Trainer Mark Casse reported Monday morning that Saratoga Race Course's current meet leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. will have the mount aboard Gary Barber's Wonder Gadot, set to become the first filly since 1979 to contest the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on Saturday.
Ortiz was previously committed to ride Hofburg in the Mid-Summer Derby, but the Curlin winner was withdrawn from the race on Sunday after missing a scheduled breeze due to fever.
“Irad is as good as they come,” said Casse. “He's having an unbelievable meet and it seemed like an obvious choice.”
Ortiz entered Monday's card leading all jockeys this summer with 39 wins from 171 mounts through 27 days of racing. Ortiz won the 2015 Spa riding title and has finished second in the standings the last two years behind his brother Jose.
Wonder Gadot, an Ontario-bred by Medgalia d'Oro, will be the first filly since Davona Dale in 1979 to start in the Travers. Davona Dale, named champion 3-year-old filly and later inducted in the Hall of Fame, finished fourth as the favorite that year. Seven fillies have won the Travers in its 148-year history with the last being Lady Rotha, who was elevated to victory via disqualification in 1915.
“I'm really excited,” said Ortiz. “She's a nice filly and she's been working really good. Unfortunately, Hofburg got sick, but I'm happy to have this opportunity. I'm thankful to be on her in the Travers and hopefully we can stay with her.”
Winner of the first two legs of Canada's Triple Crown over males this summer, Wonder Gadot returned to the track Monday for the first time since recording a bullet 47.60-second half-mile breeze on Friday.
Wonder Gadot will gallop up to Saturday's race, said Casse. He added that she schooled in the paddock on Sunday and is slated to gate school on the main track Wednesday.
“She'll do something a little out of the norm, I think, on Wednesday,” he said. “She's going to train early at her usual time and then we'll come back and tack her back up and walk her over to go stand in the gate. I want her to gallop early in the morning because that works for her, but the gates aren't up then, so she'll train and school that morning.”
In other Travers goings-on, trainer Michael McCarthy said Monday morning that Axelrod, last-to-first winner of the Indiana Derby on July 14, would not be making the trip to New York for Saturday's Grade 1 Travers.
McCarthy will be bringing his multiple graded stakes winning City of Light to the Spa for the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego on Travers Day. The Edward Evans color-bearer is scheduled to arrive from California on Wednesday.
The 4-year-old Quality Road colt, 4-3-1 from eight starts with earnings of $1,000,600, worked a bullet five furlongs at Del Mar on Friday, covering the distance in 1:00.
Ryan Moore will ride the Aidan O'Brien-trained Group 2 UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn in the Travers.
Seahenge, also trained by O'Brien, was under consideration for the Mid-Summer Derby but has been redirected to the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on the inner turf on Travers Day, according to the NYRA Racing Office.
Entries for the Travers will be taken Tuesday. The post position draw will begin at 6 p.m. ET. Entries for the rest of the Travers Day card will be taken on Wednesday.
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