Horse Racing

West Coast invades to win Travers at Saratoga

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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West Coast came east to win the US$1,250,000 Travers at Saratoga on Saturday, and in doing so gave trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith their second consecutive victory in the Mid-Summer Derby with a three-year-old that had not run in any of the Triple Crown races.

As for the winners of this year's Triple Crown events, who had all assembled in the Travers for this first time since 1982, none of them were able to hit the board. Tapwrit finished fourth, Cloud Computing ended up eighth, and Always Dreaming was ninth.

West Coast was sent off as the fourth choice by the betting public at odds of 6.10-1 because there were questions about whether the Baffert runner could handle a field with this quality since he had never run in a Grade One race himself. Smith made the decision to answer those questions as soon as the starting gate opened.

“They said, 'listen, you ride him however you want, and he'll put a big effort,' and that means I could do whatever I wanted,” said Smith. “Just off of the way it looked, I said I was going to get aggressive leaving here, and see where it puts me. If it's not in front, it puts me in the race, and I'm happy with that. I thought there wasn't much pace, but man, I caught a good jump, put him on the lead, and he just cruised from there.”

Smith and West Coast sprang out of the three post-position and took the lead while establishing position on the rail. Throughout the entire Saratoga meeting, the rail has been a good place to be and Smith knew that. He was willing to play 'catch me if you can' as they were able to get into a very smooth and relaxed stride while carving out steady comfortable fractions.

For the first three-quarters of a mile, the Triple Crown horses were in contention. Always Dreaming was second running just off of the leader's hip, and Cloud Computing was in third behind those two. Tapwrit moved into contention, and those three were in stalking position just behind West Coast.

But even with the fractions of 23.82, 48.12, and 1:12.23, the Derby and Preakness winners could not keep up with the leader, and fell back in the field. Coming out of the final turn, it was Irap and Gunnevera who appeared to be making a bid for the lead as they hit the stretch.

However, West Coast had plenty left in the tank and he was able to easily draw away from the competition, with the pink and black silks of his owners Gary and Mary West sparkling clean from the gate-to-wire victory. The final time for the 10-furlongs was 2:01.19 and the margin of victory was 3 lengths.

“He was a happy horse all the way around there,” added Smith. “There was a time or two when they came to me, but he just put them away, and every time they would, he'd take a big old breath of air, so I felt confident he'd continue to run well.”

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