Travers Stakes Loses the Likely Favorite

Injury and sickness continue to plague top 3-year-olds this year as Haskell Invitational winner Paynter, who would have been favored in the Travers Stakes, won’t make the $1 million Grade 1.

The son of Awesome Again, who spent more than a week in a New Jersey veterinary clinic after spiking a fever several days after his big win in Monmouth Park’s showcase race, arrived at Belmont Park on Aug. 10. He began walking under tack on Monday, the first time he had a saddle on his back since the July 29 victory.

The Bob Baffert trainee was so sick his scheduled shipment back to California was delayed and he was sent to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey.

But Baffert will be represented in the Travers by Liaison, third in the Jim Dandy, who worked at Saratoga Monday as did two other 3-year-olds headed to the Mid-Summer Derby.

Haskell’s third-place finisher Stealcase put in a fast five-furlong move in 59 seconds under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, but according to the Daily Racing Form, it was Liaison who impressed more visually with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00 1/5, working with Gun Boat.

Under exercise rider Simon Harris, the son of Indian Charlie broke off about two lengths in front of Gun Boat and sped three furlongs in 36 seconds. He opened up another length or two on Gun Boat in the stretch, getting his last quarter in 24 seconds, and galloped out well.

Five Sixteen, the Curlin Stakes runner-up, covered five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, also working in company.

Trainer John Terraniova oversaw the work for Baffert and said Liaison’s move went according to plan. “He gets a better workout when he’s in front. When behind, he can be a little bit lazy breezing; (Baffert) wanted him a little bit out in front. He worked exceptional. The other horse worked good, and he needed the work, too.”

Gun Boat, who stumbled badly at the start when finishing sixth in the Amsterdam on July 29, is being pointed to the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug. 25, Travers Day.

Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard. Martin Garcia rode Liaison in the Jim Dandy. Bejarano was aboard for Liaison’s Grade 1 victory in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last December.

Now Alpha likely will be favored in the Travers. He won the Withers, ran second in the Wood Memorial and finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip. On Aug. 9, the son of Bernardini breezed four furlongs in 48 1/5, his first work for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin after his two-length triumph in the Jim Dandy on July 28.

Other likely runners in the 1 ¼-mile contest include Nonios, runner-up in the Haskell, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 at Del Mar on Sunday; Street Life, winner of the Curlin, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Tuesday at Saratoga; and Neck ’n Neck, second in the Jim Dandy, who went five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 on Tuesday at the New York track.

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