West Coast invades East to win Travers


August 31, 2017
West Coast (second left) powers home with Mike Smith.


West Coast invaded the East to win the US$1.25 million Travers by 3 1/4 lengths at Saratoga last Saturday against all three winners of this year's Triple Crown races.

Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, West Coast ran 11/4 miles in 2:01.19 and paid US$14.20, US$7.60 and US$5.30. The victory earned West Coast an automatic berth into the US$6 million Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.

Gunnevera returned US$18.40 and US$10.40, while Irap paid US$5.40 to show in the 148th edition of the race.

Belmont winner Tapwrit finished fourth, Preakness winner Cloud Computing was eighth, and Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming was ninth in the 12-horse field.

West Coast didn't race as a two-year-old and didn't run in this year's Triple Crown series. But the three-year-old colt has won four of six starts in 2017, including four in a row.

West Coast led all the way, with Baffert watching on television back at Del Mar racetrack north of San Diego.

"When Bob texted me before the race he said, 'Listen, he is yours, you ride him however you want,'" Smith said. "So that kind of made me think I could get a little aggressive with him, and that is what I wanted to do with no pace in the race."

Smith and Baffert won last year's Travers with Arrogate, who broke a 37-year-old track record and won by 13 1/2 lengths.

Earlier on Saturday's card, Smith and 2-5 favourite Songbird were stunned by Forever Unbridled in the US$700,000 Personal Ensign.

However, the 52-year-old jockey won the $600,000 Forego Stakes for Baffert with Drefong, and the jockey and trainer teamed to finish third in the US$500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes with American Anthem.