Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Bird soars in Travers Stakes

Jockey Kent Desormeaux celebrates atop Summer Bird after winning the Travers Stakes horse race at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009. (AP PhoAug. 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) (Mike Groll - AP)

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Summer Bird isn't the other Bird anymore.

The Belmont Stakes winner came charging off the far turn and splashed his way to victory in the $1 million Travers Stakes at rain-soaked Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

Now that Summer Bird is the only 3-year-old male with two Grade 1 wins, the son of Birdstone almost certainly moves to the head of his class. Of course, Rachel Alexandra is No. 1 3-year-old filly and leading contender for Horse of the Year.

But Summer Bird is the word in the boy's world - ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who missed the Travers as he recovers from throat surgery, and ahead of Quality Road, who finished third in the slop as the 3-2 favorite, five lengths behind the winner.

"To me, he is the 3-year-old champion now," a delighted winning trainer Tim Ice said. "They can call him the other Bird if they want, but he's won the Belmont and the Travers. Take it from there."

Like father, like son, too.

In completing the Belmont-Travers double, Summer Bird joins his sire, Birdstone, who did it in 2004. Summer Bird is the 30th horse to win both races.

"Winning this race means as much as winning the Belmont," Ice said. "For my colt to win the Belmont and come back and win the Travers like his sire means a lot."

A crowd of 34,221 braved showers all day for the biggest racing card of the six-week season, capped by the 1 1/4-mile Midsummer Derby.

Summer Bird, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, came into the race off a runner-up finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2. For two weeks, Ice had been saying his colt was ready for a big race, and he surely delivered.

Quality Road, who would have been the Derby favorite before he was sidelined with hoof issues, won the Amsterdam Stakes earlier in the month in his return. But he wasn't quite ready for the Travers: He bucked jockey John Velazquez off before entering the starting gate, was squeezed between horses at the start and finished third in the seven-horse field.

Charitable Man was fourth, followed by Warrior's Reward, Kensei and Our Edge.


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