SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Chad Brown’s roots run deep at the Travers Stakes.
“It’s the biggest race for me. It’s my home track,” said Brown, a trainer who grew up in nearby Mechanicville, New York. “It’s very special to me. Going to Saratoga as a kid, and going to many Travers growing up, it would mean … a lot to me personally to be able to win this race.”
The 39-year-old Brown has a great shot at a breakthrough victory in the $1.25 million Midsummer Derby on Saturday. He has the top two favorites in Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic and Gronkowski for the 1\-mile Grade 1 test for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course.
Good Magic, fresh from his victory in the $1 million Haskell, will break from post position 9 with jockey Jose Ortiz. Gronkowski, the surprise runner-up to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes in his first start with Brown, goes from post No. 3 with jockey Joel Rosario.
“Real happy with both posts,” said Brown, whose best finish in six previous Travers starts was with Gift Box, fourth two years ago. “It’s a strong field. Either of these horses will have to run their A race.”
A field of 11 is entered for the 149th edition of the oldest major race in the country. Good Magic, last year’s Juvenile champion, was listed at 2-1 and Gronkowski at 4-1.
Wonder Gadot is the first filly entered in the Travers since Davona Dale finished fourth as the favorite in 1979. She is the third choice at 5-1, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard for the first time. Wonder Gadot is coming off wins in the first two legs of Canada’s Triple Crown – the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes.
The rest of the field includes: Jim Dandy Stakes winner Tenfold, with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., and Catholic Boy, with Javier Castellano, both 8-1 choices; Vino Rosso, with John Velazquez, at 10-1; Bravazo, with Luis Saez, and Mendelssohn, with Ryan Moore, both 12-1 choices; King Zachary, with Robby Albarado, at 15-1; and 30-1 longshots Meistermind, with Manny Franco, and Trigger Warning, with Irwin Rosendo.
Trainer Bob Baffert, winner of the last two Travers, does not have an entry.
This summer Saratoga has been Brown country in a big way. Heading into Friday’s card, he led Todd Pletcher in wins – 33 in 113 starts to 16 in 96 for Pletcher – as Brown seeks his second training title in three years. In 2016, Brown saddled 40 winners to end Pletcher’s streak of six straight Saratoga training titles.
“I have great assistants, a great staff,” Brown said. “I enjoy working with horses. I enjoy working with people. I have great clients that give us great horses to work with.
“You have to have everything in place. If you don’t have all of those things, one can’t work without the other, so I work hard at maintaining those things.”
Among the entries, Wonder Gadot is the most intriguing. The Canadian-bred daughter of 2002 Travers winner Medaglia d’Oro will be trying to become just the eighth filly to win the Travers, a tall task. Lady Rotha was the last, in 1915, and she won by disqualification.
Trainer Mark Casse is up for the challenge, as is owner Gary Barber.
“Gary is never afraid to step out of the box,” Casse said. “We believe the 1 \ miles really suits her. We get five pounds. We have an extra week off. Why not? We’re all right with trying to make history.”
Wonder Gadot, named after “Wonder Woman” actress Gail Gadot, has eight starts this year heading into the Travers and Casse knows she’s more than able to hold her own against the colts.
“On numbers and ability, I think it’s a very competitive race, but I think we have as good a chance as anybody,” Casse said. “She doesn’t have any quit in her. I really feel … that she’s as good as any of them, and to be able to accomplish something that hasn’t been accomplished in a hundred years, I mean, I think it makes sense and Gary thinks it makes sense. When you go and look in the paddock, she may be the biggest, strongest horse in the race.”