Going into the race there was intrigue in how the pace would develop. Fort Larned was coming off a front-running tour-de-force victory in the Stephen Foster, and Cross Traffic had shown blistering early speed in a pair of one-turn mile races at Belmont.
But Fort Larned didn’t break sharply, and Cross Traffic outfooted Mucho Macho to the front, opening a 1 1/2-length lead after running a quarter-mile in 24.17 seconds.
“The first quarter was the most important. We didn’t have to chase him to be there,” Velazquez said. “After that we started picking it up every eighth of a mile, but it was a comfortable pace.”
Cross Traffic maintained a one-length lead over Fort Larned through a half-mile in 47.28 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.24.
Approaching the quarter pole, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man made a run at Cross Traffic. But straightening away for home, Velazquez shook Cross Traffic up and he spurted clear.
Velazquez said Cross Traffic waits when he is by himself, and he felt that happening again Saturday.
“All by himself he waits. I had to move to the middle of the track a little bit,” Velazquez said. “The last 20 yards I felt the other horse in the middle of the tack but I never saw him.”
The other horse was Successful Dan, but his belated rally fell short.
Cross Traffic, a son of Unbridled’s Song – who died this week – covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89 and returned $9.10 as the second choice.
Pletcher, who won his third Whitney, said that depending how Cross Traffic comes out of the race, he would consider running him back in the Grade 1 , $750,000 Woodward here on Aug. 31 and then go right to the Breeders’ Cup.
Charlie LoPresti, the trainer of Successful Dan, said he would also consider the Woodward. He didn’t use the prerace incident as an excuse.
“He ran his race. It’s unfortunate that happened, but I don’t think that took anything away from him,” LoPresti said. “He was really running at the end.”
Fort Larned, the 6-5 favorite, faded to fifth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths under Brian Hernandez. Trainer Ian Wilkes said his horse likely would have been on the lead had he not broken flat-footed.
“It was a dull effort today,” Wilkes said. “Let’s find out why. We’ll regroup. We’ll be back.”
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