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Chad Brown, on home track, has 2 favorites for Travers

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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.”

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Maximum Security wins Haskell, survives inquiry

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Maximum Security captured the $1 million Haskell Invitational and, unlike the Kentucky Derby, survived a steward’s inquiry Saturday night.

It capped a long day that included a major delay triggered by intense heat and the safety concerns for the horses and riders. It led to the cancellation of six races and the delay in six stakes, including the Haskell, the biggest race in Monmouth’s meet.

When racing resumed around 6 p.m., the stakes went off without a hitch until the Haskell.

Maximum Security got to the finish line first, outlasting trainer Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto by 1 1/4 lengths.

For a minute, it seemed a clear-cut win in the Grade I race. However, the stewards posted the inquiry sign. Videotape replays showed King for a Day had to check when Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto stormed past.

However, it was quickly dismissed, unlike the Derby when there was a 22-minute delay before Country House was elevated to the top spot and Maximum Security was dropped to 17th place. It was the first time a horse that crossed the finish line first in the Derby was disqualified.

Owners Gary and Mary West are still trying to overturn that decision in federal court in Kentucky.

This was one of the most bizarre days in the 52-year history of the Haskell and it was just another weird twist in the 3-year-old thoroughbred picture which has had one strange turn after another.

There was the Kentucky Derby disqualification. A riderless horse in the Preakness. Three different winners of the Triple Crown races.

The latest turn came Saturday as the extreme temperature and a heat index value reaching 107- caused track officials to a order a 4 1/2-hour delay after the running of the first two races on the 14-race card.

The Haskell went off at 8:11 p.m., 2 hours, 24 minutes after its scheduled start. The field was reduced to six horses when third-place Belmont States finisher Joevia scratch after the delay.

The 1 1/8-mile race was outstanding. King for a Day, who beat Maximum Security in the Pegasus here last month, and the four of the other five colts were closely bunched for the early going with only Everfast trailing.

Around the far turn, Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez and Mucho Gusto and rider Joe Talamo charged around King for a Day, who was on the rail.

Maximum Security was in the middle lane with Mucho Gusto on the outside. As they turned for home, Maximum Security seemed to put King for a Day and jockey John Velazquez in tight quarters. The only question was whether King for a Day committed a foul or King for a Day ran out of room as he tried to charge up the rail.

There was no change this time. The Jason Servis-trained Maximum Security covered the distance in 1:47.56 and paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.20.

Mucho Gusto returned $3.40 and $2.80. Spun To Run finished third and paid $5.60 to show.

For the second straight day, the National Weather Service posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107. It dipped to 103 by the time racing resumed.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

None of the horses who competed in the eight races run showed any sign of injury.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The governor left the final decision on whether to run to Drazin. He opted for caution in delaying the card, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits. The track announced an attendance of 25,173 but many left before the big races.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking. The track canceled its card planned for Sunday.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time, but it ended up streaming the race live on its digital platform.

Midnight Bisou won her fifth straight stakes this year, capturing the $150,000 Molly Pitcher with Mike Smith riding.

In other stakes, Just Howard edged Divisidero by a head in the $150,000 Oceanport; Justaholic ($5) won the $75,000 Wolf Hill; War Story ($16) took the $200,000 Monmouth Cup and I’m So Fancy ($5.80) captured the $150,000 WinStar Matchmaker.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Whitney Stakes from Saratoga Springs on August 3. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Monmouth racing card shaken amid fierce heat, track protests

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — With extreme heat draining fans and causing concern about the horses, Monmouth Park canceled six races and pushed back until early evening its stakes races, including the $1 million Haskell Invitational headlined by Maximum Security.

The decision came after the start of the first race was delayed and the racing card was re-evaluated after the second race.

The National Weather Service again posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who left the decision on whether to race to Drazin. He went with caution, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking.

In addition to the Haskell, the card’s other stakes races are The Oceanport, The Molly Pitcher, The Wolf Hill, The Monmouth Cup and the Matchmaker.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time. Monmouth spokesman Tom Luicci said the network planned to fill its 5-6 p.m. slot with other horse-racing covering. It was going to stream the race live on its digital platform at 8:05 p.m., he said.

The start of the first race was delayed by almost 40 minutes, with no reason given at the time for the move. The 14-race card was reassessed after the next race. The six stakes races were reset for 6 p.m., with the Haskell at 8:05 p.m.

Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby and then was disqualified, leads the field of seven in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.

The first two races went off without incident. The horses were hosed down on the track after the races. There were misting fans in the paddock before the races.