Sippylongstocking, outside, en route to defeating We the People in the G3 West Virginia Derby
Fresh off his breakthrough stakes victory in Saturday’s West Virginia Derby (G3), Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking is a candidate for the $1.25-million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1).
The son of Exaggerator, who launched his career at Gulfstream before hitting the road in the spring to knock heads with the top 3-year-olds in the country, was shipped back to Saratoga from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort Sunday.
“The plan was always to go back in class and find an easier spot. It wasn’t an easy spot but we were hoping it would be,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said between races Sunday at Gulfstream. “We were trying to give him a chance to win a stake, which, thankfully, he has now done. Maybe, now we’ll jump back into deeper waters, maybe the Travers or the Pennsylvania Derby.”
The 1 ¼-mile Travers will be run at Saratoga August 27, while the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Park is scheduled for September 24.
Skippylongstocking closely stalked pacesetter We the People before engaging the 9-5 favorite at the top of the stretch and steadily drawing away to score by 1 ½ lengths under Gulfstream-based Edwin Gonzalez.
“He tried hard. It was a breakthrough. To win one like that is rewarding for the horse. He’s been one of those horses that ran hard as a 2-year-old and ran hard as a 3-year-old. He hardened. When they harden, they’re able to sustain that kind of campaign,” Joseph said.
Skippylongstocking entered the West Virginia Derby off a third-place finish in the June 11 Belmont Stakes (G1) behind Mo Donegal and Nest and three-quarters of a length in front of We the People. He previously finished third behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting in the Wood Memorial (G3) and fifth in the Preakness (G1). He earned his way onto the Triple Crown trail when he won a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream March 2 in his first start around two turns.
“He’s definitely a horse that’s gotten progressively better going around two turns. Junior Alvarado is a credit to the horse. We were running him at one turn and he was stopping. We didn’t know where to go with him, and he said, ‘Definitely two turns.’” Joseph said. “That was the turnaround for the horse.”
The Travers distance wouldn’t discourage Joseph from running Skippylongstocking in the ‘Mid-Summer Derby’.
“The mile and a quarter would be good for him. Obviously, the class would be the biggest concern. I do think the mile and a quarter would be to his benefit, but the Travers is going to be a deep competition,” Joseph said. “I do like Saratoga because it suits closers, it’s a deep track, especially this year.”
Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification, who finished an even third in the West Virginia Derby, is still on track to run in the Pennsylvania Derby, said trainer Antonio Sano Sunday.
This year’s Gulfstream-based Fountain of Youth (G2) winner was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Preakness Stakes. He previously finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).