Trainer Dick Small was characteristically low key yesterday when assessing the chances of his Maryland-bred colt, Concern, who starts against 3-year-old title contenders Holy Bull and Tabasco Cat tomorrow in the $750,000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
"Somebody's got to run for second or third," he said.
Concern, the leading money-winning Maryland-bred this year who has a string of seconds and thirds in a series of big races and won the Arkansas Derby, drew the No. 3 hole in the six-horse Travers field.
The Robert Meyerhoff-owned horse will be ridden for the first time by Saratoga's leading jockey, Jerry Bailey.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is starting an obscure colt, Commanche Trail, as an entry mate to Tabasco Cat as a so-called "rabbit" to try to soften up the blazing early speed of Holy Bull.
Such tactics also will help Small's horse, who has a noted one-dimensional late running style. A hotly contested pace, Small said, will help Concern. "He can close an enormous amount of ground and he's always in the money."
But, looking at the past performances of Commanche Trail, who has seldom made the lead in any of his races, Small said the horse will not have much impact on Holy Bull.
Even though the track could be wet for the Travers, Jimmy Croll, the owner-trainer of Holy Bull, said he will run his horse, who was badly beaten on a muddy racing strip in the Kentucky Derby. Croll sees the Travers as the definitive race in his quest to win the 3-year-old title for Holy Bull over Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Tabasco Cat.
Small finished second in the 1986 Travers with Broad Brush, the sire of Concern. But Broad Brush was disqualified and placed fifth, one of only two times in his 27-race career that he finished off the board. Concern is consistent like his sire. He has never finished worst than third in any of his races and has earned more than $500,000.
Holy Bull, the 4-5 morning-line favorite, drew the rail in the Travers and is expected to go immediately to the front. Tabasco Cat, second choice at 6-5 odds, drew the second post, followed in post postion order by Concern, 12-1; Accounted For, 5-1; Copper Mount, 15-1 and Commanche Trail, who runs as an entry with Tabasco Cat at 6-5 odds.
Post time for the Travers is 5:03 p.m.
Del Mar starts tomorrow
Starting tomorrow, Maryland racing fans will be able to wager on the Del Mar races from California.
Operators of the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks reached a threefold agreement yesterday that allows not only for the Del Mar simulcasts, but also full-card wagering on Freehold (N.J.) harness races and a full-time nightly thoroughbred signal.
For the first time, starting next month, all Maryland outlets will take the nightly thoroughbred card from The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The Meadowlands card will replace the nightly Atlantic City Race Course program.
The Freehold afternoon signal and the nightly thoroughbred signal can only be bet through self-service terminals.