Two colts who narrowly missed achieving stardom will try to establish their legitimacy in the 111th running of the Travers Stakes Saturday.
Plugged Nickle and Superbity were each considered, at different times this winter, the top 3-year-old in the nation. Both endured difficulties while Genuine Risk was stealing the spotlight from them with her Kentucky Derby victory. Now, both colts have the chance to answer the many questions about themselves and show how good they are.
Plugged Nickle took an impressive record into the Kentucky Derby, but emerged from it with a crushing defeat and a slight leg injury. He prepped for the Travers by winning the Jim Dandy Stakes, but it was such a life-and-death victory that Plugged Nickle raised doubts anew about his ability to go a distance. In the Travers, he must attempt to negotiate the 1 1/4-mile route that was his undoing at Churchill Downs.
Superbity looked very impressive in Florida this winter while beating rivals of moderate ability, but he suffered an injury and was knocked out of the Triple Crown series. Two weeks ago, he was upset in the Monmouth Invitational Handicap by an unheralded animal named Thanks To Tony. Even so, he has a better record than any other 3-year-old -- seven victories in nine career starts -- and a triumph in the Travers could reestablish him as the best colt of his generation.
Seven rivals are challenging these two favorites: First Albert, Dr. Blum, Sportful, Little Lenny, Great Gladiator, Amber Pass and Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill. At least a couple of them have the credentials to pull a long-priced upset in the event that provided horse racing's most memorable upset, Jim Dandy's victory in 1930.
Little Lenny has not run with any success against top 3-year-olds this year, but he came to life in his last start at Saratoga. He finished second against a tough field of older horses, and his time suggests he will be a legitimate contender in the Travers.
Sportful finished two lengths behind Plugged Nickle in the Jim Dandy, but his performance was good deal more impressive than the winner's. He had started only twice this year, in six-furlong races, but despite this lack of conditioning, he circled the field six horses wide and finished well.