The Triple Crown races did little to determine who might win the Eclipse Award for the champion 3-year-old male horse, so the attention turns to the Travers. Jack Christopher, 4-for-4 lifetime, did not race in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or Belmont. However, there is a precedent for a horse to take home the hardware without competing in the division’s crown jewels.
Brown Holds Hot Hand
Jack Christopher is trying to become the first 3-year-old to win an Eclipse without competing in a Triple Crown race since a pair of Bob Baffert runners — West Coast in 2017 and Arrogate in 2016 — turned the trick. West Coast and Arrogate won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, known as the Midsummer Derby. Jack Christopher, ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Chad Brown, won the Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day by 10 lengths at 1-5 in the horse racing odds.
Jack Christopher will likely race in the Haskell at Monmouth on July 23. If all goes well, he’ll butt heads with the best in the Travers on Aug. 27. The son of Munnings went four furlongs in 49.40 seconds at Belmont on June 25 in his first workout since the seven-furlong Stephens. Jack Christopher has never raced around two turns. Two of his victories have come in one-turn miles — the Champagne at Belmont as a 2-year-old and the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs as a 3-year-old on Derby Day.
Brown also trains Early Voting, the Preakness winner; and Zandon, third in the Derby. The Travers is the ultimate goal for all three Brown trainees. One will likely race in the Haskell with the other running in the Jim Dandy, the local prep for the Travers, on July 30. “You’re just trying to guide the horses and keep them healthy and focused and fit,” Brown told reporters. “Try to find the best way to get to that race. The Haskell and Jim Dandy are great races in their own right, but the real goal for me is to get all three, possibly, to the Travers.”
Early Voting was 5-1 at the racebook when he won the Preakness under Jose Ortiz. Early Voting Zandon was 6-1 in the Derby with Flavien Prat riding.
Mo Donegal, Pletcher Could Crash Travers Party
Mo Donegal’s victory in the Belmont by three lengths as the 5-2 favorite when horse racing betting online served notice that he is a major player in the 3-year-old division. Mo Donegal, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April before running a troubled fifth in the Derby at 10-1. The Todd Pletcher trainee appears to be headed for the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, the local prep for the Travers, on July 30. Mo Donegal is No. 1 in the NTRA 3-year-old poll, followed by Early Voting, Epicenter, Jack Christopher, Zandon, and Rich Strike.
Don’t Sleep On Epicenter; Rich Strike Won’t Go Away
Epicenter is the tough-luck horse in this year’s 3-year-old crop. He finished second in the Derby to 80-1 longshot Rich Strike after a stretch duel with Zandon and was second in the Preakness after a slow start. Epicenter did not compete in the Belmont. “He’s like a machine,” David Fiske, a longtime advisor to the Winchell family, told the Thoroughbred Daily News. “He took a few weeks off after the Preakness and now he’s gotten a couple of slow half-miles in. We’re trying to get him cranked up for the Jim Dandy and then the Travers.”
Rich Strike, the stunning Derby winner, ran a non-threatening sixth in the Belmont at 4-1. The slower pace in the Belmont didn’t help Rich Strike’s cause after fast early fractions allowed him the opportunity to mow down the Derby field. Rich Strike will be trained up to the Travers, where he will likely be a big price under jockey Sonny Leon.