Epicenter Claims Championship With Travers Victory – BloodHorse.com

Epicenter Claims Championship With Travers Victory - BloodHorse.com

When the ceremonial painting of the canoe at Saratoga Race Course happens, just might be a Hall of Famer with a brush in hand.

“This is extremely exciting,” coach Steve Asmussen said. “Coming from a racing family, (knowing) what Saratoga means to American racing and what the Travers means to Saratoga, I just want to help them paint the canoe. Saratoga is about tradition, racing is about tradition, and having your name on it. that cup is very special.”

The painting of the canoe in the infield lake of the Spa is, of course, symbolic of a victory in the famous $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1), and for the next year, it displays the colors of the victorious owner of the Midsummer- derby

Trainer Steve Asmussen celebrates after jockey Joel Rosario rides Epicenter to victory in the 153rd running of The Runhappy Travers at the Saratoga Race Course Saturday August 27, 2022 in Saratoga Springs NY Photo special to the Times Union by Skip Dickstein/Tim Lanahan
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Steve Asmussen hypes up the crowd after Epicenter’s win

So, in the coming days, with or without Asmussen’s help, the canoe will be painted in the maroon and white colors of Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds, thanks to a dominating 5 1/4-length victory by the Asmussen-trained. epicenter above the multiple degree 1-earning Cyber ​​knife August 27 at the Spa which took all the suspense out of the race for the 3-year-old male championship.

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“I thought that answered a lot of questions,” Asmussen said of the division’s Eclipse Award race. “His resume looks very good, and we’re ready to run against them again.”

While neither Asmussen nor Winchell would commit to the site for the upcoming start of Epicenter, in all likelihood, the son of Not This Time will train until the November 5th Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where he will face older horses for the first time.

Saturday, in front of a near-capacity crowd of 49,672. Epicenter removed any doubt about his leading role in the 3-year-old division with a power performance that accounted for his first Grade 1 victory and helped wash away the sting of runners-up as the favorite in both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford. Reserve (G1) and the Preakness Stakes (G1). First, he finished ahead of the horses that beat him in the first stages of the Triple Crown, Rich Strike (Derby, fourth in the Travers) and Early Voting (Preakness, eighth).

Steven M. Asmussen and Ron Winchell in the winner's circle after Epicenter with Joel Rosario wins the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY on August 27, 2022.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

(LR): Steve Asmussen and Ron Winchell share a moment

Bred by Westwind Farms from the Candy Ride a mare Silent Candy , Epicenter won for the fourth time in seven 2022 starts, with three second-place finishes rounding out his 3-year resume, and pushed his career earnings to $2,940,639. In addition to the Travers and his runners-up finishes in the Triple Crown, he won the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), and Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2).

“He’s exciting, isn’t he?” said Asmussen. “And thanks to him a sportsman owns him. It’s everything you hope for. You start with a talented horse that keeps getting better. What can be better in racing than that?”

Ron Winchell, David Fiske and winning ties in the winner's circle after Epicenter with Joel Rosario wins the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY on August 27, 2022.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Ron Winchell (light gray suit) and connections enjoy the trophy presentation for the Travers Stakes

Like many owners, Winchell dreamed of winning the Travers. But what he found, after he and his late father before him had chased a Travers victory in vain, was that there was something better than imagining what the experience would be.

“Winning beats dreaming about winning,” he said after the first Travers victory for both he and Asmussen, the all-time winningest trainer in North America. “You can dream about your horse winning on the loose. It rarely happens, but to actually see it happen, what could be better than that? When he leaned out and made his move, you could see he was rolling and full of running.

“Coming here with Gun runner (in 2016) and running third and Midnight Bourbon running second last year,” he added. “It makes you want to win it that much more. It makes this win that much more special for me and my family.”

Who would be the early leader in the Travers was somewhat of an enigma entering the race, and when the gates opened for the eight starters in the 1 1/4-mile test, it was Cyberknife and Florent Geroux who used their rail position. to lead after early splits of :23.32 and :47.63, even though he had never before led after the first two calls of a two-turn race.

Ain’t Life Big and Early Voting chased the 9-2 second choice from the outside, while jockey Joel Rosario bided his time on the rail in a quarter with Epicenter.

“We wanted to be put forward, and he was,” said Rosario, who rallied from fourth and last to take the Jim Dandy with Epicenter last month at the Spa. “He broke well, and he was more in the race today. For a second I thought I could just go ahead to the lead, but it looked like those other horses wanted to be placed further forward. I just wanted to give him a good trip. “

Epicenter with Joel Rosario wins the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY on August 27, 2022.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Joel Rosario gives Epicenter a pat as they cruise across the finish line

After Cyberknife led by a half-length after six furlongs in 1:11.43, Rosario and Epicenter pounced. They flipped the rail and moved out of Cyberknife.

“I loved seeing that,” Asmussen said.

The two leaders dueled briefly before Epicenter took control in the lane. The even-money favorite ($4) stretched to a 2 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole and widened his margin from there, completing the 10 furlongs in 2:00.72 and giving Rosario a record 12th graded stakes victory at the meet .

“He turned in a dominant performance against a very good group,” Asmussen said. “He was on the pace he wanted to be, and he finished the mile and a quarter very strong.”

Gold Square’s Cyberknife, son of Gun runnerhung for a second by a nose over Zandon . Owned by Saratoga resident Al Gold and trained by Brad Cox, who attempted back-to-back Travers wins, Cyberknife came off a win in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1), his second Grade 1 of the year.

“We were the second best horse today,” Cox said.

Jeff Drown’s Zandon , one of three Travers starters for trainer Chad Brown, was third. The son of upstart was a neck ahead of Rich Strike, the 80-1 Kentucky Derby winner who was sixth in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) in his only other post-Derby start.

Purchased for $260,000 from the Bettersworth Westwind Farms consignment to the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Epicenter is the sixth foal of nine out of Silent Candy and is her only graded winner. She also has a 2-year-old child Always Dreaming colt, yearling Carpets filly, and dropped an Outside work filly this year.

The handle for Saturday’s Saratoga card checked in at a record $55,559,315, breaking the previous Travers Day mark of $52,129,346 set in the pre-COVID days of 2019.

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