Bernardini Needs Travers Win To Solidify His Stardom
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — His impressive victory in the Preakness was hardly noticed, with all eyes riveted on Barbaro after the Kentucky Derby winner’s horrifying breakdown.
A few months later, though, Bernardini won the Jim Dandy Stakes even more convincingly and is now on the verge of becoming racing’s next 3-year-old star.
“I think we’re looking for a new champion, and I’m hoping he can deliver,” Bernardini’s trainer Tom Albertrani said.
Bernardini will get his chance Saturday, when the imposing bay colt takes on six rivals in the $1 million Travers Stakes — thoroughbred racing’s Midsummer Derby at Saratoga Race Course.
A winner in four of five career starts, Bernardini is the even-money favorite with his chief competition coming from Haskell Invitational winner Bluegrass Cat, the 2–1 second choice.
There is absolutely nothing not to like about Bernardini. He’s magnificently built, a son of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, and has been training flawlessly for Albertrani, a former assistant under Hall of Famer Bill Mott and for Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing operation.
Bernardini won the Preakness by 5 1/4 lengths, then romped to a ninelength victory in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29. The ease with which he won has opposing trainers in awe of the colt’s potential.
“Bernardini by far is one of the nicest animals we’ve seen in the past decade,” John Ward gushed.
Ward again will send out Minister’s Bid and Dr. Pleasure to take on Bernardini – Minister’s Bid was second and Dr. Pleasure fourth in the Jim Dandy.
Then there’s Todd Pletcher, who trains Bluegrass Cat and also entered High Cotton in the 1 1/4-mile Travers. Bluegrass Cat and Bernardini, the leading 3-year-olds in training, will meet for the first time.
“I suppose all horses are beatable,” Pletcher said, referring to Bernardini. “He’s an exceptional, gifted horse. I have been impressed with his races as anyone’s I have seen in a long time. Even though he is a very accomplished horse, he is relatively inexperienced.”
Bernardini not only wins with authority, he’s versatile as well. Under jockey Javier Castellano, the colt won the Preakness over a fast track by running just off the lead before taking charge around the final turn. Over a sloppy track in the Jim Dandy, Bernardini took the lead early on and cruised home in the stretch in what turned into a public workout.
Kiaran McLaughlin trains Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, who won’t take on Bernardini in the Travers. However, the two could meet in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4.
“I think Bernardini is a special horse, also,” McLaughlin said. “I’d put him in that special category that he’s an exceptional horse. Watching him train every day, he has a presence about him that very few horses have.”