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It’s Midsummer Derby Time!: 10 Line Up for the Travers

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With no California Chrome knocking on the door, the field for the Travers Stakes (I) will determine at least part of the Three-Year-Old Eclipse picture with Belmont (I) winner Tonalist returning off a respectable defeat to Wood Memorial (I) winner Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy (II). But alas, they are not alone: Bayern unleashed a monstrous run to win the Haskell (I) at Monmouth and is looking to be the likely favorite as he stretches out again, and for the first time, to 10 furlongs. A lot of if’s, and’s, or but’s make this Travers an interesting and possibly profitable edition. Due to inclement weather and minimal strong sunshine, I’m handicapping this race for a “good” track.

$1.25 million Travers Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, August 23 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Commanding Curve - Shaun Bridgmohan, Dallas Stewart - A promising improver in the spring, the Master Command colt ran strong to be 2nd in the Kentucky Derby and has since been on a downward slide, finishing 4th in the Jim Dandy (II) with little excuse. Deserving longshot.

2) Bayern - Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert - The Offlee Wild colt bounced off some pretty shoddy form back into business, romping in the Woody Stephens (II) at 7 furlongs before dominating the 9-furlong Haskell (I), both by 7 lengths after establishing early superiority. Numbers-wise, he’s the one to beat and has some distance pedigree to back up his stretch-out. Off the board just once in 7 starts this year. Despite Baffert’s dominance in the Haskell, he has won the Haskell-Travers double just once with Point Given. Bayern could run home with the win should he establish an uncontested lead as he has done in the past. 

3) Charge Now - Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott - A half to Derby winner Super Saver sired by Tiznow, Charge Now flies the WinStar stable colors with high hopes after just 5 career starts, winning 2 and placing in 2 with no stakes wins. He was barely beaten last out in the Curlin Stakes to V. E. Day after going wide into the stretch. While improving, he is probably not quick-footed enough to win and has demonstrated dislike of off goings.

4) V. E. Day - Javier Castellano, James Jerkens - Jerkens’ back-up gun, the English Channel colt surprised many winning the Curlin Stakes to go three in a row for his stakes debut. He upgrades jockeys to Castellano, the current meet leader, and has all the makings of a great improving horse. Huge value horse with a win on an off-track. Upset potential is here.

5) Viva Majorca - Julien Leparoux, Ian Wilkes - The Tiago colt sports Whitney connections and missed the win in the Curlin Stakes by just a length, finishing 4th in that event but was steadied at one point. He does have some good back form and could close into the competition. I’m not loving the lack of success among Wilkes and Leparoux though on an improving horse.

6) Tonalist - Joel Rosario, Christophe Clement - The Belmont-winning Tapit colt was much the best in June and showed he could handle the off-going before then in the Peter Pan Stakes (II). Wide throughout, he disappointed in his return, running a clearly bested 2nd to Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy (II). Tonalist could benefit from a tighter trip, but the question is if he’ll get it and strengthen back into his beast form. Keep him in your top 3 thoughts.

7) Wicked Strong - Rajiv Maragh, James Jerkens - The Hard Spun colt sports some class with two graded stakes wins and has an edge as the Jim Dandy (II) winner coming into this race. He was at his best in the Jim Dandy (II) and really wasn’t that far off the win considering his trip in the Kentucky Derby when the 10-furlong question comes up. Jerkens has Wicked Strong ready to roll in workouts and seeing as this colt is adaptable and can do off-goings, he can’t be forgotten about.

8) Kid Cruz - Irad Ortiz Jr, Linda Rice - The Dwyer (III) winner comes back for another go after running 3rd in the Jim Dandy (II), which was not helped by a wider-than-usual trip. This will be the Lemon Drop Kid colt’s first shot at 10 furlongs and given the pace scenario, his best will come late and I would not be surprised if he does amazingly well. Irad Ortiz Jr has been doing phenomenally well all meet as well. Value horse.

9) Ulanbator - Brian Hernandez Jr, Ian Wilkes - The “other” Offlee Wild of the field, He has one win in 8 career starts at a mile at Gulfstream Park and was 5th in the Jim Dandy (II), beaten some 9 lengths. He does his best running late, but is still very much a longshot.

10) Mr Speaker - Jose Lezcano, Shug McGaughey - The Pulpit colt was at his roaring best in the Belmont Derby (I) going 10 furlongs on grass, and with runner-up Adelaide’s recent win in the Secretariat Stakes (I), he is obviously the best American turf three-year-old. Trainer McGaughey is adamant this horse has a shot on the dirt. A tiring 7th in his lone dirt start… DOES this horse have a shot? It’s up to you to decide, but I’m giving him the nod as long as he can handle dirt in his face since the plan is to attack from off the pace.

Top 3 Picks in Order (with preferable odds):

1) Mr Speaker (8-1)

2) Wicked Strong (3-1)

3) V. E. Day (12-1)

Because of a lot of “maybe this, maybe that” going on in the field this year, I am going to go against the favorites. Yes I think Bayern could do it, but I think his calling is a dirt mile. I’m going with my study strategy that landed me with picking Wicked Strong for the Wood— everyone hates Gulfstream, and I’m guessing Mr Speaker did too. He has the best dirt pedigree of the field for going 10 furlongs and has a chance to prove it in spades. Wicked Strong and V. E. Day pack some bruising connections when it comes to dirt routes and both have tactical advantages in one way or another to get up there. Bayern is 4th choice.

Value Pick: If you’re not buying into Mr Speaker, V. E. Day overpowered a sluggish pace to win the Curlin Stakes and is set to improve from there. I mean, Javier is riding him, c’mon!

