Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Travers: Godolphin’s hopes rest with intriguing longshots Transparent, Romansh
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In recent years, trainers Kiaran McLaughlin and Tom Albertrani have won the Travers with horses from whom big things were expected.
Saturday, in the 144th Travers Stakes at Saratoga, McLaughlin and Albertrani are back in the race with horses that could be intriguing longshots in a field highlighted by Haskell winner Verrazano, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, and Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
McLaughlin, whose Alpha won last year’s Travers in a dead heat with Golden Ticket, sends out Transparent, a $725,000 yearling purchase. Albertrani, who won the 2006 Travers with Bernardini, sends out Romansh, a $750,000 yearling purchase.
Both horses are owned by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing and both are sons of Bernardini. Though coupled in the Curlin Stakes, Romansh and Transparent will race as separate betting interests Saturday because state rules allow horses to race uncoupled in $1 million races.
Transparent, listed at 10-1 on the track’s morning line, has finished first in his last two starts. Of course, those races came 113 days apart and Transparent was disqualified from first and placed fifth in the July 26 Curlin Stakes, a race in which he interfered with fourth-place finisher Proud Strike approaching the quarter pole.
Between those two starts, Transparent was battling foot issues that McLaughlin finally rectified by equipping the colt with glue-on shoes on his hind feet. McLaughlin said Transparent is only the second horse on which he has used glue-ons behind.
“We were struggling trying to figure out what was going on,” McLaughlin said. “We thought he was sensitive to nails behind. A lot of times you’re guessing, but we had a pretty good idea.”
McLaughlin noted that those foot issues led to a spotty work tab for Transparent leading into the Curlin. Transparent, who only worked twice in the month of July, has worked twice since the Curlin.
“He had a race, he’s had two works, and now he’s ready to go,” McLaughlin said. “He wants the distance. But I like to say you got to put your horses with the worst company and yourself with the best company. I’m not doing a great job at it. . . . We feel like we have a chance. We’re not just trying to hit the board.”
McLaughlin stuck with Irad Ortiz Jr., though he acknowledged Ortiz made a mistake by moving a tad too early in the Curlin, which led to the disqualification.
“Really and truthfully, he made a half-a-stride mistake,” McLaughlin said. “He loves the horse and the horse runs for him. You start switching riders other things happen, so we have confidence in him on this horse.”
Romansh was ahead of Transparent at the point of the race where the interference occurred. He struck the front in midstretch, but couldn’t hold off Transparent while finishing 2 3/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field.
The Curlin was just the fourth lifetime start for Romansh, who had won an off-the-turf maiden race at Belmont in May.
“I could see just a big progression from then to the Curlin Stakes,” Albertrani said. “The horse is making giant steps forward – that’s what I like. Even though we didn’t win the race, I thought he ran a big race and could improve off it.”
Despite the fact Romansh was coming off a win, Albertrani made an equipment change to blinkers for the Curlin.
“Junior made a comment how focused he was,” Albertrani said, referring to Junior Alvarado, who rode him that day. “In his first two races, I thought he was looking around. Even the day he [won] his maiden, he made a little bit of a move and then he looked like he balked a little bit and then he got himself going again.”
Alvarado will not be riding Romansh in the Travers because he had made a commitment to ride Will Take Charge, a mount he later lost.
Javier Castellano, the leading rider at this meet and a three-time Travers winner, will ride Romansh, who is listed at 12-1 on the morning line. Castellano rode Bernardini to victory for Albertrani and Sheikh Mohammed in the 2006 Travers against a much less accomplished field than Romansh faces Saturday.
“This is definitely a stronger Travers than we’ve seen the last couple of years,” Albertrani said. “We need to make a step up, but I like the progress this horse has made every race. I couldn’t be happier with how he’s been training. He looks fantastic going into the race.”