war dancer outside august 11

WAR DANCER (Outside) (NYRA Photo)

(Editor’s Note: VA-Derby winner War Dancer was sixth in the Travers Aug 24 at Saratoga.) To see the Equibase Chart, click here

Virginia Derby winner War Dancer’s assault on the Midsummer Derby isn’t exactly like riding a bicycle up Mount Everest, but it surely is a very steep climb when the son of super hot sire War Front tackles today’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.  Never mind the switch to dirt and skipping the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes Gr.1 run last weekend over the same distance and surface as the Virginia Derby, the real challenge looks to be a very competitive and deep field that includes two-thirds of the Triple Crown and an impressive Haskell winner.

War Dancer is owned by Magdalena Racing (Susan McPeek) so his connections are playing with house money. If the three-year-old colt, out of Deed I Do by Alydeed, is holding his Virginia Derby form in the mornings, why not take a swing at the big time?

The Travers offers an extra $500,000 in purse and a huge uptick in value in the breeding shed.  As successful as War Dancer’s sire (War Front) has been so far, his sons are sure to be well received especially if he has won important races at both dirt and turf at the classic distance of 10 furlongs.  A win in the Grade 1 Travers would put War Dancer’s stud value through the roof in a way the Grade 1 Secretariat could not.

The big obstacle facing trainer McPeek, who conquered this race last year when longshot Golden Ticket finished first in a dead heat with Alpha, is the competition.  It’s best to describe the competition as stiff at best.

Nobody ever said winning a million dollar grade one would be easy, but this Travers seems full of speed and talent.

It’s not unusual for a Kentucky Derby, Belmont or Haskell winner to turn up in the gate at the end of August in upstate New York.  But rare is an addition that includes all three.

Orb is the reigning Derby champion and that is cause for plenty of respect. He thrived at Fair Hill and his Hall of Fame trainer seems quite content with this training of late.  In addition, few have entered this race recently with the resume and current form of Palace Malice and Verrazano.

The Belmont winner impressively won the major Travers’ prep, the Jim Dandy, and Verrazano has but one clunker on his resume that includes six wins from seven starts at $1,551,300 in earnings.  He’s impressively won the Pegasus Gr. 3 and the Haskel Gr. 1 since his one flop in the Kentucky Derby.

The field also runs long on talented potential with Moreno (third in the Jim Dandy and winner of the Dwyer Stakes Gr. 2 at Belmont), Will Take Charge ($665,371 who looks to be recapturing his Arkansas form finishing second in the Jim Dandy) and Golden Soul ($527,400, second in the Kentucky Derby).

Then there is the matter of the Virginia Derby moving up from its current Grade 2 status.  Some would say the race should already be a Grade 1 off the impressive careers of Kitten’s Joy, English Channel and Gio Ponti, so surely War Dancer winning the Travers would tip the scale once and for all.

With all of that said, Saratoga is keen on a good upset, so maybe the McPeek’s gamble will pay off in more ways than one…?

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