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Saez Will Ride Mage in Travers; Castellano on Arcangelo

After three weeks of trying to figure out who was going to ride who in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, there is an answer.

At least as far as who the partners of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage  and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Arcangelo will be.

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Mage in the Derby and Arcangelo in the Belmont, will ride the latter in the Midsummer Derby.

That became clear on Aug. 8 when the Mage camp announced that Luis Saez would be their jockey for the Travers. For the last three weeks, Castellano said this would be one of the toughest decisions he would ever have to make, choosing Mage or Arcangelo.

Mage’s trainer Gustavo Delgado made it easier for Castellano when he tweeted that Saez, who rode Mage to a second-place finish in the Florida Derby (G1), would be reunited with the son of Good Magic   in the Travers.

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What it came down to was that Delgado wanted to have a rider secured sooner than later. He said he told Castellano he wanted a decision by Tuesday afternoon and when it didn’t come, he went out and got Saez.

“Javier wanted more time, but I told him I could not wait,” Delgado said outside his barn at the Oklahoma Training Track Aug. 9. “I did not want to wait until the last week. The field for the Travers will be large.”

“We love Javier and we have a ton of respect for him,” Ramiro Restrepo, co-owner of Mage, said by phone. “We accomplished a lifelong dream of winning the Kentucky Derby.”

Castellano said he found out that the decision had been made when he got a phone call from a reporter at 4:45 p.m. ET Tuesday, 15 minutes after the Delgado tweet.

“They both are very talented horses,” Castellano said outside the jockey’s room before the Saratoga card started Wednesday. “I was having a hard time with it. They wanted to lock up a rider and I get it, I understand their position. I just could not give them an answer when they wanted it. I am still on a good horse.”

Castellano has ridden Arcangelo, a son of Arrogate , his last three starts, all of them wins.

“I am a big believer that there is stuff way bigger and stronger than us that are making things happen and watching out,” Jena Antonucci, Arcangelo’s trainer, said at her barn on the Oklahoma Wednesday. “One of us was going to have Javier and the other was going to have Luis Saez.”

Castellano said he still has a good relationship with Delgado, his son and assistant Gustavo Delgado Jr. and Restrepo. He said he was over at the barn earlier on Wednesday to pick up some Mage baseball hats.

Castellano, who has won the Travers a record six times, has ridden Mage four times in the colt’s six-race career. After the Florida Derby, Saez chose to ride Tapit Trice  in the Kentucky Derby.

With Saez now aboard Mage, trainer Todd Pletcher will have to find a new rider for Tapit Trice. Saez rode Tapit Trice in last six starts, the latest being a fifth-place finish in the Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 22.

“I told Todd as soon as (Delgado) talked to me,” Kiaran McLaughlin, Saez’s agent, said by phone. “He was good with it. This wasn’t an easy decision because Tapit Trice has been very good to us and Todd has been very good to us. Todd is a good friend and I hate to ever take off Todd Pletcher, whether it’s a claiming race or a Grade 1.”

Pletcher said he has not firmed up a rider yet for Tapit Trice, but did mention that Jose Ortiz and Flavien Prat are open.

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