SARATOGA, N.Y., AUG. 18 -- Rhythm called the shots today in the Travers at Saratoga -- with trainer Shug McGaughey's blessing.
McGaughey was disappointed by the colt's second-place finish in the Dwyer and third-place finish in the Haskell Handicap, so he decided "maybe he wants the rider to let him alone to do what he wants."
"I thought maybe he's a grind-it-out horse," McGaughey said. "Get him eight or nine lengths behind and see what happens. Maybe he wants to do it all at once."
Rhythm, last year's 2-year-old champion who had won twice in seven starts this year, was last under Craig Perret in the 13-horse Travers field after the first half-mile. After another quarter, he was 12th.
On the turn, however, he began to move -- and he did it all at once, sweeping past the field and taking the lead just inside the sixteenth pole to beat Shot Gun Scott by 3 1/2 lengths before a crowd of 43,989.
Sir Richard Lewis was third, a neck behind Shot Gun Scott.
"He showed he has the ability we know he has," said Perret, who in the next race won the $90,150 King's Bishop Stakes on Housebuster. Housebuster took the lead midway through the turn and easily won the seven-furlong stakes in 1:21 4/5 for his eighth win in nine starts this year. He finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Toppiano and paid $2.60.
Rhythm, owned by Ogden Mills Phipps, completed the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02 3/5. He paid $15, $7.80 and $5.60 in earning $707,100 from a purse of $1,178,500.
Shot Gun Scott, a member of the mutuel field with Rowdy Regal, returned $37 and $12; Sir Richard Lewis, coupled in the betting with Profit Key as the D. Wayne Lukas entry, was $7.40 to show.
Shot Gun Scott, ridden by Kerwin Clark, broke on top, and when the field moved into the clubhouse turn, Belmont Stakes runner-up Thirty Six Red took the lead, followed by Restless Con, Shot Gun Scott and Profit Key.
Thirty Six Red continued to lead down the backstretch and into the final turn, but Sir Richard Lewis, ridden by Gary Stevens, moved ahead of Shot Gun Scott with a quarter-mile remaining.
Suddenly Rhythm moved into the picture, moving into seventh with a quarter-mile to go and appearing as if he would win even before taking the lead.
The field was reduced to 13 when Le Prince was a late scratch because of the heat, according to trainer Dominick Imperio. The colt has won his only start but has been scratched from three races.
Completing the order of finish: Baron De Vaux, Profit Key, Secret Hello, Go And Go, Thirty Six Red, Rowdy Regal, Yonder, Tee's Prospect, Restless Con and Solar Splendor.
Each starter carried scale weight of 126 pounds.