Initially concerned about rain forecasted in the Saratoga area over the weekend, trainer Keith Desormeaux called an audible with Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers hopeful Exaggerator and decided to pass over the Curlin colt's penultimate work scheduled for Saturday morning.
“We're going to take the fresh approach,” said Desormeaux, who arrived from Del Mar Thursday evening. “He's had plenty of racing, he's been running steadily since February. He had a tough Triple Crown campaign and he showed his ability to maintain fitness by the run in the Haskell. For him to show that level of fitness off of seven weeks [after the Grade 1 Belmont on June 11], it tells me that he maintains fitness very well.”
Desormeaux said the skipped work will not affect the 3-year-old's training schedule ahead of the race which, weather permitting, currently includes a two-minute lick planned for Tuesday and his final breeze on Saturday, which will be his first and only work between his 1 ½-length Haskell victory on July 31 and the “Midsummer Derby” on August 27.
With Desormeaux returning to California later this weekend, Exaggerator will remain under the care of assistant trainer Julie Clark, who has been the principal overseer of the conditioner's New York string.
“It's going to be all on Ms. Clark to determine how he works,” Desormeaux said. “The important thing is that he gallops out well next weekend.”
Exaggerator had originally been pointed to the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 30 but turned in a lackluster breeze over the main track on July 22, which Desormeaux cited as one of several reasons he ultimately chose to target the Haskell instead.
“He might work the same way over the track but, obviously, it doesn't affect his readiness to run,” Desormeaux mused. “I didn't like the work here but he ran great in the Haskell. We know here that the track is so busy in the morning, it becomes loose. It might be as simple as that, that's the kind of stuff you shouldn't complicate. That's probably what it is, it becomes loose from use in the mornings, but they run fast times in the afternoon. It's nice and tight [for the races] and that means that the track is fine.
“I had actually accepted that and was planning on running in the Jim Dandy but, as I looked at it more, there was no speed in the Jim Dandy,” he continued. “Exaggerator is not about the track. His success is not dependent on a sloppy track but his success is dependent on a pace to run at.”
Meanwhile, Desormeaux reported that 2015 Jim Dandy winner Texas Red is in good order and will rejoin Desormeaux' stable at the beginning of September. Winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Texas Red will resume training through the fall and is planned to launch a 5-year-old campaign targeting the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in the spring.
“I check on Texas Red daily, weekly,” he said. “He's out but he doesn't have any major issues. He was never diagnosed with any problem but his ankle was bothering him so I just stopped on him and gave him three or four months off. I expect him to be ready [to run] by January 1st, so we're really looking forward to 2017.”
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