Godolphin's Endorsed breezed Friday morning on Saratoga Race Course's main track and is now targeting the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
Endorsed, who ran a competitive second to Highest Honors in the Curlin on an off-track on July 26 at the Spa, went four furlongs in 48.33 seconds in his latest breeze, the 12th-fastest time of a group of 63.
"He worked really well and has been doing great since the Curlin and at this time are pointing to the Travers as long as he jogs up well tomorrow," McLaughlin said.
After winning his debut by a neck last August at Saratoga, Endorsed ran sixth in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont Park. Following an eight-month break, Endorsed made a triumphant return by besting allowance company in a six-furlong race on June 23 over a fast Belmont track and stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Curlin, where he tracked the speed before finishing 1 ½ lengths back to Highest Honors on a muddy and sealed track.
The son of Medaglia d'Oro, out of graded stakes-winner Dance Card, will now look to get the Travers' distance of 1 ¼ miles, which his conditioner said will be a challenge for any of the field's contenders.
"That was the first time going a mile and a furlong, and he came out of the race great and he's moved forward, so we're happy with it," McLaughlin said. "The distance is the distance. They all have to do it. But he's bred for it. He ran very well going nine furlongs, so we're happy with him."
On Thursday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert announced Game Winner, the reigning Eclipse Award-champion 2-Year-Old, contracted a virus and will skip the Travers, while Maximum Security was also removed from consideration for the "Mid-Summer Derby." McLaughlin said those recent developments helped make his decision.
"We were looking at it strongly, but it helps to know that two of the [potential] favorites aren't running. We're doing very well and excited about the prospects," McLaughlin said.
Joel Rosario, who rode Endorsed in June, will have the return call in the Travers, where the jockey has had four previous mounts. His best Travers finish was a third-place effort aboard Tonalist in 2014, with his most recent start last year aboard Gronkowski [eighth].
Stonestreet Stables' Dawn the Destroyer is also likely to make an appearance on Travers Day, with McLaughlin saying she is pointing to the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park.
Dawn the Destroyer, who ran third in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bed o'Roses contested at the Ballerina distance on June 7 at Belmont, breezed four furlongs in 48.09 on the main track Friday, continuing a string of five strong works since shipping up from Belmont in July.
In five graded stakes appearances, the 5-year-old Speightstown mare has finished third on three occasions, including the Bed o'Roses where she rallied from sixth to finish behind Chalon and the winner Separationofpowers on Big Sandy. She will race at Saratoga for the first time since running third in the 2017 Grade 2 Prioress.
"She worked this morning also and now we're pointing that way," McLaughlin said. "It's tough to place her. Grade 1s are tough, but we're hoping to get a piece of it. She's doing very well."
A Thread of Blue continues to do well after winning the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 4 and remains on target for the final leg of NYRA's newly implemented Turf Triple Series with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby on September 7 at Belmont, McLaughlin said.
Owned by Leonard C. Green, A Thread of Blue, who ran second in the Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill before running fourth in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1 at Penn National, captured the middle jewel of the Turf Triple Series with a one-length score in the 11-horse Saratoga Derby contested at 1 3/16 miles. The Jockey Club Derby will be held at 1 ½ miles.
"He's doing very well. We didn't know if he would get a mile and three-sixteenths and we don't know if he'll get a mile and a half, but there's a million reasons to try," McLaughlin said with a laugh.