As Long Islander Michael Dubb, one of New York’s most successful owners, said last year, “With Chad Brown, all things are possible.’’ As hot as the superstar trainer is, nobody can disagree.
Brown, who grew up in Mechanicville, three exits down the Northway from Saratoga Race Course, is dominating the track where his father took him as a boy. With 10 days left in the meeting, he has 31 wins, 10 more than Todd Pletcher, whose quest for a record seventh consecutive title seems most unlikely. Brown was second the past five years.
Dubb was in the winner’s circle Wednesday celebrating Brown’s 1,000th victory, a 1 5/8-mile stakes on turf. Brown is North America’s undisputed lord of the lawn, yet it’s the trophy for a 1¼-mile dirt race he wants most. On Saturday, he’ll send out 4-1 second choice Connect and long shots Gift Box and My Man Sam in the 147th running of the $1.25-million Travers Stakes.
“This is our home base here in Saratoga,’’ Brown said. “Being from the area, this is the biggest race in the world for me. It’s a lifelong dream of mine to win it. Maybe this year is the year.”
None of Brown’s trio has anywhere near the credentials of 3-1 favorite Exaggerator, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness and Haskell, or of Belmont Stakes winner Creator. American Freedom, Destin and Gun Runner also are much more accomplished.
My Man Sam (post 3 of 14, 20-1) was 11th in the Kentucky Derby, Gift Box (post 9, 12-1) never has won a graded stakes, and Connect (post 10) never has run in one. If Brown weren’t training Connect, there’s no way he’d be 4-1 on the morning line. Even though Brown never has been a force in major 3-year-old races on the main track, handicappers will be leery about dismissing someone as hot as he is.
The “horses for courses” angle works exceptionally well at Saratoga, and familiarity with the surface is important. Five of the last seven Travers champions ran their previous race there, as have Brown’s three.
Connect and Gift Box ran 1-2, as Brown’s horses often do, in a 1 1/8-mile ungraded stakes. My Man Sam, a deep closer who’s only 1-for-6, was second in a 9-furlong allowance.
“I think it is important to get a race over the track,” Brown said. “All three horses seem to be training really well. I’m happy with the posts. I wanted the inside for My Man Sam, and the other two are in the clear.
“Whether any of them is good enough to win remains to be seen. They all should be in different positions early, and it should be fun watching it.”