SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— When it comes to the strategy for Cyberknife in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, trainer Brad Cox knows the two-time Grade 1 winner is in good hands.
Florent Geroux gets the riding assignment for the eighth straight race aboard Cyberknife, who drew the rail in a field of eight for the 1 1/4-mile Travers and was made the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind 7-5 program favorite Epicenter, runner-up in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Preakness and winner of Saratoga’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 30.
Geroux broke Cyberknife’s maiden in his 2-year-old finale last December at Fair Grounds, and was also in the irons for wins this year in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Grade 3 Matt Winn and Grade 1 Haskell, the latter July 23 at Monmouth Park in his Travers prep.
“Just break and go forward is our plan. We’re going to let the field kind of sort themselves out going into the first turn,” Cox said. “Florent obviously knows him really well. He’s very capable of running from down on the inside. He did it in the Arkansas Derby, he did it in the Haskell. It’s nothing that he can’t do.
“I think the most important thing is seeing how the track’s playing, seeing how quick it is, and if the rail’s the place to be,” he added. “That’s probably the main concern, as opposed to where we are in regard to where we land in the race.”
Cyberknife is by 2017 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner and out of the Flower Alley mare Awesome Flower. While Gun Runner was third in the 2016 Travers, Flower Alley won the Travers in 2005 and sired 2012 Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another.
In his only previous try at the Travers distance, Cyberknife raced up close to a wicked pace for a half-mile before dropping back and fading to be 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby behind Rich Strike, the 80-1 upset winner who also returns in the Travers.
“I don’t really think [distance] is [a question]. Gun Runner was able to handle a mile and a quarter in the Classic. The broodmare sire sired a Derby winner. He seems to stay on in his races well enough, so I don’t think it’s about the distance as much as it is getting the right trip on the right part of the racetrack,” Cox said.
“We just watched how he came out of the Derby. We knew we wanted to make a run at the Haskell and we thought the Matt Winn made the most sense getting there, as far as a race or a prep. The Kentucky Derby itself was a complete throwout. They could run that race 100 more times and it would be tough to get a similar result,” he added. “We were part of the pace presence unfortunately with two of my horses in Zozos and Cyberknife. I wish we weren’t, but it is what it is. We regrouped, and it’s worked out really well for Cyberknife ever since.”
Cox said Cyberknife’s versatility should serve him well in the Travers. He raced just off the lead before getting up by a nose in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn June 12 at Churchill Downs before a patient Geroux unleashed his run with a quarter-mile left in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell to win by a head, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102.
“I don’t think this horse has to necessarily sit off of horses. He’s pretty honest; he can be right where he needs to be. I wouldn’t even be opposed to him being on the lead if the right opportunity presented itself,” Cox said. “I don’t want to take away anything that comes easy. If they just break with their natural speed, you can’t fight with them. [At a] mile and a quarter, I don’t know how aggressive these other guys are going to be. We’ll see how it goes.”
Geroux is riding in the Travers for the second time, having finished fifth on the Cox-trained Owendale in 2019. The two-time defending Eclipse Award winner as leading trainer, Cox won last year’s Travers with Essential Quality, the Champion 2-Year-Old Male of 2020 and 3-Year-Old Male of 2021.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Cyberknife (Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)