This was quite the exciting Midsummer Derby.
Leading up to the race, anyone who asked me what horse I liked in the Travers Stakes heard the following things from me:
- It’s a wide open field.
- I’m intrigued by Bob Baffert’s two entries, Arrogate and American Freedom.
- This race will be speedy.
Pretty accurate, right?
Well, let me explain a bit more as to why I felt that way. Just by taking a quick glance at the field for the race, there wasn’t a clear cut favorite. There were 14 entered horses that have shown promise and have had their share of successes in their careers. For the first time in a long time, it could be anyone’s race to win.
The fact that Bob Baffert made the decision to ship two horses from the West Coast to compete at Saratoga I found very interesting. Since I’ve spent the last three years at Santa Anita Park, I’ve had the opportunity to see both of these horses race live. I was completely blown away the first time that I saw Arrogate race at Santa Anita. I remember specifically because Zenyatta’s little one Ziconic was also in the race, who finished 4th. Following his Santa Anita debut, Arrogate went on to win his next two starts – one at Santa Anita and another at Del Mar. Though Arrogate had yet to compete in a Graded Stakes, Baffert must have had a feeling that the colt could be a strong contender in the Travers. Once I saw Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith had been enlisted to ride, there was no way I was going to leave him out of my betting strategies.
Though I only saw American Freedom race once at Santa Anita earlier this year, I suppose I was less surprised that he was entered to run in the Travers. American Freedom had done well this year with successes like the Sir Barton Stakes and Gr. 3 Iowa Derby where he finished first. In June, he came finished second to Exaggerator in the Haskell. This colt having a bit more experience in graded stakes races and also on an East Coast track made him appealing to me.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen Baffert enter two horses in a race. Sometimes I feel he uses it as an schooling opportunity to prep one of his horses for a future race, but this time I knew he was in it win. My feelings were correct as Arrogate’s dazzling Travers performance set a new track record of 159:36! American Freedom and Jockey Rafael Bejarano arrived second creating a west coast exacta.
I was fortunate to have some amazing moments leading up to and following the race. Below you will find my highlights through photos:
I didn’t take any photos during the race.
It was so much better to be in the moment!
I’m still buzzing over this race! I’m so thankful that I was present to witness history at Saratoga with my all time favorite jockey on the mount. When I first started to enjoy the sport of horse racing, I never imagined that I would have experiences like this! Each day at the races is a reminder to me that there are always new opportunities and chances to have a winning day.
/ xo, ci /