Arcangelo won the $1.25 million Travers by a length at Saratoga on Saturday, giving trainer Jena Antonucci her second major Grade 1 victory after the colt won the Belmont Stakes.
“I guess the more this horse does, the more we’re going to keep writing some history,” Antonucci said.
The day was marred by the deaths of two horses, including New York Thunder in the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial. In all, seven horses have died at the summer meet in upstate New York.
“After what happened, this is the best outcome that you could have for the Travers,” said Mike Repole, who owns fourth-place Forte. “She (Antonucci) deserves it. I’m not afraid to say it; that’s the top 3-year-old in the country. No doubt.”
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Arcangelo ran 1 1/4 miles over a muddy track in 2 minutes, 2.23 seconds, and paid $7.40, $5.30 and $3.90.
Castellano won his seventh Travers. The 45-year-old jockey won the Kentucky Derby with Mage in May and then the Belmont with Arcangelo.
“It’s like the Super Bowl for Tom Brady,” Castellano said. “Of course, it means a lot to me because this game is up and down. I remember last year I didn’t have any horses to ride on the card. I had to go out of town. I ended up riding at Monmouth Park last year because I didn’t have any business. The year before I only rode one horse on the 14 races.”
Disarm returned $8 and $5.80. Tapit Trice was another 2 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $6 to show.
Preakness winner National Treasure was fifth and Mage was last in the seven-horse field that included each of the three winners of the Triple Crown race.
In June, Arcangelo made Antonucci the first woman trainer to win a Triple Crown race when he took the Belmont. The colt had not run since, with Antonucci and owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm choosing to bring Arcangelo along slowly.
“I get a lot of flak for that, still,” Antonucci said. “It just never was a layoff in my mind with this horse. I understand the traditionalists of this sport are always going to view gaps in that manner. This horse has had his entire career that way because Jon wants this horse to be brought along slowly, correctly and be given the time he needs to grow up.”
In the Jerkens Memorial, New York Thunder was leading the way under Tyler Gaffalione when the colt suffered a catastrophic injury to its left front leg in the stretch and fell, according to the New York Racing Association. New York Thunder was euthanized on the track. Gaffalione wasn’t hurt. The colt was trained by Jorge Delgado.
In the day’s fifth race, Nobel and Gaffalione finished fifth and then suffered a catastrophic injury to his left front leg while galloping out afterward, NYRA said. The 4-year-old colt bred in Ireland was euthanized on the track. He was trained by Brendan Walsh.
All seven of the deaths involved catastrophic injuries during racing. The meet began July 13 and has featured 2,461 horses starting in 324 races. A horse named Burning Bright died suddenly during a race because of a major cardiovascular event, NYRA said.
“NYRA is continuing to investigate these catastrophic injuries with HISA officials, the New York State Gaming Commission, and the New York State Equine Medical Director,” NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement.
“We will immediately consult with HISA’s Track Surface Advisory Group to further examine the overall condition of all three racing surfaces at Saratoga prior to Sunday’s program. In addition, NYRA will convene a group of relevant outside experts to evaluate our current safety protocols and procedures.”