Update: Are you looking for the 2015 edition? Check out 2015 Travers Stakes Contenders, Picks, Betting | Saratoga Race Course.
All eyes will be on Saratoga Race Course this weekend with a stacked set of races. The marquee race of the weekend is arguably the Grade 1 Travers Stakes. The “Midsummer Derby” is run at a 1 1/4 miles over the traditional dirt surface and will be celebrating its 145th running. Only three year old males are eligible for the Travers Stakes. The $1.25 million purse makes the Travers the second richest race at Saratoga Race Course, only behind the Whitney.
Bayern, off an impressive win in the Haskell, is installed as the 2-1 M/L favorite. Tonalist, the Belmont Stakes winner, is the second choice at 3-1 followed closely by Jim Dandy winner, Wicked Strong at 7-2. The Travers also sees entries from three horses that finished first, second and fourth in the Curlin Stakes here at Saratoga in V.E.Day, Charge Now and Viva Majorca.
Race: Travers Stakes (G1)
Location: Saratoga Race Course
Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Purse: $1.25 million
Post Time: 5:46 PM EST
TV Coverage: NBC 4:30-6 PM EST
|1||15-1||Commanding Curve||Bridgmohan||Huge race in the Kentucky Derby finishing second to California Chrome at bomb odds. Since then ahs ran a disappointing ninth in the Belmont and fourth last out in the Jim Dandy. Appears that he is a horse for the course and that course is Churchill.|
|2||2-1||Bayern||Garcia||Bayern is coming off a visually impressive victory at the Haskell. In fact he has won his last two by 7 and stretched from 7 furlongs to 1 1/8. Appears to be maturing at every turn and is a threat. Can he stretch to 1 1/4? Contender|
|3||15-1||Charge Now||Alvarado||Another in the group from the Curlin Stakes. Finished second in that race but was honestly looking the worst at the wire. Poor running in the Iowa Derby two back does not breed confidence.|
|4||15-1||V.E. Day||Castellano||Winner of the Curlin got the jump on the other closers in that race. With that win, he showed he likes the surface here at Saratoga. Does not need to come from the clouds as evident in his Allowance win. Interesting choice in a more open race than many give credit for with addition of Castellano|
|5||20-1||Viva Majorca||Leparoux||A interesting price on a horse that will probably get overlooked. The Curlin was a decent stakes and he finished fourth. More importantly, when he got in the clear, he found stride and came bounding home. If he can stay out of trouble this might be a shocker. Tiago might be proud.|
|6||3-1||Tonalist||Rosario||Ran flat in the Jim Dandy, losing to WS, but it appeared that the G2 was merely a post Belmont prep for the Travers. Distance is of zero concern. A planned domination of the G1s in NY will continue with a Travers victory.|
|7||7-2||Wicked Strong||Maragh||Comes in off a victory in the G2 Jim Dandy after adding blinkers. Was that race a one off or are we seeing a Palace Malice style change? Appears to love to run in NY. With Maragh on board he is a real threat.|
|8||12-1||Kid Cruz||Ortiz Jr||Dwyer winner finished third in the Jim Dandy after a weird trip where he flew out of the gate, drifted to the back by midrace then uncorked in the stretch. My opinion, this horse belongs at G2 and G3. Make no mistake, he will come running late and most likely hit the board but just not a win since I believe G1 is just a bit to much.|
|9||30-1||Ulanbator||Hernandez||Sorry, I just do not know why he is here. Will do well to avoid the dreaded last place finish. I would be blown away if he hit the board.|
|10||10-1||Mr Speaker||Lezcano||Belmont Derby winner last out shows G1 form, add in the G3 Coolmore Lexington and he could surprise. But… those were turf and synthetic. Only dirt start was the G3 Holy Bull where he finished a very uninspired seventh. If you can throw it out then you will get some value to take a flyer with.|
Breakdown and Betting
At face value, almost every enthusiast or expert is predicting a three horse race between Bayern, Tonalist and Wicked Strong. While many will laugh, I believe there is some value to be had at the 2014 Travers Stakes. Bayern is a deserving M/L favorite after two consecutive impressive victories including the Haskell, which added him to the Horse of the Year discussion. That being said, he is not a lock. Many believe he will get the lead to himself but the more I look at the tendencies and modifications of this field I would not be surprised to see a pace pushing race from the likes of Ulanbator.
Wicked Strong is a wildcard in my mind. Why would I say that? He added blinkers in the Jim Dandy and was up on or near the front throughout the race. That change in running style could mean a real change in the predicted scenario of the Travers. There could be an unexpected duel up front with Bayern, which will hurt both horses. Many people I have talked with have claimed I am nuts to predict this scenario but Saratoga has seen stranger than this at the graveyard.
If the Jim Dandy was really an appetizer for Tonalist, than the Travers is the main course. He is lightly raced and will have no issue with distance. If you can attribute his flat performance to the game plan of his connections than this is the race he is supposed to fire. Tonalist will get the first shot at my predicted front two of Bayern and Wicked Strong coming out of the far turn. If he switches leads smoothly I can easily see him in control.
The two interesting horses in this field that I give more credit to than many are Viva Majorca and V.E. Day. I believe you will see V.E. Day sitting at the front of the second pack, much closer than the Curlin Stakes. This will be a calculated move by his connections and the all knowing Castellano. They will want to stay in front of Kid Cruz, Viva Majorca and Commanding Curve at the midway point of the far turn. This will give him an edge if he can make the move.
Meanwhile, Viva Majorica will only be ahead of Kid Cruz and Commanding Curve in the final turn but that is by design. If the closing kick that he showed in the Curlin is any indication, Viva Majorica can really close strong. A key for him will be avoiding the type of trouble he saw in the Curlin. If that happens then do not be shocked if the bomb comes through and the graveyard keeps its name. Imagine that this race unfolds as I predict, you have a real chance to see some combination of 15 or 25-1 shots mixed with Tonalist in an exacta. That would be a nice day at Saratoga.
Below is how I would play $20 and $50 at the 2014 Travers Stakes. Keep in mind there is an eye to value here. As always, if you have to scrounge up to find $5 or $10 for the race I would pass and just watch. Pay the bills and enjoy the day. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be fun.
|2014 Travers Betting Options|
|$1 Exacta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$1 Trifecta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$4 Win/ Place||4|
|$2 Exacta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$ 1 Trifecta||4,6 with 2,4,5,6|
|$.10 Superfecta||4,6 with 2,4,5,6,7,10|
|$5 Win/ Place||6|
|$2 Win/ Place||4|