Sunday, August 30, 2009

THE BELMONT BIRD WINS TRAVERS – VIRGINIA-BREDS FINISH THIRD, FOURTH

The Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird splashed his way to victory in the $1 million Travers Stakes at rain-soaked Saratoga Race Course on Saturday. Hold Me Back, who made his last start in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs was second, followed by Virginia-breds Quality Road and Charitable Man.

In completing the Belmont-Travers double, Summer Bird joins his sire, Birdstone, who did it in 2004.

Summer Bird is the 30th horse to win both races.

A crowd of 34,221 (down from last year’s 40,723) braved showers all day for the biggest racing card of the six-week season, capped by the 1 1/4-mile Midsummer Derby.
Summer Bird, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, came into the race off a runner-up finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2. For two weeks, trainer Tim Ice had been saying his colt was ready for a big race, and he surely delivered.

Quality Road, who would have been the Derby favorite before he was sidelined with hoof issues, won the Amsterdam Stakes earlier in the month in his return. But he wasn’t quite ready for the Travers: He bucked jockey John Velazquez off before entering the starting gate, was squeezed between horses at the start and finished third in the seven-horse field.

“He didn't break very good. There was nothing I could do, but he came back and got himself back into the race. He handled it pretty well,” Velazquez said of Quality Road. “There was no room for me to go around the far turn. I had to wait for some running room. Once we got some room, he was starting to run again."

“I thought he was stuck in a difficult spot,” said trainer Todd Pletcher of Quality Road having to race behind the leaders early on and then being stuck between horses. “He ran well. I thought considering everything he ran a good race.”

Lane’s End Stakes (G2) winner Hold Me Back who showed little on Colnial’s turf, closed willingly from last in the seven-horse field to finish second.

"He ran great today. I'm thrilled,” said Hold Me Back’s Racing Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott. “We were second best but he ran big."

The winning time was 2:02.83.

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