Until this week, the Travers Stakes had the potential to bring together the three winners of the Triple Crown races. On Saturday, only Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird will be in the field of seven 3-year-olds.
Two days after the announcement that Preakness winning filly Rachel Alexandra will race next in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5, Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird was withdrawn from the $1 million Travers.
Mine That Bird was not entered Wednesday in the "Midsummer Derby" after an examination showed a small area of inflammation in his surgically repaired throat after a Tuesday workout.
"We've decided to err on the side of caution and pass this race up and aim down the road to the Breeders' Cup," trainer Chip Woolley said. "It's probably not a problem, but we don't feel comfortable taking a chance."
"It was a hard decision," said Dr. Leonard Blach, who co-own Mine That Bird with Mark Allen. "Having surgery just eight days ago, we probably don't want to take a risk."
Summer Bird has raced only once since winning the Belmont, finishing second to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2. He was placed closer to the pace than usual that day and lacked his typical late run. But trainer Tim Ice said Summer Bird will be well behind the early leaders Saturday.
"Monmouth Park is a speed-favoring racetrack and he has the speed to be close," Ice said. "There's plenty of pace in the Travers, so we'll be able to take back to where we would be normally."
Summer Bird, though, is not the favorite for the 1 1/4-mile race at Saratoga Race Course. Quality Road, who would have been the Derby favorite if a hoof injury hadn't kept him out of the Triple Crown, was made the 8-5 morning-line choice.
A winner of four races in five starts, including the Florida Derby, Quality Road returned to competition with a Saratoga track record for 6 1/2 furlongs in winning the Amsterdam Stakes on Aug. 3. Between those races, owner Edward P. Evans moved the colt from trainer Jimmy Jerkens' barn to Todd Pletcher's.
In the absence of Rachel Alexandra, her male stablemate, Kensei will carry the Stonestreet Stable colors into the Travers. The colt comes to the race off strong winning efforts in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont and the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Aug. 1.
"We got off to a late start that eliminated him from the Triple Crown races, but he's come around," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "With the way he's matured with racing, both physically and mentally, we're excited about our chances."
The field, from the rail out, is Hold Me Back (Julien Leparoux, 15-1), Charitable Man (6-1), Warrior's Reward (8-1), Quality Road (8-5), Our Edge (15-1), Summer Bird (3-1) and Kensei (7-2).