Phoenix Thoroughbred’s Gronkowski put in his final breeze before the Grade 1 Travers, officially working five furlongs in 1:00.02 in company with Instilled Regard on Sunday morning on Saratoga Race Course’s main track.
The work was the fifth at the Spa since Gronkowski made his North American debut, running second to Triple Crown-winning Justify in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Gronkowski worked inside of Instilled Regard, finishing a half-length in front of his stablemate. NYRA clockers caught the duo going the last four furlongs in 47 3/5 seconds.
“He breezed super,” Brown said from his barn. “The horse has gotten stronger and fitter. He couldn’t be coming into the race any better.”
Named for the New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, the equine Gronkowski made his first six career starts in Great Britain, notching four consecutive wins – all at a mile – before being shipped to New York to run in the “Test of the Champion,” where he rallied from last of 10 to finish 1 ¾ lengths behind Justify in the 1 ½-mile Belmont.
“I think it did him a lot of good, the time to recover from that has [helped] as well,” Brown said. “The horse is fresh. He’s a lot sharper than he was then. Hopefully, that will give him a little better position leaving the gate.”
Brown’s other expected entrant in the Travers, Good Magic, put in his final work before the Mid-Summer Derby on Friday when he went five furlongs in 1:00.44 on the main track. The Curlin colt is coming off a win in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park that marked his first start since a fourth-place effort in the Preakness on May 19 at Pimlico.
The 2017 champion juvenile male is 3-3-1 in eight starts, including a second-place finish to Justify in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. He is owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables.
“He came out of the work really well,” Brown said.
Brown said Engage continues to ready for the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy on Travers Day. The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt has never finished worse than second in seven career starts, posting wins in the 2017 Grade 3 Futurity and the Gold Fever on May 13 at Belmont.
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Engage is coming off back-to-back runner-up efforts in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day and the Grade 3 Amsterdam on July 28 at the Spa. He breezed Friday on Saratoga’s main track, going four furlongs in 48.02 seconds.
“He had a nice work, I was real happy with the way he’s coming in,” Brown said. “It’s a tough race, it’s coming up pretty tough, but he’s doing well.”
Rushing Fall came out of her 2 ¾-length win in Saturday’s Grade 2 Lake Placid in good order, Brown said.
Sitting just off pacesetter Go Noni Go, Rushing Fall took command out of the final turn and was geared down by Javier Castellano to give Brown his first career Lake Placid victory.
After notching her fourth graded stakes win in six starts overall, adding to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Grade 2 Appalachian, Brown said Rushing Fall could target the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in October at Keeneland.
“She came out of it real well, I’ll probably just train her up to the Queen Elizabeth,” Brown said.
Bravazo, Lukas’ 20th Travers starter, turns in bullet five-furlong move
Calumet Farm’s Bravazo turned in his final breeze before Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers early Sunday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Taking to the Oklahoma training track just before 6 a.m., the 3-year-old Awesome Again colt worked five furlongs in 1:00.11 in tandem with 3-year-old maiden Royal Edition to his inside. The pair covered three furlongs in 35 2/5 seconds before Bravazo drew ahead at the finish.
“It went real good,” said Lukas. “We wanted him to go right at a minute, and that’s what we got, so that’s probably all we need. He did it easy, like they all say. He’s doing well, eating well, getting in the tub, I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious to run him.”
The Oklahoma training track serves as a great place to train horses, according to the 82-year-old conditioner, who has maintained his barn a short distance from the historic track for roughly 20 years.
“None of my horses that run here ever go over there [to the main track]; it’s inconvenient,” he said. “I never do that. I never take them over there to work them or anything. First time they’ll see the paddock is the first time they’ll see the track. I think you have to school if you need it. I don’t think you should create a situation to make a horse train. If they’re doing well in the paddock stay away from it. That’s my theory. I’ve schooled horses, but not very many.”
Lukas will saddle his 20th starter in the 149th Travers, and is in search of winning his fourth Mid-Summer Derby after bringing Corporate Report (1991), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Will Take Charge (2013) to the winner’s circle. As the race gets closer, and the banter rises, Lukas keeps his eye on his colt, and nothing else.
“I don’t pay attention to how the races are coming together or anything,” he said. “I just train forwardly, and if I get comfortable with my horse, I feel like we got a chance, I go over there. I feel like we got a good chance.”
Jockey Luis Saez, who teamed with Lukas to win the Travers with Will Take Charge five years ago, has the call aboard Bravazo for the fourth straight race.
“I think Luis has now gotten to know him better,” said Lukas. “The horse is definitely better, and depending on how the race unfolds, we’ll keep them all honest. One good thing about him [Bravazo] is that he’s got enough tactical speed to be in the race. He doesn’t need a lot of help. He’s going to run a good one, he really is.”
Romans: King Zachary belongs in ‘eclectic’ Travers field
King Zachary, fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby on July 14, tuned up for his upcoming engagement in the Grade 1 Travers Sunday morning over the main track at Saratoga, breezing five furlongs in a bullet 59.66 seconds under exercise rider Tammy Fox.
NYRA clockers caught the Curlin colt going the first three-eighths in :35 3/5 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5.
“He worked great,” said Dale Romans, who trains the chestnut colt for Thomas Conway. “I wasn’t looking for much; just that he is happy and consistent, safe and sound. He did it all perfectly.”
With a victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs as his lone graded stakes score, King Zachary is expected to be one of the longer shots in the field. As many as 12 may enter, among them likely favorite Good Magic, winner of the Grade 1 Haskell; Gronkowski, second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Grade 1 Belmont; Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Tenfold; Europeans Mendelssohn and Seahenge from Aidan O’Brien, and the Canadian filly Wonder Gadot, who beat males in the Prince of Wales and Queens Plate in her two most recent starts.
“It’s a very eclectic group of horses, which makes it an interesting race,” said Romans. “If the filly wins, it’ll expose the whole bunch. And you can never count Wayne Lukas [trainer of Bravazo] out.
“I think we have a good chance,” he added. “He’s an up-and-coming horse, and we’re looking for him to blossom the second half the year and into his four-year-old campaign.”
Romans also sent out Amsterdam winner Promises Fulfilled, with the 3-year-old covering a half-mile in 47.66 seconds.
Asmussen duo Tenfold, Meistermind put in final workouts for Travers
Tenfold and Meistermind put in their final workouts on Sunday morning ahead of the Travers, with each of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s colts posting leisurely times over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.
Winchell Thoroughbred’s Tenfold, who won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 28, covered four furlongs in 50.09 seconds, 49th of 66 workers at the same distance. WinStar Farms, China Horse Club International and SF Racing’s Meistermind, who ran fifth in a Saratoga allowance race on Aug. 3 after a maiden win at Churchill Downs on June 30, clocked :50.19, 54th of 66 workers.
“Good. Looked good,’’ Asmussen said of Tenfold, bidding to become the 11th horse to pull off the Jim Dandy-Travers double.
Meistermind “worked really well here,’’ he said of the bay colt by Bodemeister, adding his workers “looked a little tired this morning, but they should be.”
Asmussen is seeking his first Travers win with his fifth and sixth starters. In 2016, Gun Runner ran third and Belmont Stakes winner Creator ran seventh.