Trainer Brad Cox indicated this morning that Rupp Racing's Owendale is on target for Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers after his four-furlong workout over the Churchill Downs surface that went in 48.80 seconds on Saturday. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief will arrive at Saratoga on Tuesday, and will gallop over the track leading up the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
“Our horse is doing really well,” Cox said. “He breezed great yesterday at Churchill and galloped out well and looked great this morning. He is coming into the race as well as we could ask or expect. He's on top of his game. He will gallop out on the track Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”
Owendale has won two of his last three starts with the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown being his latest on June 22. While Owendale made a nice off-the-pace move to beat Math Wizard by a half-length, Cox suggested his horse struggled a little bit over the track under jockey Florent Geroux.
“It was a good effort at a mile and an eighth,” Cox said. “I think he might have struggled a little bit with the track and Florent thought the same thing. But he got the job done.”
Cox originally had not considered the Travers for Owendale, who has won 4-of-10 races for $668,725, that includes a victory in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland and a third-place finish to War of Will in the Grade 1 Preakness. However, the timing and other factors helped Cox made that decision.
“The more we thought about it, the more we thought this,” he said. “There is a bigger purse. It is a more prestigious race. It is a mile and a quarter. He runs like he is a mile and a quarter horse. If it is a good set up, it is possible. The numbers suggest our horse is a bit fast or just as fast any of these. If he can run his Preakness race or the Lexington race, he is going to be in the mix.”
After the horse's two solid races at Fair Grounds over the winter, Cox thought Owendale could be a candidate for the Triple Crown trail and ran him in the Grade 2 Risen Star.
“We thought he was horse who would get better with time,” Cox said. “Over the winter, he was training really well and we did a lot with him. He ran really well and beat a good group of horses. Then we went right back with him in the Risen Star and we were doing too much with him too quickly. Obviously, we were chasing the Derby dream. He was a touch light and we were asking a lot of him. We slowed down with him and took a deep breath.”
Cox said Owendale is coming into the Travers just as well as he did for the Lexington and the Preakness.
“I feel like he is coming into this one just like he did in the Preakness,” he said. “We expected a big effort out of him in the Preakness. He's a horse who appreciates time in between starts. Probably his best race this year has been the Lexington. He had time between the Risen Star and the Lexington.”
Trainer Stanley Hough has accomplished much since saddling his first winner in 1969. The veteran conditioner has nearly 12,800 starts to his credit and 2,184 victories entering Sunday, but he will set a career first when he enters Scars Are Cool in the 150th running of the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers.
Hough, who has amassed 41 graded stakes victories across four decades, will send out Sagamore Farm's Scars Are Cool for his first starter in the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
It seemed as if Global Campaign, the Grade 3 Peter Pan winner in May at Belmont Park who finished third in the Jim Dandy on July 27 at Saratoga, would have the distinction of being Hough's first Travers starter. But an injury sidelined him while opening the door for Scars Are Cool, who broke his maiden at third asking in a 1 1/8-mile route on a fast main track on July 21 at the Spa, setting up an ambitious spot for his stakes debut in the 1 ¼-mile Travers.
“It's great. I thought my first starter was going to be Global Campaign, but it's exciting to see what he can do,” Hough said. “He's always been nice. As a 2-year-old, he got hurt, but he looked like he was going to be a nice horse. Each race, he's improved. But in his race here, he looked really good.”
Scars Are Cool, unraced a juvenile, made his debut on May 12 at Churchill Downs, running fourth in a 10-horse field at 6 ½ furlongs. Stretched out to a mile on June 16 at Churchill, the Malibu Moon colt ran third. Shipping to Saratoga, he handled the stretch out in distance over a fast Saratoga main track, rallying from fifth-of-seven to post a four-length score last month. That effort netted him a personal-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure.
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