Barclay Tagg trainee swung three wide at the top of the stretch and drew away easily. Finishing 5 ½ lengths in front under a hand ride from jockey Manny Franco, Tiz The Law was much the best…as he has been all year.