Wicked Strong gave a valiant effort in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Sunday afternoon but came up short as stablemate V.E. Day closed strong for the victory. Both horses are trained by Jimmy Jerkens and both have looked very good since the end of the Triple Crown campaign. Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist came in third.
Overall, the race was a highly dramatic and entertaining affair that was dominated by speed early and class late. The fastest horse in the field, Bob Baffert’s Bayern, set the pace early as he shot out of the gate and quickly opened up a 7 length lead over the rest of the field. He didn’t fare well when the stronger closing horses caught up to him and by the final turn was completely spent. Bayern would finish dead last in the field of 10.
Once Bayern faded the race was a two horse duel down the stretch between Wicked Strong and Tonalist. Wicked Strong was the better of the two horses and looked to have victory in his grasp until stablemate V.E. Day came with a late burst of speed to steal the win. V.E. Day was something of an afterthought in a very deep field and paid $41.00, $13.20 and $7.30. Wicked Strong paid $4.40 and $3.10. Tonalist was the post time favorite at 8-5 and returned $3.40 to show.
Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens experienced a variety of emotions with the result. He was obviously pleased for V.E. Day but felt bad for the runner up Wicked Strong who ‘ran his guts out’. Jerkens was asked what was next for his tandem of horses and said that he didn’t know but he was planning to ‘savor this for awhile’ and noted that he’s not one to plan things ‘months and months in advance’.
Other higher profile horses in the field: Kid Cruz finished fourth and despite having the second best speed in the race (behind Bayern) was never a factor at any point. Commanding Curve was a profound disappointment and might as well have not shown up. He would eventually finish 9th just ahead of the completely drained Bayern but would never demonstrate anywhere near the same level of effort.