VA-DERBY WINNER WAR DANCER DRAWS #7 IN NINE HORSE TRAVERS STAKES

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WAR DANCER WINNING THE VA DERBY (Coady Photography)

Virginia Derby winner War Dancer will switch back to the main track and try to defeat a deep field in the 10 furlong $1 million Travers Stakes Gr. 1 at Saratoga on Saturday. It will be the son of War Front’s second start on the dirt this year where he will join morning line favorite and Haskell winner Verazano, Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes winner Palace Malice.

Last year, War Dancer’s trainer Ken McPeek sent long shot Golden Ticket out to hit the wire simultaneously with the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Alpha for the first dead-heat in modern Travers history.

Leading Saratoga trainer Todd Pletcher looks to capture the 144th edition of the Midsummer Derby entering Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice (#8) coming off a solid win in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Gr.2 score and Verrazano (#3) who won the $1 million Haskell Gr. 1 impressively a day later.

Verrazano, under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, was installed by oddsmaker Eric Donovan as the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, while Palace Malice is the 5-2 second choice with another Hall of Famer Mike Smith up.

Orb, who races for Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III under the capable supervision of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, has not raced since that June 8 test at Belmont Park. Instead, the 4-1 third choice on the Travers morning line enjoyed his stay at the Fair Hill Training Center near Elkton, MD prepping for Saturday’s summer classic.

According to trainer Shug McGuaghey, the Malibu Moon colt has gained some weight and is likely mentally sharper than the tired horse post Triple Crown.

Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge and Southern Equine Stable’s Moreno return from respective second- and third-place finishes in the Jim Dandy to tackle the division leaders once again.

Completing the field are Golden Soul, runner up to Orb in the Kentucky Derby but a dull ninth in the Belmont and seventh n the Haskell, Romansh, a lightly raced son of 2006 Travers winner Bernardini who is trained by Tom Albertrani for Darley Stable, and Transparent, also by Bernardini, who races for Darley and McLaughlin.

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