By Gene Kershner
This morning the post position draw for the 144th edition of the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes was held in the paddock at Saratoga Race Course. The News will be in Saratoga Springs this weekend to preview the race in Saturday's paper and provide a post-race recap in Sunday's News. Verrazano was made the morning line favorite at 2-1 in the field of nine.
Here are some quotes provided by the New York Racing Association Press Office from this morning's draw and the official posts and morning line odds for Saturday's big race which will be nationally-televised on NBC (Ch. 2 4:30 - 6 p.m.).
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Verrazano:
"I thought [distance concerns] existed [for other people] until he won the Haskell the way he did. The track was very demanding that day, probably the slowest Monmouth track I had ever seen. For him to draw away like he did at the end of a mile and an eighth, to me, put away any concerns about that. Just watching the horse train over the last year and a half, I never thought he had any distance limitations."
Pletcher on Palace Malice:
"I think, ideally, you'd like to be outside of Moreno, who you think will be the most likely pacesetter. Sometimes you worry about post positions and the race doesn't unfold the way you think it will."
Pletcher on both horses coming off big races:
"We're concerned we're trying to match lifetime-best performances in four weeks. It's always a balancing act. We just hope they can come over and run their races, and everything we have seen in their training since the Jim Dandy and the Haskell indicates to us they're still in peak form. We hope it's still the case Saturday afternoon."
Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey, trainer of Orb:
"I think when we put him on the van to go to Fair Hill the day after the Belmont, he was pretty spent. He was a horse then; I think he's come back a lot more of a horse for his experience down there. He only had the tack off of him for two weeks, so it wasn't like he wasn't training very much. But, he got bigger and put on some weight, and mentally he's probably a lot sharper than he was. We'll find out Saturday whether that experiment worked or didn't work."
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge:
"The Derby experience seemed to affect him mentally. He got a little bit more involved than you may want to think. He came out of that a little less focused than he should have been; then I kept the blinkers on him. When I went into the Jim Dandy, I decided to do something different - we pulled the blinkers off. I thought that made a big difference. That let him see everything."
Eric Guillot, trainer of Moreno:
"On the first turn, I'll be three in front and they'll sit back. Then they'll get confidence up on the backside, and they'll get to the bear grease again. Nah, it's the same deal - no sub-24[-second] quarters. Every quarter has to be 24 and change. If they let me get off with that, this horse has a high, high cruising speed. He's more efficient than Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. How efficient is that?"
Dallas Stewart, trainer of Golden Soul:
"You know that last race [the Haskell] was just a throwout, as we say, it just was not a good race for him. This scenario, there's very nice horses here, there should be a good pace, but they're going to finish. They're not just going to back up. He's going to need to run his race to be right there. I feel good about it."
Here are the post postions and morning line odds for the $1 million Travers Stakes:
|4||Golden Soul||Stewart||R Albarado||20-1|
|5||Will Take Charge||Lukas||L Saez||10-1|
|7||War Dancer||McPeek||A Garcia||15-1|
|8||Palace Malice||Pletcher||M Smith||5-2|