Trainer Keith Desormeaux’s Exaggerator entered Saturday’s Travers Stakes at New York’s Saratoga Race Course as the odds on favorite. The three-year-old, winner of this year’s Santa Anita Derby, Preakness and Haskell Stakes, appeared the one to beat after Doug O’Neill’s Nyquist wasn’t entered.
Unfortunately, Exaggerator’s one recent loss- 11th place in the Belmont on a fast track- should have been a sign. His big Grade 1 wins have all come on sloppy tracks. When Saturday’s temperatures at Saratoga hit 85°, the bettors hopefully were checking out the competition since this was not Exaggerator’s ideal racing weather.
But, conditions turned out to be perfect for Bob Baffert’s Arrogate in his first Grade 1 race. Breaking from the number one post in a fourteen horse field, Arrogate and jockey Mike Smith wowed the New York crowd. Arrogate was at the front all the way after the first turn, ending up not only winning by thirteen and half lengths but also setting a new track record and a new Travers record time of 1:59.36! Talk about a fast track and an even faster champ!
Exaggerator ran most of the race in his usual back of the pack spot, never quite making his signature last minute kick for home. He finished out of the money in 11th, just as he had in the Belmont.
Trainer Baffert was very pleased by Arrogate’s win, saying it “makes up for last year,” referring to his Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh’s second place finish in the 2015 Travers. Rider Mike Smith was also pleased, noting he also rode Arrogate’s sire, multiple graded stakes winner Unbridled’s Song.
The Travers was preceded by the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga. The turf race was won by favorite six-year-old Flintshire who won the race last year. Jockey Javier Castellano kept Flintshire near the back of the pack for most of the race. When he asked Flintshire to go entering the far turn, the question was how far since Castellano and Flintshire were behind horses along the rail. Fortunately, at the final turn for home, a spot was opened up by stablemate Inordinate (causing Roman Approval’s rider to claim a foul which was overruled) and Flintshire responded with beautiful win.