Who is the top 3-year-old male horse? That debate was a hot one prior to Saturday’s Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga. But it’s all over now after Epicenter delivered an emphatic 5¼-length victory at even money in the horse racing odds. The new topic is whether Epicenter can become the fifth 3-year-old in the last nine years to win Horse of the Year. A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would likely do the trick.
Resume Speaks for Itself
Epicenter was the 4-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby odds after completing his prep race season with a victory in the Louisiana Derby. He appeared on his way to winning the Run for the Roses until 80-1 Rich Strike showed up in the shadow of the wire to deny Steve Asmussen, the all-time winningest trainer, his first Derby triumph. Epicenter endured a poor start and was second in the Preakness as the 6-5 favorite, and was given a rest.
Epicenter came back strong with a victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes, the local prep for the Mid-Summer Derby. He was a stick-out when betting online in the Travers, and came through for his backers with a perfect ride by jockey Joel Rosario. Epicenter defeated Rich Strike by some 5¼ lengths and Preakness winner Early Voting, who was near the lead for three-quarters of a mile before being eased into last.
“I thought that answered a lot of questions,” Asmussen told Bloodhorse after winning his first Travers. “His resume looks very good, and we’re willing to run against them again.”
A Classic Situation Awaits
Neither owner Ron Winchell nor Asmussen would commit to when Epicenter runs next, but the ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Epicenter will face older horses for the first time, but appears up to the challenge. “He’s exciting, isn’t he?” Asmussen told Bloodhorse. “And thank goodness a sportsman owns him. It’s everything you hope for. You start with a talented horse who continues to get better. What can be better in racing than that?“
The waters will get deeper in the Breeders’ Cup with Life Is Good and Flightline 1-2 in the latest NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Epicenter will likely rise to No. 3 when the next poll is released. Life Is Good won the Grade I Whitney Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 6 and is being pointed to the Grade I Woodward at Belmont on Oct. 1 before heading to Keeneland. Flightline will probably be the favorite to win Saturday’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Epicenter certainly fits with the big boys on the Beyer scale after earning an eye-popping 112 on Saturday. Life Is Good received a 107 in winning the Whitney after getting a 110 for his victory in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January. Flightline picked up a 112 when he won the one-turn Metropolitan Mile at Belmont in June.
Epicenter has a win and a second at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance of 1¼ miles. Life Is Good was fourth in his only try at 10 furlongs. Flightline has never raced more than a mile but will try 1¼ miles – and two turns for the first time – in the Pacific Classic.