West Coast invades East to win Travers for Baffert
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) West Coast invaded the East to win the $1.25 million Travers by 3 ¼ lengths at Saratoga on Saturday against all three winners of this year's Triple Crown races.
Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, West Coast ran 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.19 and paid $14.20, $7.60 and $5.30. The victory earned West Coast an automatic berth into the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.
Gunnevera returned $18.40 and $10.40, while Irap paid $5.40 to show in the 148th edition of the race.
Belmont winner Tapwrit finished fourth, Preakness winner Cloud Computing was eighth, and Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming was ninth in the 12-horse field.
West Coast didn't race as a 2-year-old and didn't run in this year's Triple Crown series. But the 3-year-old colt has won four of six starts in 2017, including four in a row.
West Coast led all the way, with Baffert watching on television back at Del Mar racetrack north of San Diego.
"When Bob texted me before the race he said, 'Listen, he is yours, you ride him however you want,'" Smith said. "So that kind of made me think I could get a little aggressive with him, and that is what I wanted to do with no pace in the race."
Smith and Baffert won last year's Travers with Arrogate, who broke a 37-year-old track record and won by 13 1/2 lengths.
Earlier on Saturday's card, Smith and 2-5 favorite Songbird were stunned by Forever Unbridled in the $700,000 Personal Ensign.
However, the 52-year-old jockey won the $600,000 Forego Stakes for Baffert with Drefong, and the jockey and trainer teamed to finish third in the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes with American Anthem.
Tapwrit was fourth, followed by Good Samaritan, Giuseppe the Great, McCraken, Cloud Computing, Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee, Girvin and Fayeq.