Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird followed in the footsteps of his sire Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course as he splashed his way to an imposing 3½ length victory over longshot Hold Me Back in the 140th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers Stakes.
The son of 2004 Belmont-Travers winner Birdstone, ridden by Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, took the lead with a quarter-mile to go and was never threatened as he edged clear through the stretch to add the “Mid-Summer Derby” to his victory over Dunkirk and Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes.
Summer Bird’s winning time for the 1¼ miles was 2:02.83 over a sloppy track.
Sent off as the second choice behind favored Quality Road, who was third, Summer Bird returned $7.80 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the enthusiastic crowd of 34,221. In earning $600,000 for Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, his record now stands at 3-1-1 from seven starts with a bankroll of $1,573,040.
“I feel like I do [have the best 3-year-old colt],” said his 35-year-old trainer, Tim Ice, who took out his training license just a year ago. “He beat Quality Road today. I have a lot of respect for Quality Road, and I have a lot of respect for my horse. So maybe he is champion 3-year-old.”
Desormeaux, who picked up his first Travers win after finishing sixth in both 2007 and 2008, kept Summer Bird well off the rail as Our Edge took the field of seven 3-year-old colts through early fractions of 23.19 and 46.88. With Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Kensei inheriting the lead on the turn, Summer Bird began moving up rapidly at the five-sixteenths pole, taking control and opening a clear lead with a quarter-mile to go.
“He left the gate wanting to run,” said Desormeaux. “At the five-sixteenths, he took off, full of run. Thank goodness for the Jumbotron [in the infield]. I was never nervous because I could see the field was well behind me.”
Hold Me Back, who had trailed early, went six-wide on the turn and closed to gain second, 1½ lengths clear of the favorite.
“He ran great today,” said Hold Me Back’s Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott. “I’m thrilled. We were second-best but he ran big.”
Quality Road, who had set a track record in winning the 6 ½ furlong Amsterdam here in his first start since taking the Grade 1 Florida Derby in March, made a bid in midstretch after a rail trip but could not catch the top two.
“He didn’t break very good,” said John Velazquez, aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained colt. “There was nothing I could do, but he came back and got himself back into the race. There was no room for me to go around the far turn … once we got some room, he was starting to run again.”
Completing the order of finish were Charitable Man, Warrior’s Reward, Kensei, and Our Edge.
Summer Bird, who in his last start finished second to Rachel Alexandra in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, becomes the 30th horse in Travers history, and first since his sire, to complete the Belmont-Travers double. Prior to winning the Belmont, he finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Arkansas Derby.
“The more races he runs, I think he’s going to get better,” said Ice. “For this race, he was already a proven Grade 1 winner. For my colt to win the Belmont and come back and win the Travers, like Birdstone, means a lot.”
Shadwell Farm, presenting sponsor of last year’s Travers, became the title sponsor of the race in 2009.
“The Travers continues to offer our thoroughbred athletes competitive racing and we were fortunate to have experienced the thrilling victory of Summer Bird,” said Rick Nichols, Shadwell’s vice president and general manager. “Congratulations to the entire team associated with Summer Bird, and Shadwell wishes them all the best with his future racing career.”