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Thunder Gulch Wins Travers : Horse racing: After a poor start, he finishes 4 1/2 lengths in front at Saratoga.

August 20, 1995|From Associated Press

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Thunder Gulch was too eager. Then he was too slow. Then he was just fast enough to win Saturday, but not fast enough to impress.

The Horse of the Year? Not yet.

Thunder Gulch, the Wayne Lukas-trained Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Swaps Stakes winner, won the 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes, the year's final major 3-year-old race, in the slowest time in 14 years.

Thunder Gulch's time of 2:03 3/5 was the slowest since Willow Hour won the 1981 Travers at Saratoga Race Course in 2:03 4/5.

It was fast enough, however, to beat second-place Pyramid Peak by 4 1/2 lengths and keep Thunder Gulch squarely in the picture for Horse of the Year. The leading contender for the honor, so far, is 5-year-old Cigar, who has won nine in a row.

They will race against each other on Sept. 16 in the Woodward at Belmont Park and again in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 28, also at Belmont.

Thunder Gulch, who went off the odds-on favorite at 4-5 under jockey Gary Stevens, returned $3.50, $2.70 and $2.10. Pyramid Peak, ridden by Herb McCauley, held on for second by two lengths over Malthus and returned $3.60 and $2.80. Malthus, ridden by Jorge Chavez, returned $3.30 for show.

Completing the order of finish were Composer, Star Standard, Citadeed and Rank and File. All carried 126 pounds.

Thunder Gulch almost never got started. He appeared to start his leap from the gate a split second before the gate opened and Stevens had to check him hard.

"He kicked the back of the gate a couple of times, too, and that's unusual," Stevens said. "He wanted to get down to business. He heard a noise, and he lunged. When the gate opened, he had his front feet off the ground."

Stevens quickly settled Thunder Gulch into fourth place behind Pyramid Peak, Star Standard and Citadeed, never much more than five lengths off the pace.

The four raced down the backstretch that way and, as Pyramid Peak and Star Standard traded leads in the turn for home, Thunder Gulch began his move on the outside.

He collared the leaders coming out of the turn and, as he straightened for the final run home, the rest of the pack fell away.

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