It took four months, but with Stay Thirsty's victory last Saturday in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, thoroughbred racing's 3-year-old class is finally coming into focus. This spring's Triple Crown series—in which the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont were won by three different horses (Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Ruler On Ice)—had failed to produce a clear No. 1. But in the Travers the late-developing colt defeated Shackleford and Ruler On Ice. Stay Thirsty bobbled at the break, ran between horses and surged to the front exiting the final turn. "He separated himself from every other 3-year-old by far," said Mike Repole, Stay Thirsty's owner.
Nothing would have seemed more unlikely last May. Back then Stay Thirsty was racing in the shadow of Uncle Mo, last year's 2-year-old champion, who is also owned by Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher. That Stay Thirsty has surpassed his stablemate as the top 3-year-old was clear on Saturday, especially considering that Mo was nosed out by Caleb's Posse earlier that afternoon in the King's Bishop Stakes.
Pletcher said that he wasn't sure when or even whether Uncle Mo would race again, but Stay Thirsty will now point toward the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 5. "It's a roller-coaster game," said an emotionally spent Repole at the end of the day. "It's a bipolar game."