Trainer Mark Casse reported that Flameaway emerged from his runner-up performance in Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy in good shape. Where Flameaway will be pointed next is yet to be determined, but the decision on whether the colt will start in the Grade 1 Travers will be made by his owner John Oxley as Casse has announced that Gary Barber’s Wonder Gadot is likely to likely to bypass the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 18 in favor of facing males in the Mid-Summer Derby.
“In horse racing, nothing is ever 100 percent,” Casse said. “But I would tell you I’d bet it’s about 90 percent [to run Wonder Gadot in the Travers]. We’ve talked about it. Gary always thinks out of the box, and a lot of it makes sense. One, if you look for the most part, I guess some of them did run a mile and a quarter in the Derby, but she’s already got a mile and a quarter under her. She’s got a mile and three sixteenths under her, and she gets five pounds. It’s a big deal going a mile and a quarter, and I can tell you this, when they go over to the paddock on Travers Day, she may be the biggest horse in the race. She doesn’t look like a filly. She’s a big, stout mare.”
Casse Skips Third Jewel of Triple Crown
Earlier this week, Casse announced that Wonder Gadot would skip the Breeders’ Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, after two consecutive wins in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales, and instead run in the Alabama.
The 3-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly could become the eighth female to win the Travers since its inaugural running in 1864, and would be the first filly to run since Davona Dale in 1979.
The chance at history is exciting for Casse.
“Anybody that knows me, knows that I love horse racing and that it’s my entire life, and any time we can get excitement, it’s good for horse racing,” he said. “I think anything that gets people’s attention is good for Saratoga and it’s good for the Travers. We just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope everything stays well. I think it spices it up a little because it’s going to be males against a female. I’m sure she’s going to have the ladies on her side.
“I think if you look at the numbers and everything, she’s probably got as good a shot as anyone; again, we’re going to have five pounds. The question is whether or not we’re going to have Johnny [Velazquez]. We threw this curveball at Johnny, and obviously they have the horse that ran third yesterday [Vino Rosso] in the Jim Dandy. We haven’t talked to him about it. I know that will be tough. He rides so much for Todd, it may not even be about who he thinks is best, but where his loyalty lies.”
Casse said he always defers to the owners when he has multiple horses under consideration for the same race.
“I never ever, ever base my decisions on what some other horse is doing unless it’s owned by the same owner,” said Casse. “We may choose to go different paths but that will be up to Mr. Oxley. He’ll ask my opinion and I’ll tell him, but he’ll ultimately make the final decision.
“A lot of people don’t know, but Flameaway was supposed to go to the Prince of Wales. He’s a Canadian-bred as well, but Mr. Oxley said, ‘I don’t want to run against Wonder Gadot.’ He’s seen her in action many times. I don’t know. There’s only one Travers, so we may give it a try.”
‘Quirky’ Vino Rosso still on target for G1 Travers after G2 Jim Dandy effort
One day after Vino Rosso rallied to finish third in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, trainer Todd Pletcher said the Curlin colt remained on target for the Grade 1 Travers.
Vino Rosso was last of five through the opening half mile of the Jim Dandy. Under John Velazquez, the Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner saved ground and made a late bid in the stretch, with his Hall of Fame jockey using a left-handed whip as Vino Rosso finished a head back of runner-up Flameaway.
“He came out of it well,” Pletcher said at the Oklahoma training track Sunday morning. “He didn’t get quite as involved early on as we’d hoped, and he kind of regained his position going into the far turn and lost a little bit of that position. He was closing well at the end, we just need to keep him motivated in the turn a little better but overall, we were pleased with his effort. Hopefully, he’ll come back and train well for the Travers.”
After debuting a winner on November 11 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Vino Rosso wintered in Florida, where he ended his juvenile campaign with a win against optional claimers on December 22 at Tampa Bay Downs and finished third behind Catholic Boy and Flameaway in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis over the same track on February 10 in his 3-year-old bow.
Pletcher said Vino Rosso, owned by St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable, has habitually fallen off the pace before making a late push, a trend that continued when he improved from 18th through a half-mile to finish ninth in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
“He’s a little quirky,” Pletcher said. “To me, the race yesterday reminded me of a couple of his races at Tampa where he kind of had decent position going into the far turn and lost it and came on again in the stretch. We’ll continue to work on it.”