SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Shug McGaughey has a pretty good track record in the Travers Stakes -- three victories, two runner-up finishes and three thirds in 10 races.
The Hall of Fame trainer sends out his 11th starter Saturday, when Sightseeing attempts to upset heavy favorite Street Sense in the 138th edition of racing's "Mid-Summer Derby" at Saratoga Race Course.
Despite finishing third behind the Street Sense in the Jim Dandy Stakes last month, McGaughey believes his 3-year-old colt may be rounding into top form.
"The way he's trained around here since he ran last makes you think he has a better race in him," McGaughey said Thursday. "His works have been good, his attitude is good. I think he's starting to come into himself a little bit."
And that's what worries Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. He knows McGaughey wouldn't enter a big race unless there was a real chance to win. To that end, Nafzger has singled out Sightseeing this week as the biggest threat among six rivals in the $1 million Travers.
"Shug has been sort of clocking this race ever since this spring," Nafzger said. "And let's be honest, Shug doesn't clock a race that he's not tough in. I think Sightseeing is going to be a really formidable horse come Saturday."
Street Sense is the 3-5 morning-line favorite, and leaves from the No. 4 post position under Calvin Borel. Sightseeing, with Edgar Prado riding, drew the outside No. 7 post and is the 6-1 third choice behind C P West, who is 5-1 after running second in the Jim Dandy on July 29.
Also entered are Grasshopper (8-1), Loose Leaf (12-1) and 20-1 shots Helsinki and For You Reppo.
Odds, though, mean nothing to Nafzger.
"When there are seven entered, there are six to beat, so we're 6-1 when you go in the gate," he said. "My horse has got to step up and he's got to deliver big. If he doesn't, he'll get beat."
McGaughey was encouraged with the way Sightseeing closed under Prado in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, finishing 2 1/4 lengths behind Street Sense. The added distance in the Travers could help, too.
"Edgar has a lot of confidence in him now," McGaughey said. "I think we all learned more about him and I feel good about our position. It's just a matter of whether we're good enough or not."
Sightseeing is among several late-developing 3-year-olds in the field. Although he ran second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood Memorial on April 20, McGaughey passed on the Triple Crown races because he said his tall, rangy colt wasn't mentally ready for the challenge. The Phipps Stable colt won the Peter Pan Stakes on May 20, then finished third in the July 4 Dwyer Stakes behind Any Given Saturday prior to the Jim Dandy.
While not as accomplished as McGaughey's three Travers winners -- Easy Goer in 1989, Rhythm in 1990 and Coronado's Quest in 1998 -- Sightseeing has been consistent with two wins, four seconds and three third-place finishes in 11 starts.
"Up until this point, he's taken baby steps," McGaughey said. "My game plan after the Wood was to get to Saratoga around two turns. I'm hoping my thinking works."
Finish Lines: Only two trainers have more Travers victories than McGaughey -- Winbert "Bert" Mulholland with five and Elliott Burch with four. ... Street Sense will be the first Derby winner in the Travers since Thunder Gulch ran -- and won -- in 1995. ... Twenty-one Derby winners ran in the Travers, and nine have won. ... Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, fourth in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5, will race on Travers day but in the 7-furlong King's Bishop Stakes. ...