To go from twelfth in one big race in May to first in another big race in August— 3 months’ time— feels seemingly impossible in a logical sense. Perhaps Stay Thirsty just needed some time to grow up, as his pedigree would suggest. Or perhaps it wasn’t thirst— up until now, he just wasn’t hungry enough.
An overcast sky and a threatening wind storm of epic proportions did nothing to sway the team of Stay Thirsty and Javier Castellano, who were co-favorites with Haskell winner Coil going to the post. The field broke hodgepodge, with Stay Thirsty stumbling out onto the track but managing to pick it up in time to contest the lead with Shackleford. The Bernardini colt was eventually reeled in before the half mile point, made in a calm :47 1/2.
In an unexplainable turn of events, Shackleford let go of the lead by the mile mark, tiring far back into the pack as Coil trailed as caboose. Stay Thirsty rolled on the turn, opening up enough of a gap between himself and the pack that Castellano merely gave a casual backwards glance. Longshots Rattlesnake Bridge and J W Blue rallied well, the former coming close to Stay Thirsty on the outside, but could not push faster. Stay Thirsty was crowned the obvious winner as the rest of the three-year-old titans seemed to fall apart around him: Coil finished last, Shackleford second-to-last, Ruler On Ice fourth.
Javier Castellano celebrated his second year in a row of winning the Travers, which he also won with Stay Thirsty’s sire Bernardini in the same Jim Dandy-Travers double.
However, it was only politics that made this is a remotely exciting Travers. The other horses finished so poorly it begs the question as to how well the track held up, as I noted Shackleford bouncing a bit higher than usual in his gallop down the backstretch. Even Stay Thirsty looked like he was struggling to open wide coming for home. Also, I’m curious to know if Bob Baffert is still suspect of the course as he was in the past couple weeks, seeing as his horse (and my favorite) failed to show any sort of power. And shame on Mike Repole of all people, who despite winning his first Travers— a hallmark of excellence— still managed to darken the day more than the clouds above Saratoga:
It’s a roller-coaster game, it’s a bipolar game. What we just saw in the last half hour for Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole was the low, the highest high, all within 30 minutes. It’s a tough loss with Uncle Mo and probably the best win of my life here with the Travers.
I’m starting to feel that this man doesn’t deserve to own a horse like Thirsty, who is now arguably the country’s best three-year-old, arguably because out of all 12 Grade I races for three-year-olds, a different horse has won each of them.
Stay Thirsty, according to his trainer Todd Pletcher, is looking at a possible Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) start with hopes to enter the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I), both super races I agree he’ll like quite a bit. Stay hungry for those wins, Thirsty!