Wicked Strong tuned up for the Travers (I) with a 5-furlong breeze over the main… we legit chased him from the track to across the street to get more shots!

Working on photo blogs, no Travers for me

A really stellar portrait of me at Saratoga done by the fabulous fourfurlongs in case you haven’t seen it yet!

I’ve attended a LOT more days at Saratoga than I originally anticipated, and as much as I absolutely love soaking in the scene over there I’ll be skipping both Personal Ensign and Travers days. The massive crowds, the driving back-and-forth, the inevitable price gouging, and me being scheduled to work is pushing me in the direction of enjoying the races from the couch. 

BUT! I am making plans to attend Woodward Day as well as Tom Durkin’s last day at the end of the month. I also have a reservation for a photography workshop taught by Tod Marks on that Saturday, so the Saratoganess isn’t over yet.

Photo blogs and handicapping for Saturday coming down the pipeline as well. Do let me know if you have a Saratoga race you’re interested in me picking apart. I’m in the process of typing it, but I had that $1,000 pick 3 on Sword Dancer day… if only I hadn’t ragequit earlier in the card after losing another pick 3 by a head I’d be a lot happier right now!

High hoof!

Dawna

Will Take Charge

Video still of Travers & Whitney winner Will’s Way, who showed a surprising docile side to me and my camera. From his earlier antics, I feared he would grab either me or my camera from my position on the fence!

Video still of Travers & Whitney winner Will’s Way, who showed a surprising docile side to me and my camera. From his earlier antics, I feared he would grab either me or my camera from my position on the fence!

Post-Travers feels: It was a year for believers

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Palace Malice breaking his maiden at Saratoga last year.

I entered this year’s 3-year-old crop analysis full of skepticism and without enthusiasm. Compared to last year, we had a plate full of pretenders and early worms who were bound to get injured or go lame before long. Even more frustrating, it felt like every Triple Crown prep was laced with bias and poor trips by the better horses.

But once the Kentucky Derby rolled around, we all found a horse to believe in with Orb, who got good late and led us all on a thrill ride of big performances leading into the muddy Derby. I’m not much of an Orb fan; I knew he had the best chance to win, but I am too incorrigible to not back a horse I truly go gaga for simply because of bettors’ parlance. Some would say a loss by Orb in the Preakness would kill spirits, but it did not.

Continue reading…

Will Take Charge takes the Travers in a photo over Moreno

SO PROUD OF MY BABY MORENO! He almost did it. And Orb was beautiful up for third. So. Happy. My value pick Will Take Charge at 8-1 without blinkers with new rider Saez proved to be the perfect potion. Congrats to anyone who had him!

Verrazano conked out and fell back in the stretch, no real excuse.

Yeah…

Between Joel Rosario being out and those sprint races where 5 or 6 them have a shot to win, I probably won’t be doing the pick 4 today.

Ehhh… Travers All-Graded Stakes Pick 4

I say “ehhh” because there’s too many dang horses and not a lot of singling opportunity. I get a gold star for trying anyway:

The A column are horses I am definitely/almost definitely using in the event I bet. B are ones that I might use and in this case, the ones my brain liked but I’m still trying to weed out… like I said, too many gaw dang horses.

R9: Test Stakes - #2 Baby J and #9 Lighthouse Bay are capable horses who should be able to attack a rapid pace, which I am expecting with the shipment of #5 Sweet Lulu the heavy favorite who is making a first dirt start here and other speedballs. #4 I’m Mom’s Favorite had a super fast workout and gets long odds because of her bad clunker last out despite beating Lighthouse Bay in the past. #8 My Happy Face is consistent and cuts back in distance and #9 Wildcat Lily is another fast worker who has been generating some buzz and will [probably] try to wire the field.

R10: Ballston Spa - Feel pretty good about my top pick #4 Centre Court, a past G1 winner who will definitely benefit from a faster-than-normal pace, which she often just sits right behind. #1 Laughing [IRE] cannot be disregarded with Lezcano up and a recent G1 win here, and beating Dayatthespa to set a track record isn’t too bad either. #5 Hungry Island was 2nd in this race last year to BC Filly & Mare Turf champ Zagora [FR], and will look to close in. #6 Somali Lemonade has won under similar conditions and had a sharp breeze 2 workouts ago.

R11: King’s Bishop - Annoying race, likely to culminate in a sputtering speed duel won by a closer. #2 Forty Tales will be the horse to beat here, and I’ve also included #8 Declan’s Warrior who is always tough. Others to consider: #3 Capo Bastone, who has some back-class closing in on Forty Tales but is disregarded after a bad last start. #5 Majestic Hussar logged some progress in an allowance race here should closers fail to get the jump, #7 Mentor Cane… I forget why I liked him oops… I’M TIRED… and #12 Central Banker I added here off a sprinting win [on turf] purely because he’s a Speightstown. So sue me.

R12: Travers - Derp-free race, single at your own doom. I like #2 Orb best… hopefully Joel Rosario is ok to ride on Saturday… #3 Verrazano will try to stick to his hype and #8 Palace Malice should be around all day.

I’ll poke at this a little more, but I may or may not actually wager on this card. Sunday may or may not be better than Saturday with Royal Delta coming to town…

It’s a Sophomore Showdown in the Travers

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The last time many of the top horses in the Travers (I) met, it was a muddy, crappy day in early May, and Orb took advantage of a stir-crazy Palace Malice and unhappy Verrazano to race wide down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby by daylight. A sunny Saturday months later and over a thousand miles away on a dry track could spell differently for these three and six others lining up to win the Midsummer Derby.

Continue reading…

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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