Travers Day, Part II

As good as Sara Louise and Music Note were in the Victory Ride and the Ballerina respectively, they might have been overshadowed by Vineyard Haven in the King’s Bishop even if he hadn’t been disqualified from first to second.

Vineyard Haven, who went off at similar odds as Music Note and as the co-fourth choice in the field, went to the front and never looked back; even during the race, the folks around me weren’t believers, waiting for him to fold in the stretch.

He didn’t fold, but he did falter, briefly, bumping into the surging Capt. Candyman Can before righting himself, regaining momentum, and holding on for the win.

At least temporarily, as within moments, both objection and inquiry signs were posted, and then the waiting began.

Capt. Candyman Can and Vineyard Haven circled on the track, the distance between then widening with each turn. The replay indicated that the eventual result was inevitable, and Vineyard Haven’s magical comeback was ruined, as Capt. Candyman Can was placed first.

Javier Castellano celebrated, while Vineyard Haven began the equine walk of shame…

The 140th Travers offered any number of tantalizing narratives. Would Rachel Alexandra’s stablemate Kensei continue his impressive three-year-old progress and enter the conversation about champion three-year-old? Would Quality Road prove that he’s the best three-year-old colt in training, and that it’s possible to prep for a mile and a quarter race by setting a six and a half furlong record? Would Kiaran McLaughlin’s Charitable Man finally justify his trainer’s faith in him?

No, no, and no. And ultimately, the story that unfolded was the most satisfying from nearly all perspectives. Racing fans saw a late-developing colt prove that his Belmont win was no fluke; historians watched the son of Birdstone duplicate his father’s accomplishments, in similar conditions; and gamblers were rewarded with some juicy exotic prices.

Following the race, both trainer Time Ice and jockey Kent Desormeaux invoked history. “For my colt to win the Belmont and come back and win the Travers, like his sire, Birdstone, and be the 30th horse to come out of the Belmont and win the Travers means a lot,” said Ice.

Desormeaux observed, “This is the oldest racetrack in America and one of the most historical racing events. The whole meet is special, and in my eyes I just won the most special race at the meet. This made my entire summer here at Saratoga.”

So Summer Bird wins the Mid-Summer Derby, and New York racing fans can look forward to seeing him back at Belmont before too long, where he will reportedly train for the Jockey Club Gold Cup in early October.

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