The three-year-old colt Arcangelo and his trainer Jena Antonucci once again provided a little light during a dark period for the sport with a glorious victory in the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday.
In a “Midsummer Derby” showdown that was expected to provide clarity to the three-year-old picture, it was the Belmont (G1)-winning Arcangelo who clearly moved to the head of the table, defeating the two other classic winners, Mage and National Treasure, juvenile champion Forte, and three others.
Arcangelo and Antonucci’s success in the Belmont, the first in any Triple Crown race for a female trainer, was a boost racing needed after a spate of notable fatalities overshadowed the sport during the spring. That specter has risen again of late at Saratoga, including a tragic incident earlier Saturday involving New York Thunder in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1).
Again providing a partial antidote on a gloomy day, Arcangelo emerged best in a seemingly trouble-free Travers, thus making Antonucci the first female trainer since Mary Hirsch in 1938 to win the historic 1 1/4-mile test.
Javier Castellano, who some time ago was confirmed to ride Arcangelo in the Travers instead of his Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning mount Mage, extended his record of Travers wins to seven.
Saving ground into the clubhouse turn and fourth down the backside as Scotland cut out fractions of :23.46, :48.10, and 1:11.73, Arcangelo was tipped out to make a four-wide bid around the far turn.
“I feel like on the backside I had so much horse, I could blow by and open up by 10 and I just took my time and let him develop,” Castellano said.
Seizing the lead in upper stretch, Arcangelo drew off to lead by three lengths at the eighth pole, but saw the margin whittled down to one length at the finish after Disarm made a belated bid up the rail.
It was a 2 1/2-length gap back to Tapit Trice in third and 4 1/2 lengths back to Forte, the 1.75-1 favorite. Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure, Scotland, and Mage completed the order of finish.
Owned by Blue Rose Farm, Arcangelo completed the course in 2:02.23 over a muddy track and paid $7.40 as the second choice.
Arcangelo remains undefeated in stakes company. A maiden winner at Gulfstream on March 18 in his third lifetime start, the gray subsequently won the Peter Pan (G3) in gutsy fashion by a head before taking the Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths over Forte. He has now won four of six overall and earned more than $1.75 million.
“I guess the more this horse does, the more we’re going to keep writing some history,” Antonucci said.
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation and sold for $35,000 at Keeneland September, Arcangelo is by the late Hall of Fame inductee Arrogate, who won the 2016 Travers in record fashion, and out of Modeling, a Tapit half-sister to Grade 1 winner Streaming. Arcangelo’s third dam was Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour.