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I wonder if Carly Simon knew of what she sang in my context, but when anticipation is fulfilled as it was with Saturday's Travers Day racing festivities, it was the good old days.
We had dramatic performances, a sad but not deadly development, savagery, and demonstrations of just what makes up champions.
I'll get this out of the way. Honestly, I was curious to see if Bob Baffert, who had two runners on the day, was in Saratoga. Thankfully, he wasn't, and all seemed primed for enjoyment. He didn't win a race either.
Please scroll down to watch the videos because even if you are not a bettor or even watcher, these performances are what make racing so compelling. Fox guys like former jockeys Gary Stevens and Richard Migliore sound on Sunday the day after like they'd have loved to be in a few of those saddles.
For race eight, The Forego, both Yaupon and Firenze Fire put me out of my wagers right away, as they fashioned the lead early on. Spinning into the stretch, Yaupon maintained a head/neck lead.
If you don't believe those nature films of wild mustangs, please do. At the eighth pole, Firenze side-glanced Yaupon, who was inside him as if "You talkin' to ME?" As they neared the sixteenth pole, Firenze cocked his head straight to his left, reached out and BIT Yaupon on the nose. And then he kept it up. I counted seven bites, or attempts, and at one point, Firenze had at least a tooth on Yaupon's bridle. They call it savaging the other horse.
Jose Ortiz, both trying to make Firenze Fire behave, struggling to keep hold of the reins, and trying to keep up the run too, avoided disaster. The antics almost certainly cost Firenze the race. For his part, Ricardo Santana Jr. on Yaupon kept to the task and won the race.
After the race, the TV guys said Firenze Fire has done that before. I didn't know. Just a little insight into the nature of horses.
That was awesome, but the sad news out of the race is that Whitmore, the sprinting sensation, eight years old, was injured and has been retired. Knowing him, he could probably recover and race again, but the Moquett family, who also train and take care of him, has decided to retire him. I saw Whitmore once in person. No horse has a bigger heart.
Life Is Good, full of run, went out to the early lead by as much as two, with Jackie's Warrior staying close. He made Life Is Good do all the pace work. Coming out of the turn, Jackie cornered and built almost a length lead. But look, there's Life Is Good battling back! Jackie's Warrior is a great horse, and he showed it, keeping the lead and winning by a long neck. He just wouldn't give in.
Letruska is still the champeen queen of the ladies as she took the Personal Ensign into her own hooves and won nicely.
After a positioning first quarter of :23 and a smidge, she controlled the pace and brought it down to a reasonable :46 and three, and never looked back. Three others made a run at her going to the sixteenth pole, but no. The image was all the other horses covered in dirt, but Letruska's bay chest clean and ready for cocktails after the fashion show. I hope we see her once more before the Breeders' Cup, where they'll have to make the decision about running her against the boys.
"I'm in favor of run her in her division and win races," Migliore said.
Trainer Brad Cox looked frozen, in shock, after his Essential Quality proved once again he's the grandest horse in the land in winning The Travers Stakes with a gutsy, hard-fought effort.
It wasn't easy. Or was it?
The hard knocking, often unlucky Midnight Bourbon took an early three-length lead, but Essential kept with the pace in second, again making Bourbon do the pace work.
They got to the turn and right on the corner, Essential Quality and Luis Saez, the meet's leading rider, settled in for the work at hand.
Bourbon was more than game, but Essential, the son of Tapit, gave what was required to win by a half neck.
Gary Stevens declared him the Three-Year-Old of the Year and leader for Horse of the Year. The panel kept talking about "redemption" as EQ lost the silly Kentucky Derby as the favorite.
But their extension of that to Luis Saez was more accurate. He was aboard Maximum Security when the horse was disqualified for interference in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. As Stevens pointed out, Saez never bitched or moaned about the rightful decision, and became an even better jockey after that. Now, Luis is on top of the world.
There was some rain, but the tracks were fast and firm all day.
The Fox Sports coverage was excellent. I assume New York has a contract with Fox, as they've been covering Belmont and Saratoga all year. The Fox people are engaged, knowledgeable and interested. Travers Day was a good time had by me.
This Travers Stakes and the whole day were what TrackNotes lives for. There's one more week for Saratoga. I'll be watching.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.
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