With the Triple Crown Series behind us and a new Triple Crown champion in our midst we are in the stretch run of the summer racing season. Saratoga hosts the “midsummer derby” at the Spa. The 146th running of the Travers Stakes headlines a card that might only be rivaled by the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
It appears that nine challengers are ready to face American Pharoah. Well it is honestly eight challengers since the ownership group of Upstart said they will not run if American Pharoah does not scratch. Don’t believe everything you hear. It is not official until he is scratched.
Below is a simple breakdown of each horse that is slated to enter the starting gate this Saturday. What you will see is not a complete stat sheet for each horse since you can get that from Daily Racing Form or Equibase. Instead they are my evaluations summed up to help each of you make a decision when you walk to the window, the machine, or click a mouse to make a wager on the 2015 Travers Stakes. Let’s take a look at the 2015 Travers Stakes Contenders, Picks, Betting | Saratoga Race Course in hopes of ensuring a great day.
Race: Travers Stakes (G1)
Distance: Mile and a quarter
Age: 3 Year Olds
Date: Saturday, August 29 2015
Post Time: 5:46 PM ET
TV Coverage: NBC 4:00 – 6:00 PM ET
|1||15-1||Upstart||Ortiz Jr.||Sometimes the trainer and the owner just know it is not meant to be. Upstart is entered but signs have pointed to him scratching if American Pharoah runs. It looks like they learned from convincing defeats. If he does run he is a solid pick to hit the board.|
|2||1-5||American Pharoah||Espinoza||American Pharoah has been on top of my power rankings since January, and that isn't changing. He IS STILL THE ONE TO BEAT. When Upstart scratches he gets the rail. Bayern layed an egg off the dead rail here last year after convincing wins. But the much traveled horse is the class of the field and should not disappoint on Saturday.|
|3||50-1||Mid Ocean||Franco||Lets keep this short and sweet. I cannot fathom a reason why he is in the gate except to say he ran against AP since this is the only possible spot to get that chance. Biblical changes need to occur for him to even factor in the exotics.|
|4||8-1||Texas Red||Desormeaux||The BC Juvenile winner meets American Pharoah almost a year since their last meeting. After the setback, he is on form coming off a win in the Jim Dandy here at the Spa. He will be coming late and if AP stumbles, TR is a logical choice. Oozes talent from off the pace.|
|5||30-1||Frammento||Ortiz||Runs stakes just to say he is a stakes runner. Nothing more than a pace victim. Sorry it is the reality unless the gods shine down in some miraculous way. But Zito also saddled Da'Tara who beat Big Brown at epic odds and Birdstone who took down Smarty Jones at the line to crush dreams at long odds. This isn't the Belmont but just sayin...|
|6||6-1||Frosted||Rosario||It appears the minor surgery before the Wood seems to have done the trick with him since he has been solid in back-to-back-to-back starts. It will be all or nothing for Rosario but expect him to sit close since AP will get to set his pace. Needs to step up to get over the TR and AP hurdles but is possible especially if AP finally shows signs of getting tired.|
|7||12-1||Keen Ice||Castellano||Curlin's son is 1-for-9 lifetime which makes you wonder if the closer wants more than a minor award each start. The runner-up in the Haskell was nice but he was all out and AP was never asked. If he gets clear room you could find him rounding out a tri or super at a very nice price|
|8||30-1||Tale of Verve||Stevens||When you win your maiden on your 6th try by 2 it is hard to see a factor here. I know he was a runner-up at the Preakness but that is relative given the weather and conditions.Looked poor in last two and cannot see a way he factors here even with the HOF Stevens on the mount.|
|9||50-1||King of New York||Leparoux||I love the name but that is where it ends. Two lackluster starts against much less since his allowance win. An epic step forward would be required for him to even sniff the board. At least seven more have a better shot.|
|10||20-1||Smart Transition||Velazquez||There was a horse I backed last year in this race who came in off a win in the Curlin. I pushed VE Day and he did not let me down. It was a solid step up for ST from the Dwyer to the Curlin. He has thrown a couple of bullets in the last two works. Valezquez KNOWS the Spa. AP is still the guy but if you get a dead rail and a horse set to jump forward again from the outside you have the recipe for a great score. A must for all exotics!!|
Graveyard of Champions
Saratoga is considered by many to be the “Graveyard of Champions” and there is some merit to that logic. If you isolate the thought to Triple Crown winners, three Triple Crown winners have come to the Spa to run in the Travers in the past. Only Whirlaway, in 1941, left Saratoga with a victory. In 1978, Affirmed was disqualified for interference with his main Triple Crown rival, Alydar. There is also one of the biggest, if not the biggest, upsets in racing history when Jim Dandy, at 100-1, beat Gallant Fox in the 1930 edition of the race.
Another point to consider is the idea of a ‘heavy track” or a “dead rail.” Using Bayern as an example, he came into the Travers Stakes with a couple of insane wire-to-wire victories including a win in the Haskell. When Bayern, who broke from the inside at Post 2, turned for home he just stopped and was swallowed alive. If the track is in the same condition, with American Pharoah breaking from the probable rail, then that could create a case for others.