By Mike Kane
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY–During a pre-season interview in early July, trainer Chad Brown offered another colt–at that point, with a low profile–to a discussion of his deep bench of GI Travers prospects: Zandon (Upstart), Early Voting (Gun Runner) and Jack Christopher (Munnings).
“I have a late -bloomer, a horse named Artorius (Arrogate), that I really like,” Brown said. “He's going to run in the Curlin Stakes. Much like the dad, he's late bloomer. I'm not saying he's a threat to win the Travers, but I'm going to tell you: he's lightly raced and he's very good. And his mother was very good, Paulassilverlining (Ghostzapper), who won two Grade Is for us. Obviously, Arrogate was a great race horse, that I didn't train. He's very well bred. He's a horse we've always liked all winter. He just got started a little late.”
Seven weeks to the day later, Artorius, will be entered Tuesday with Zandon and Early Voting in the Travers, which will be run for the 153rd time on Saturday. Following a third as the favorite in the GI Haskell S. July 23, Jack Christopher returns to sprint distances in the seven-furlong GI H. Allen Jerkens on the Travers program.
Artorius thoroughly confirmed Brown's assessment that he was of Travers quality with a 4 3/4-lengths score in the 1 1/8 miles ungraded Curlin July 29. He has continued to train well, most recently a :47.00 half-mile on Saturday, and just like his famous father did in 2016, will make his graded stakes debut in the Travers.
In what was his fifth career start, Arrogate (Unbridled's Song) cruised into Saratoga history for trainer Bob Baffert in 2016 with a stakes and course record of 1:59.36 for the 1 1/4-miles Travers. He broke the record of 2:00 set in 1979 by General Assembly over a very wet track. The Travers was the launching pad for Arrogate, who died in 2020 during his third season at stud. He followed that 13 1/2-length Travers score with wins in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic, the GI Pegasus World Cup and the GI Dubai World Cup. The week of his victory in the Pegasus in an anticipated showdown with California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) that never materialized, he won the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old male champion.
Brown said that Artorius had typical 2-year-old shin issues in 2021 and had another problem that delayed his arrival to the races. He broke slowly in his first start on Apr. 16 in a six-furlong race at Keeneland and finished second. The maiden-breaker came at a mile at Belmont Park June 10 and he followed that up with what turned out to be an easy victory at nine furlongs in the Curlin.
“He's doing great,” Brown said. “His last race was terrific, first race around two turns. I was very pleased with it. ”
Brown acknowledged that it is a big ask to send Artorius into the Travers against an accomplished field whose headliner is GI Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike. His stablemates Early Voting, victor of the GI Preakness S., Zandon, third in the Derby after a win in the GI Blue Grass S. will be in the gate, along with Epicenter (Not This Time), second in the Derby and Preakness and the winner of the GII Jim Dandy, and GI Arkansas Derby and GI Haskell winner Cyberknife (Gun Runner).
“I'm having to step him up. He seems like he's willing to do it,” Brown said. “I don't feel like I'm doing anything to compromise his development by doing it. Yes, it's a really tough race, but he's got a nice race over this track, albeit against lesser horses than he's going to meet in the Travers. He did it the right way and came out of it the right way. The Travers is a once-in-a-lifetime for a horse to try. You only get one shot to run in it when you're three. So, if they're sound and doing well, and their numbers look like they're heading the right way, have a race over the track, which is in this particular case is possibly beneficial, and a leading jockey riding the horse, you've got to take a shot.”
Juddmonte purchased Paulassilverling from breeder-owner Vincent Scuderi prior to her 5-year-old season in 2017 and turned her over to Brown. She promptly won the GI Madison and the GI Humana Distaff. Artorius is her first foal.
“He's not real big now,” Brown said. “He'd be more of his mom's size than his father's size, but he's good combination between the two. He's got the stamina and the movement of his father, who moved like a cat. His mother was a smaller filly, not the best mover, but had a lot of heart. When you're breeding the best of the best, you hope for the best. This horse got a good blend of both, which is what you really hope for in a lot of cases when you breed Grade I horses to Grade I horses.”
An hour or so after Artorius worked alongside multiple GI winner Search Results (Flatter) Saturday, Brown said he was certain that the colt had the physical tools for the Travers and it just was a matter of timing whether he would make it to Saratoga's signature race.
“It's not a surprise at all. We always thought that he's talented enough,” Brown said. “I'd use the word “relieved” that he was able to do it. There was a small percentage chance that he'd be able to advance this quick. We knew he had the ability, but things happen. Horses have setbacks, right? Horses don't always run the way you think they're going to run. For him to actually hit all the marks and really get there, the only way was if everything sort of went right. Everything went right along the way with his works and spacing and weather, health of the horse. Everything has for this horse. I've been relieved. We gave it a shot to put him on a path to get here and he hit it.”