Trainer Saffie Joseph kept saying one of these days Daniel Alonso’s Skippy longstocking was going to win a big race.
That day came Aug. 6 when the son of Exaggerator splashed his way to a 1 1/1/2-length win in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Park over a sloppy track.
Now comes the decision. Will Alonso and Joseph pull the trigger and run Skippylongstockng in the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers (G1) at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 27? Stay tuned.
“Winning a race like this can give him a chance to run against the big boys,” Joseph said Aug. 7 from his home base at Gulfstream Park in Florida. “(The Travers) comes back a little quick, but I don’t mind.”
The other choice would be to wait until Sept. 24 and the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
Sign up for BloodHorse Daily
“We are going to keep our options open,” Joseph said. “We will see how he’s doing. He’ll have an easy next six or seven days and then make a decision in 10 to 12 days.”
Skippylongstocking was expected to arrive back at Joseph’s Saratoga barn late Sunday afternoon from Chester, West Virginia. Joseph watched the West Virginia Derby from Florida as he returned there to train horses at Gulfstream. He said he will be back at the Spa later this week.
In the West Virginia Derby, Skippylongstocking, who was ridden by Gulfstream-based jockey Edwin Gonzalez, defeated 9-5 favorite We the People . Joseph was concerned about We the People because he had won the May 14 Peter Pan Stakes (G2) by 10 1/4 lengths over an off track at Belmont Park.
Both horses ran in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) June 11 with Skippylongstocking finishing third, three-quarters of a length ahead of We the People.
The West Virginia Derby was Skippylongstocking’s first graded stakes win and improved his career record to 3-2-3 in 12 starts.
“I am a big believer in horses getting confidence after a win,” Joseph said. “When they run by a horse, they know, at least I think they know. To finally win one of these is very satisfying.”
As for the prospective Travers field, probables include Epicenter , Rich Strike , Charge It , Artorius , Cyberknife and the Iowa-bred Ain’t Life Grand .
The list of possible starter features Zandon spirit Early Voting along with Skippylongstocking.
Taiba Returns to Work Tab
The next target for TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) runner-up Taiba is uncertain. Earlier this week, Gary Young, racing manager for owner Amr Zedan, told BloodHorse plans for the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner (G1) were “not firmed up.”
Taiba put in his first timed work since the July 23 Haskell Stakes Aug. 6, covering four furlongs in :48 at Share Marthe 25th fastest of 116 works at that distance.
The son of Gun Runner is trained by Bob Baffert, who is currently suspended from racing at New York Racing Association tracks until Jan. 26, 2023. Yet the ban, which prevents Baffert or any of his employees from entering and racing at Saratoga and NYRA’s other two tracks, does not include a time frame for moving a horse to a different trainer. So, in theory, Taiba could continue to train with Baffert in California and then be shipped to New York the week of the Travers and run for a different trainer, provided all of the necessary paperwork is properly filed at the time of entry.
Some of Baffert’s owners have moved their horses to run with trainer John Terranova II at the Spa.
After the race, the horse could then return to Baffert barn and once again run in the Hall of Fame trainer’s name at non-NYRA or Churchill Downs Incorporated tracks. Baffert is also in the midst of a suspension at CDI tracks until 2023.
The last time Baffert ran a horse in both the Travers and Haskell was 2019. That year, he returned Haskell runner-up Mucho Gusto to the work loss Aug. 8, 16 days before the Midsummer Derby at the Spa.
“Bob Baffert is excluded from participating in racing or training activities at all NYRA tracks through January 25, 2023. The rules of racing in New York State provide the board of stewards with the authority to review, approve, or deny the transfer of a horse from one trainer to another for the purposes of entering a race,” said NYRA vice president of communications Pat McKenna.
Asked about the possibility of Taiba running for a different trainer in the Travers, New York State Gaming Commission steward Braulio Baeza Jr. said, “I have no comment at the moment. As far as the Gaming Commission is concerned, (Baffert) is licensed and in good standing.”