Kentucky Derby runner up Commanding Curve–who has had a very erratic three year old campaign otherwise–has started to train for the August 23 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The Dallas Stewart trained colt turned in his best performance of the year at Churchill Downs but could do no better than runner up to California Chrome.
On Saturday, Commanding Curve had his first formal workout for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes. He breezed a half mile in :49 2/5 along with stable mate Knights Nation before galloping out in 1:02. Trainer Dallas Stewart was pleased with the workout in preparation for Commanding Curve’s first race since his 4th place finish in the Jim Dandy. According to Stewart, Commanding Curve is a ‘maintenance horse’ and not one that requires major changes or focused work between starts. His connections just want him to look fit and sound and based on Stewart’s reaction after his workout that seems to be the case.
Commanding Curve’s strong showing at the Kentucky Derby notwithstanding, he’s had a somewhat erratic three year old campaign. He finished sixth in the Grade 2 Risen Star, third in the Louisiana Derby prior to his runner up performance at Churchill Downs. Since that race he’s turned in a disappointing 9th place in the Belmont Stakes and 4th place in the Jim Dandy. Stewart is hoping for dry track conditions for the Travers and maintains that Commanding Curve could have beaten California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby were the track at Churchill Downs not as wet.
Stewart’s primary concern about Commanding Curve is his ability to maintain an energetic pace throughout the race. He seemed to slow down in the second half of the Belmont and Jim Dandy and Stewart thinks that was more a function of pace rather than stamina. With some pure speed horses likely to start in the Travers Stakes that should–in theory at least–benefit Commanding Curve who Stewart thinks will like the brisker pace. The big question is his ability to use that pace to outrun some good closers like Wicked Strong and Tonalist. Commanding Curve is something of a ‘tweener’ horse–not fast enough to outrun strong competition but not enough of a closer to beat them with a late kick.