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Skippylongstocking Targeting Travers Via August 6 West Virginia Derby

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • Skippylongstocking finished third in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
  • His performance has improved as he’s raced at longer distances.
  • Next up is the West Virginia Derby on August 6 with a possible shot at the Travers after that.

Heading into the Belmont Stakes, Skippylongstocking was on the clipboard of a number of sharp horse players despite his 20-1 morning odds. The ones I spoke with cited his improvement from race to race, his positive response to going longer distances and his trainer–35 year old Saffie Josepth, Jr.–has earned the status of a ‘trainer on the rise’ in the racing community.

Skippylongstocking didn’t win the Belmont, but he gave a good account of himself finishing third (paying $5.60 to show) behind winner Mo Donegal and runner up Nest. He’s had an interesting career thus far since he’s shown a preference for longer races. This tendency has existed since his very first races. His first race was a 4th at 5.5 furlongs, his second race was a 2nd place finish at 7 furlongs and he got his first win when he moved up to a mile for race three.

His three year old season opened inauspiciously with a 6th place finish in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream in January. He took fourth in a mile allowance event in February before winning a race at 1 1/8 mile with similar conditions. His connections began to sit up and take notice with a third place finish in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial going 1 1/8 mile at Aqueduct. This result is even more impressive considering that the 1-2 horses in the event were both Triple Crown race winners: Mo Donegal (Belmont) and Early Voting (Preakness). After a tough trip and a 5th place finish in the Preakness he was a solid third at Belmont.

Trainer Joseph explained Skippylongstocking’s development:

“He seemed to be going in the wrong direction. We were actually leading him in the wrong direction before we stretched him around two turns and he won that allowance race at Gulfstream. One thing about him, he might not have the talent of some of these other 3-year-olds but he’s stayed the course. He’s a strong horse who has handled a lot of races. You can say maybe he ran third in the Belmont by default, but he got a great trip and he’s kind of climbed the ladder at a time where others have been going in the wrong direction. And he’s given us a lot of excitement along the way.”

Skippylongstocking will be stepping down in class for his next outing–the Grade 3 $500,000 USD West Virginia Derby on August 6 at Mountaineer going a mile and an eighth. If he performs well in that race, Joseph says his connections may target a loftier goal:

“We want to give him a more realistic spot next time, avoid the big guns, and if he were to run one-two in West Virginia, the Travers could be a high-end kind of target to maybe take a shot at after that.”

The 153rd running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga is shaping up to be one of the biggest races of the year. It is a Grade 1 event going 1 1/4 miles with a purse of $1.25 million USD. The race is ‘officially’ called the ‘Runhappy Travers’, with the sponsorship coming from the ownership of 2015 Eclipse Sprint House champion Runhappy. He’s now standing at stud at Claiborne Farms. The field is expected to be as star studded as any three year old race to date. Currently targeting the Travers are Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, Preakness winner Early Voting, Belmont winner Mo Donegal, Derby and Preakness runner up Epicenter along with red hot Jack Christopher (winner of last Saturday’s Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard) and other top three year olds like Arkansas Derby/Matt Winn Stakes winner Cyberknife, Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba and Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon.

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