From the Media Team at Saratoga / Richard Rosenblatt:
The “Bill and Bob Show” is set for Saturday’s Grade 1 $700,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course on a star-studded racing program on Travers Day.
Hall of Famer Bill Mott sends out Elate against fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s Abel Tasman in a field of six fillies and mares going 1 ¼ miles in the 71st running of the Personal Ensign, re-named in 1998 for the undefeated filly who won all 13 of her races. It will be run as the seventh race on the 13-race card.
The Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers will be televised live on NBC from 4-6 p.m., and also will be televised on a special Travers Day edition of Saratoga Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing nationally on FS2 from 1-4 p.m. ET. Regional coverage of Saturday’s Saratoga Live can be found on MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket and Altitude.
“We’re sending the big mare to take on Bill Mott,” Baffert said playfully. “Bill’s been braggin’ on her and that means he’s got her sharp and ready to go.”
While Mott, a bit less jovial than Baffert, may agree his 4-year-old filly by Medaglia d’Oro is training very well, he’s not really considered the bragging type.
“Big Bob. Big Bob,” said Mott with a smile. “They were a head apart here last year [Abel Tasman edged Elate in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks], so it should be a good race.”
Elate and Abel Tasman are expected to be the top two betting choices in the “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate was an easy 3 ¼-length winner in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 14 in her first race in more than eight months, and she had a solid five-furlong workout two weeks ago followed by a four-furlong breeze on Sunday.
“She’s run well this year, so we have reason to believe she is doing well,” said Mott, a three-time winner of the Personal Ensign, most recently with Royal Delta in 2013 and Close Hatches in 2014.
Elate, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 6, has a record of 5-3-1 in 11 starts for earnings of $1,270,325.
China Horse Club International’s Abel Tasman, the 2017 Eclipse Award winning 3-year-old filly, also put in a solid pre-race workout Sunday at Del Mar before being shipped to Saratoga.
The 4-year-old by Quality Road comes in to the Personal Ensign off a 7 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 9. Abel Tasman, who won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Acorn in 2017, has seven wins and four seconds in 13 career starts for earnings of $2,412,385.
“She’s doing fine, right on schedule,” said Baffert. “If she just runs the race she did in New York last time, we’re in good shape.”
Abel Tasman will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith from post 1.
Also entered are Grade 3 Shuvee winner Farrell (Channing Hill) and runner-up Wow Cat (John Velazquez), leaving from posts 5 and 6, respectively, Fuhriously Kissed (Jose Bracho, post 3) and She Takes Heart (Eric Cancel), post 2.
Coffeepot Stables’ Farrell is a filly to watch after holding on by a neck to beat Wow Cat on the heels of a pair of runner-up finishes in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on June 16 and the Grade 1 La Troienne (Abel Tasman was fourth in the race) on May 14, both at Churchill.
“She is doing great, and that’s good because this will be an extremely tough race,” said Farrell’s trainer Wayne Catalano. “We’re expecting her to run well. She’s won over this track and has performed great while she’s been here.”
The meet’s leading trainer, Chad Brown, will saddle Peter Brant and Vendaval Stud’s Wow Cat, who won all eight of her starts in Chile, including that country’s Triple crown series, before just missing in the Shuvee in her first race since Brown took over as trainer.
Fuhriously Kissed and She Takes Heart are both owned by Loooch Racing Stables. The 5-year-old Fuhriously Kissed, trained by Anthony Quartorolo, ran fourth behind Elate in the Delaware Handicap and seventh in the Fleur de Lis. The 5-year-old She Takes Heart, trained by Peter Walder, is making her second graded stakes start in her 31st career race.
Baffert and his horses have been the stars on Travers Day the past three years, with Triple Crown winner American Phaorah running second in the 2015 edition, followed the past two years with victories in the Mid-Summer Derby with Arrogate and West Coast.
His second Triple Crown winner, Justify, is retired, and he won’t have a runner in the Travers on Saturday. He will be honored on Friday by NYRA for his contributions to racing in a Red Jacket ceremony signifying his induction into Saratoga’s Walk of Fame.
He’s more than fine with saddling Abel Tasman in the Personal Ensign.
“Abel is one of my favorite fillies,” said Baffert. “She’s won some really exciting races. She always comes through. She’s also one of the favorites in the barn. She’s got the same demeanor as American Pharoah. A great mind, big ears, she’s just a sweet, sweet thing. We’re looking forward to it.”