Ny Traffic stalled at the top of the stretch before shifting into high gear in Saturday’s Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, putting a late scare into front-running Authentic, only to fall an excruciating nose short of victory.
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. expressed more satisfaction than disappointment in his Gulfstream Park-based Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect Sunday morning.
“I think I’ve lost a claimer and been more upset. For some reason, I didn’t feel any disappointment, because I know where we’re trying to get – to the Derby,” Joseph said. “I just thought it was another step forward again. I didn’t want to see any regression. That was my biggest thing – not seeing any regression.”
Ny Traffic, who currently sits fourth in qualifying points for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, chased a loose-on-the-lead Authentic into the stretch, where he made a courageous-but-failed bid for victory.
“I was proud of him. At the quarter-pole, he was off the bridle and it looked like he wouldn’t be able to get second. To see him, trying and keep coming and almost getting there…At the 1/16th-pole, I thought he might win. It went from a low to a high,” Joseph said. “I didn’t take the beat that bad, honestly. I was just happy how he ran and it was another jump forward, like we’re going in the right way for the Derby.”
Ny Traffic, who followed up a dominating Jan. 11 allowance win at Gulfstream in his first start for Joseph with a third-place finish in the Risen Star (G2), a runner-up finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and a second-place finish in the Matt Winn (G3), is owned by John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing and Paul Braverman.
“I’m sending him to Saratoga and let him train there a little bit. I don’t know if we’ll ship early to Churchill or ship late. We haven’t decided yet,” Joseph said.
The Joseph-trained Tonalist’s Shape didn’t fare nearly as well as her stablemate Saturday, finishing a well-beaten fourth as the 6-5 favorite in Saturday’s Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. The multiple graded-stakes winner, who wore blinkers for the first time in a race Saturday, was rank early and lacked the late punch that carried her to victory in the Forward Gal (G3) and Davona Dale (G2) during the Championship Meet and, most recently, the Hollywood Wildcat at Gulfstream.
“The blinkers, I knew, could have that effect. I thought the blinkers for her was going to be hit or miss. It was either going to make a big difference or it was going to be a big mistake. It turned out to be a big mistake,” Joseph said. “We thought we were making the right decision. We had to give it a try. I’ll take the blame for that. I can’t blame her. She got a little rank going into the first turn. I think it was a complete throw-out race. I’ll take the blame for that.”
The Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks is still penciled in for a ‘blinkers-off” Tonalist’s Shape.
“I’m not going to let that race distract us. If all is well, we’re going to stay on plan. She’s earned a spot in the Oaks. If she stays the course, we’ll probably give her a chance there. We’ll see how she does,” Joseph said. “We’ll talk it over with the owners, but I don’t see any reason not to continue onwards.”
Math Wizard, who gave Joseph his first Grade 1 success while winning last year’s Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, improved off a pair of disappointing 2020 efforts with a second-place finish behind Global Campaign in Saturday’s Monmouth Cup (G3).
“He ran very good. He’s just a hard-knocking horse,” Joseph said. “On his day, when he’s doing good, he gives his all. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”