Javier Castellano punches the air as he wins the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Catholic Boy at Saratoga

Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos

Report: USA, Saratoga, Saturday
Runhappy Travers Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m2f, 3yo, dirt

Belmont Derby winner Catholic Boy denied the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn a first top-level victory on dirt in a tactical renewal of the Runhappy Travers Stakes.

Mendelssohn dictated the pace after seizing the lead going into the first bend under a canny ride by Ryan Moore, steadying the pace once in front and seemingly holding every chance turning into the straight, with Catholic Boy upsides and the pair four lengths clear of the rest of the field.

No challengers were forthcoming from the rear but Catholic Boy, fourth behind Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year, stayed on strongly in the final two furlongs to run out a ready four-length winner for trainer Jonathan Thomas and rider Javier Castellano.

It was another step forward for Mendelssohn, who failed to trouble the principals in the Kentucky Derby in May but more recently finished third in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park last month.

O’Brien said: “We were delighted with him. He ran a very good race. It was always the plan to give him three runs on the dirt in America before the Breeders’ Cup Classic and that will be his next race.

Catholic Boy was shortened to 7-1 (from 16) for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Coral, while Mendelssohn drifted to 25-1 (from 14) with Paddy Power for the Grade 1 contest at Churchill Downs on November 3.

‘This is his best trip’

Former jockey Thomas, celebrating his second Grade 1 win as a trainer with his stable star, told Bloodhorse: “Maybe today he proved he’s better on dirt. I thought they were going a reasonable pace early on and he travelled nicely into the straight.

“I thought we were home once in the straight as that’s where he starts to get strong, and a mile and a quarter is his best trip.”

Belmont Stakes second Gronkowski, formerly trained by Jeremy Noseda, and hot favourite Good Magic were never involved and finished in rear in a race in which it paid to be up with the pace.

Earlier on the card, O’Brien’s Seahenge failed to land a blow and finished in rear under Wayne Lordan in the Sword Dancer Stakes, won by the former Ed Walker-trained Glorious Empire for Julien Leparoux and James Lawrence II.

Also at Saratoga on Saturday

Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa (Grade 2) | 1m½f, 3yo+ f+m, turf

The Ed Walker-trained Indian Blessing produced a career-best effort to a finish a never-nearer three-length third in the six-runner Ballston Spa.

On her first run in the US the daughter of Sepoy, owned by Hong Kong businessman PK Siu, stayed on well from the rear in a steadily-run contest under Julien Leparoux.

The race was won by Quidura, one of three runners for Chad Brown, beating the Arnaud Delacour-trained Hawksmoor, who won two Group races for Hugo Palmer when trained in Britain.

Personal Ensign Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m1f, 3yo f+m, dirt

Abel Tasman was shortened to 3-1 (from 4) for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff following a sixth Grade 1 success in the Personal Ensign Stakes.

The China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms-owned filly held the persistent challenge of Elate to prevail by a neck for Mike Smith and Bob Baffert.

Abel Tasman finished a half-length second to Forever Unbridled in the Distaff last year and is second favourite to go one better behind Monomoy Girl.

Forego Stakes (Grade 1) | 7f, 3yo+, dirt

Ricardo Santana jr and Ronald Moquett celebrated a first Forego Stakes success with Whitmore.

It was a first Grade 1 win for the five-year-old, who benefited from a dream run on the inside to defeat odds-on favourite City Of Light by a length and a half.

Also on Saturday

USA: Del Mar
Pat O’Brien Stakes (Grade 2) | 7f, 3yo+, dirt

The John Sadler-trained Catalina Cruiser romped to victory in the Pat O’Brien Stakes to grab favouritism for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

The four-year-old earned a Dirt Mile berth after success in the ‘win and you’re in’ contest – with other Breeders’ Cup places awarded to the winners of the Personal Ensign, Forego, Sword Dancer and Ballerina Stakes – the latter won by Marley’s Freedom, with Drayden Van Dyke’s mount defeating last year’s Dirt Mile winner Battle Of Midway by seven and a quarter lengths.

Sky Bet made Catalina Cruiser a best-price 11-4 (from 6) for the Dirt Mile on November 3.

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