Less than four months ago, when they both ran in the Kentucky Derby, Flower Alley was a little regarded long shot, while Bellamy Road was being hailed as the superstar of his generation. But Saturday, after Flower Alley outfought his rival in the stretch run of the Travers Stakes, both colts looked like top 3-year-olds with bright futures.
Flower Alley scored a 21/2-length decision in the $1 million event, but Bellamy Road distinguished himself, too, running grittily even though this was his first start since the Derby.
And they weren't the only 3-year-olds who excelled on the Saratoga card. Lost in the Fog, the sensational sprinter, remained undefeated in nine career starts with a front-running victory in the King's Bishop Stakes. Flower Alley was abetted by a well-judged ride from jockey John Velazquez, who came into the Travers facing a dilemma. He knew that Bellamy Road was likely to take the lead, and that Flower Alley was the only rival capable of applying any pressure. Velazquez didn't want to let the pacesetter steal off to an easy lead, but he didn't want to get involved in a suicidal duel, either.
When Bellamy Road and jockey Javier Castellano popped to the front, Velazquez let him go. But after rounding the first turn, Velazquez said, "I wanted to put on a little pressure." So he urged his mount just enough to get within a length or two.
He launched a challenge in earnest when he turned into the stretch, and drew alongside the leader. At this moment, everything appeared to be in Flower Alley's favor. He was the fitter, more seasoned colt. Since finishing ninth at Churchill Downs with a difficult trip, he had improved steadily, and won the prep for the Travers, the Jim Dandy Stakes, by more than five lengths. Bellamy Road, meanwhile, had come out of the Derby with an injury, and even trainer Nick Zito seemed to doubt that his colt would be fit enough for the 11/4-mile distance.
But when Flower Alley challenged him, Bellamy Road fought back tenaciously. He finally yielded in the last sixteenth of a mile, but nevertheless finished 23/4 lengths ahead of third-place Roman Ruler, the favorite. Afterward, Zito talked almost as if he had won the Travers. "It was an unbelievable effort," Zito said. "He hadn't raced in four months. His future is bright."
Zito is aiming for the Breeders' Cup Classic, as is Flower Alley's trainer Todd Pletcher. Even though the Travers is Saratoga's most famous and historic race, it shared top billing with the King's Bishop because of the presence of Lost in the Fog. His 8-for-8 record had made him one of the most celebrated horses in the country, and his ninth straight was as decisive as the others.
As usual, Lost in the Fog broke with alacrity for jockey Russell Baze, but his rivals didn't want to let him have an easy lead. Fusaichi Rock Star pressed him through a quarter mile in 22 seconds. Then The Daddy took up the chase on the turn, forcing the leader to the half mile mark in 44.6 seconds. By that point his pursuers were practically staggering, and Lost in the Fog drew off to score a 43/4-length victory, running seven furlongs in 1 minute 22.56 seconds.
This was the last time the 3-year-old will compete in a race limited to his own age group. All of the meaningful races in which Lost in the Fog can run are for 3-year-olds and up, including the big one, the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park in October. "I'd say it's 75-25 that we run," trainer Greg Gilchrist declared.