Without the presence of a Triple Crown Race Winner some fans might feel let down by this years renewal of Saratoga’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes. But Saturday’s race remains a fantastic one for bettors (Value seekers) with many ways to go about playing it.
TACITUS will garner the most attention- the hard-luck colt with recent runner-up finishes in the Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on his resume. But the field also contains the Jim Dandy winner TAX and other well-known 3-year-olds such as MUCHO GUSTO and CODE Of HONOR.
The Travers will air during an hour-long program from 5-6 p.m. Eastern on Fox, with Post Time scheduled for 5:45. Here then is a look at this years twelve scheduled starters:
1. OWENDALE (6-1) Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. He finished third in the Preakness, then his connections decided to skip the Belmont. Perhaps weary of the distance? Next out he Won the Ohio Derby (G3) against a weak field.
2. CODE OF HONOR (4-1) Trainer: Shug McGaughey. Jockey: John Velazquez. After the KD he bounced back to Win the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont. He settled at the back and finished sharply in the stretch to Win by 3 ¼-lengths. The 1 ¼-mile distance could prove too far.
3. HIGHEST HONORS (10-1) Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Luis Saez. He ran well to Win the Curlin Stakes over ENDORSED. He runs like a long-winded router, and the pedigree is there to get 1 ¼ miles. With only three overall starts, the sky is the limit… but against this group he needs a big move forward.
4. LAUGHING FOX (30-1) Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. This closer could only rally for fifth in the Preakness Stakes behind EVERFAST and OWENDALE. But his overall form feels a lot more trustworthy than those two. Plus, he settled closer in the Jim Dandy Stakes with no pace up front before running evenly in the stretch for 4th. Might be more to him than meets the eye.
5. EVERFAST (30-1) Trainer: Dale Romans. Jockey: Martin Chuan. Seemingly too slow. He closed for 4th in the Haskell Invitational (G1), but only because KING FOR A DAY quit after MAXIMUM SECURITY interfered with him on the far turn. His runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes came in arguably the weakest of the three Triple Crown races.
6. TACITUS (5-2) Trainer: William Mott. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Everyone saw the trouble he endured in the Jim Dandy, including stumbling at the start and running on a dead rail. He also went wide in the Belmont Stakes and finished a strong 2nd. When all bettors notice the same trip, the expected Value is gone. That said, this is a talented horse, adding blinkers, who can break through with a big number if he gets a clean run.
7. MUCHO GUSTO (6-1) Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Joe Talamo. Many bettors will assume he cannot get 1 ¼ miles. But from a pedigree standpoint, there is no reason a son of MUCHO MACHO MAN cannot run this far. He faded to 3rd in the nine-furlong Sunland Derby (G3) earlier this year. Last time out he finished a strong 2nd in the Haskell Stakes. Perhaps he just needed a little more seasoning.
8. CHESS CHIEF (30-1) Trainer: Dallas Stewart. Jockey: Mike Smith. To be blunt; he is not fast enough to Win. But this trainer has proven time and time again, he can land big long-shots into the Superfecta, adding life to the payoffs. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at 35-1 to MR. MONEY, who would be among the top choices here.
9. LOOKING AT BIKINIS (10-1) Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Javier Castellano. He gives the impression of a miler, and not much more. Displayed a quick turn of foot in both his Maiden Win at 6 ½ furlongs and Optional Claiming Victory at one mile. He has the talent, but needs to prove himself at a longer distance before you put him on top here.
10. SCARS ARE COOL (30-1) Trainer: Stanley Hough. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. broke his Maiden by four lengths at Saratoga at nine furlongs. His turf router pedigree suggests 1 ¼ miles is not a problem. But does he have enough experience to face this field off a Maiden Win. His career didn’t even begin until after the Kentucky Derby.
11. ENDORSED (15-1) Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Off a long layoff he returned to Win an Allowance sprint at Belmont. He then stretched out in the nine-furlong Curlin Stakes, only to lose by 1 ½ lengths to HIGHEST HONORS. He disappointed connections by not making it a close race there. Needs to get faster to Win here.
12. TAX (6-1) Trainer: Danny Gargan. Jockey: Irad Ortiz. He is not the quickest horse in this division, but if no one wants the lead, he will set the pace. If that scenario plays out his tactical speed will reward him, as the only other burners are MUCHO GUSTO and LOOKING AT BIKINIS. The class is there too, as he Won the Jim Dandy Stakes and finished a respectable 4th in the Belmont Stakes. Draw a line through the Kentucky Derby flop on a wet track and you have a nice history.
Conclusion: Without a true pacesetter in this race, the Travers favors any horse with mild speed. TAX fits the bill, and the distance question is not as concerning as it is with MUCHO GUSTO.
TACITUS and CODE OF HONOR will likely go off as the two betting favorites- and rightfully so. But that’s not how we roll at the Daily Racing Blog. While we will certainly use both of the #2 and #6 in multiple race Wagers (Pick 4, Pick 5 etc…) In the Travers we will try and beat them with both the #7 and #12.
So our play will be: a Trifecta Key using the 7 & 12 on top of the 2-3-4-6-8. An Exacta Box with the 2-6-7-12. With Win bets on 3-4-8.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.