he complexion of the 150th Runhappy Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) took an unexpected turn Aug. 15 when it was learned that both of Gary and Mary West’s leading candidates, 2-year-old champion Game Winner and disqualified Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Maximum Security, will not be running in the Aug. 24 Midsummer Derby for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course.

A tumultuous Thursday started with trainer Bob Baffert saying Game Winner would not ship from his Southern California base to Saratoga for the $1.25 million Travers after developing a virus.

Game Winner, Winner of the 2018 Breeders Cup Juvenile

“We’re still absorbing the disappointment. He’s going to be fine, but it’s the timing. It’s too bad because he couldn’t be doing better right now. I haven’t thought about anything now,” Baffert said. “He worked great (Aug. 13, six furlongs in 1:12 at Del Mar), but today he had a little temperature. There’s been a little virus going through the barn. He was my second one this week; hope it stays away from the others.”

Later in the day, Jason Servis, who trains Maximum Security, announced the homebred son of New Year’s Day will not run in the Travers because he “still is not 100%” and will target the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 21 at Parx Racing.

“I don’t like where he’s at. He’s not eating the way I want him to eat, and he’s not carrying the weight I’d like to see him carry,” Servis said about the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) winner. “I just want to make sure he’s 100% for his next race, and he’s not there right now.

“The best thing is to wait until he is 100% and point to the Pennsylvania Derby. With Game Winner out, if Maximum Security was 100%, I’d go to the Travers. But he’s just not back to where he was. I’ll probably give him a week off, and that still gives me more than four weeks until the Pennsylvania Derby. I’m fortunate to have patient owners in the Wests, who will allow me to take a step back if I don’t feel the horse is 100%. It’s easy to run. But if I ran him when he wasn’t 100%, you come out of the race saying to yourself, ‘What was I thinking?'”

Since the virus is not expected to sideline Game Winner for a long period of time, he could also emerge as a candidate for the Pennsylvania Derby, putting the Wests in a position of deciding whether they want to run both of their horses in that race.

“Game Winner will miss the Travers and he will return to racing when he’s 100%,” Gary West said. “I am disappointed that neither horse can run in the Travers but the well-being of our horses comes first; always has and always will. The decision on the Pennsylvania Derby is too far away to make any intelligent comments at this time. They will run when they are ready and not a minute before.”

Game Winner, a son of Candy Ride  who has captured five of eight starts for earnings of $2,027,500, is coming off a five-length victory in the July 13 Los Alamitos Derby (G3). Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Equine, he was bought for $110,000 from the Lane’s End consignment at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

For Baffert, the sudden reversal of fortunes with Game Winner illustrated the emotional roller coaster ride the sport can be.

“You have to enjoy it while it’s going good. There’s a lot of disappointment in this game,” Baffert said. “We won the Whitney with McKinzie two weeks ago, and we were all pumped up. A few days later, we hear about (NYRA director of horsemen’s relations) Carmen Barrera dying, and that brought us down.”

Baffert said he will not enter a horse in any of the graded stakes on Travers weekend at Saratoga but did have one horse he would like to run as a substitute in the Travers, except for one small problem.

“I’d like to bring McKinzie back and run him in the Travers,” Baffert joked about the 4-year-old colt who is too old for the Travers but came out of the Aug. 3 Whitney Stakes (G1) in good order. McKinzie will most likely run next in the Sept. 28 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.


Original Source Credited to Blood Horse