SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Corporate Report had always been a moneymaker. But when it came to stakes races, he never had done business in the winner's circle.
That changed yesterday when Corporate Report posted a timely first in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Ridden by Chris McCarron, the colt turned back a race-long bid from Hansel in winning the 122nd running of the Mid-Summer Derby by a neck.
Hansel had 2 1/2 lengths at the finish on Fly So Free, while Strike the Gold, the Kentucky Derby winner and 1.70-1 favorite, was HTC fourth, another three lengths behind. Lost Mountain was fifth and the Maryland colt, Tong Po, was eased in the stretch after dropping out of contention after a mile.
Corporate Report, the second-longest shot in the field, paid $16.60 to win after finishing in 2 minutes, 1 1/5 seconds. The track and stakes mark of 2:00 was set 12 years ago by General Assembly.
Before a crowd of 48,170, Corporate Report set all the pace in the 1 1/4 -mile race. "I expected to be in front and figured I would slow the pace," said McCarron.
McCarron purposely guided his mount several paths off the rail into the first turn, a move designed to park out Hansel. He maintained a small margin through early fractions of 23 3/5, 47 2/5 and 1:11 2/5, while Hansel and Fly So Free stayed within striking range.
Into the stretch, Hansel drew even with Corporate Report from the outside -- but he couldn't get past in the final furlong. With McCarron rhythmically whipping his mount on the right shoulder, Corporate Report inched away to gain his first stakes victory, and third overall, in 10 career starts.
"He showed his class," said McCarron. "He lets me know when the competition is there."
Minutes after the race, jockey Jerry Bailey told track veterinarian Joan D'Alonso he felt Hansel "take a few funny steps," and although no lameness was apparent, the colt was vanned away in a horse ambulance "as a precaution," said D'Alonso.
Later, veterinarian Ted Hill examined Hansel -- the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner -- and said the colt had suffered a lower tendon injury of the left front leg. "He's a little sore, but not terribly," said Hill. "They'll have to do some diagnostic work to make sure it's not something else. There's nothing definitive. But there's nothing in terms of a fracture unless something else shows up."
Bailey said the colt pulled up favoring a front leg. "Pulling up, he usually gallops out pretty strong," he said. "But today he didn't gallop out strong at all. When I got to a stop, he was favoring it."
Asked whether he thought the colt's injury was a factor in the race, Bailey said: "I've got to believe it. It's easy to say, but he wasn't getting tired, which was my only concern for getting him beat."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was not present to saddle Corporate Report for owner William T. Young, so his son and Eastern-based assistant, Jeff Lukas, filled in. The elder Lukas was at his Del Mar Race Course base in California "working," said his son.
"He is thrilled," said the younger Lukas. "I wish he'd been here to share this."
The triumph was worth $600,000 and made Corporate Report racing's latest earnings millionaire ($1,067,908). It also helped the Lukas stable sharpen its aim on a ninth straight national earnings title.
Strike the Gold, the trailer to the midway point, made a mild rally before flattening out. Angel Cordero Jr., aboard the colt for the first time, said "he made a run at the half-mile pole. . . . but then they picked it up again."
Chris Antley, on Tong Po, said the colt "never ran a jump. I never had any horse."
Corporate Report, a son of Private Account, ran in all three Triple Crown events. A habitual front-runner, he finished ninth in the Derby, second in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont. After the Preakness, Pat Day -- Corporate Report's rider throughout the Triple Crown -- told Wayne Lukas he believed the colt "would be a great horse in August." Lukas responded: "I want him to be a great horse in June."
Although Day gave up the mount after Corporate Report moved to Lukas' California base for a brief regrouping, his words rang true yesterday.
The Travers had developed as a critical race in deciding titles for 3-year-old champion and possibly Horse of the Year, but the result only muddles the issues. Not only did Corporate Report go for-3 in the Triple Crown, but two subsequent races were losses to Lost Mountain and Best Pal, currently the top 3-year-old on the West Coast.
"It was a great victory for him, and it puts him into a good position into the fall," said Jeff Lukas.