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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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Second horse in 4 days dies at Santa Anita

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Santa Anita had its second horse death in four days when a gelding pulled up during a race Sunday and was euthanized a day later.

Twenty-five horses have now died in racing or training at the Southern California track since Dec. 26.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Spectacular Music was running in a six-furlong maiden claiming race when the jockey pulled the horse up on the backstretch shortly after leaving the gate.

The horse was taken off the course with a pelvis injury and the decision to euthanize him was made Monday morning.

On Friday, a 3-year-old horse broke down with a shoulder injury while galloping and was euthanized at the track.

Santa Anita is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2. It’s considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.

Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

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BALTIMORE (AP) Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that – once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK – served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1+ miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favorite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the gray colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”