August 26, 2017
There are plenty of reasons to play Saturday at Saratoga, from the exceptional stakes races, headlined by the Travers, to the exceptional wager menu, topped by a $1 Million Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11).
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First post from Saratoga is 11:35AM ET and the Travers goes as Race 1, at 5:44PM ET. Watch the Travers live on NBC at 4:30PM ET.
Sometimes, when you get a 12-pack of horses that aren’t all that fast or all that good, a great betting race breaks out. Welcome to the 148th Travers, the Mid-Summer Derby where all 12 little engines really could. It’s not often that you get a centerpiece race where you could literally make some kind of a case for every horse that’s entered, but the Travers is indeed one of those rare occasions. Regardless of who you think is the longest of shots, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, if they choose Saturday to run the race of their lives, they’ll win. With that in mind, lets’ take a look at the field and their true winning chances. #1 Cloud Computing (8-1 ML): I was never a fan, and certainly didn’t have him in the Preakness, but I also thought he couldn’t lose the local GII Jim Dandy. Yet, not only did he lose it, but he was awful while doing it. Can he bound back? Maybe. It is Chad Brown and we all know how good he is, but up to a week ago, a guy who wants to win this race more than any other wasn’t even sure he was running, which doesn’t really offer a ringing endorsement of this colt’s chances. So, while I have the utmost respect for this barn, and know there is one (likely several) Travers with its name on it, this doesn’t seem to be the one. Fair odds: 12-1 #2 Giuseppe the Great (20-1): Give him credit for his 2nd in the Jim Dandy, but it had that “someone has to be 2nd” feel to it. If he improves, like he’s done in basically every race he’s ever run, then he’s hardly impossible, but it’s a big ask, and 10 furlongs seems to be stretching his rubber band mighty thin: Fair odds: 30-1 #3 West Coast (4-1): The expected favorite has really impressed in his last two easy wins and gets the acid test now, but he’s really on the come and has run consistently fast in a race where few have. He’s also the fresh new face in a division that has taken turns beating each other all year, and there’s something to be said for that. You also get Baffert and Smith, who have been potent in big races on big race days, and that’s a big deal. Fair odds: 3-1 #4 Tapwrit (7-2): Pletcher is taking the road less traveled for his Belmont winner, and that’s not a bad thing, since we saw how the Jim Dandy turned out for the Derby and Preakness winner. Of course, winning the Travers off the Belmont is not easy, but Birdstone pulled it off, so it’s also not impossible. The worry here is that this guy won a terrible race at 1 ½ miles, which is completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If nothing else, he showed last time he can run fast, and he’ll also sit a nice up-close stalking trip. Fair odds: 4-1 #5 Good Samaritan (5-1): Talk about a tough read, as he simply laughed at the Jim Dandy field in what was his dirt debut, while seemingly running like he’d adore 10 furlongs. The problem is not one of the “big” guns ran an inch in the race and the top-2 were last and second-to-last early. So, point being, things completely fell apart and he was the main beneficiary. But still, if you’re viewing him off that lone dirt run, it’s as good or better than what the rest have ever done, and he may have more room for improvement off it than most, while also getting a distance he’s going to like more than most of them too. Fair odds: 9-2 #6 Girvin (10-1): The Haskell winner was game in victory and might finally be shedding the “second tier” label, but you also have to realize he beat McCraken and Practical Joke, who are hardly accomplished 1 1/8-mile horses. And typically, each and every year, the Haskell horses come up here and bomb in the Travers, so he’s got his work cut out for him. Fair odds: 12-1 #7 Always Dreaming (6-1): The Derby winner has had dream trips in both his wins, including the Florida Derby, yet he pulled one in the Jim Dandy when he was loose and walking early, yet was basically done off the far turn. I’ll give him credit for saving 3rd, but that’s all he gets. If you’re a fan, you’ll get a nice price on a horse who should be loose again, but there’s really no reason he should win this, off what he’s shown in his last two, which includes a complete bomb-job in the Preakness. Fair odds: 12-1 #8 Lookin At Lee (30-1): If there is one horse in the field that can’t win, this is him. Not only is he really slow on paper, he’s even slower on the track and will be last and well behind in a paceless race. And yeah, he was 2nd in the Derby, but he never left the rail until deep stretch, and then he couldn’t make up any ground. Fair odds: 50-1 #9 McCraken (12-1): He probably wins the Haskell with a better-timed move, but anyone who has been watching this guy knows he’s likely going to make his hay as a crack one-turn miler, so to think he can get this trip is a bit much. There’s talent here, and he always tries, but at 1 ¼ miles he’s out of his element. Fair odds: 15-1 #10 Irap (8-1): Very intriguing runner has done some good things with little to no publicity and is one of the few in here with the tactical speed to be close throughout. And, like West Coast, he too comes in off the side roads, while gaining some confidence in the process. Sure, he needs a lifetime best to win, but he’s proven he can run fast and he has won 3-of-4 now, so he’s also on a bit of a tear. Fair odds: 10-1 #11 Gunnevera (20-1): Lookin At Lee Part II is another with no speed at all, but, if nothing else, he does own a win over the track in a GII sprint last year. If JJ was on him, then just maybe you give him a bomber’s chance, but with Zayas, and being completely at the mercy of the pace, there’s no reason to think he can find his winter Florida form. Fair odds: 30-1 #12 Fayeq (30-1): Rachel Alexandra’s half-brother really gets thrown to the wolves here, as this is his stakes debut. If nothing else, it’s a confident move by McLaughlin, but it’s also worth nothing if he can somehow finish 3rd his value as a stallion goes up exponentially. The local allowance win was good, and he’s certainly on the upswing, but a win seems like it’s a real stretch, unless he channels his inner big sister. Fair odds: 30-1
Tapwrit (No. 4, 7-2 Morning-Line Favorite) Always Dreaming (No. 7, 6-1 ML) Trainer Todd Pletcher: "I'm not sure they [post positions] matter tremendously. I don't think we wanted to be way outside with either one of ours, so we're pretty happy with both. On Always Dreaming: "We'll let him run to the first turn and see where that lands him. He's a horse who doesn't have to be on the lead but if he were to get there the right way, we wouldn't take it away. "We've done a better job with him coming into this race. Honestly, I think we left him probably a little bit short for the Jim Dandy. I wasn't anticipating quite as demanding of a racetrack that it turned out to be at that time. We put four works in between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy. So, I think that race hopefully brings him forward, plus [he's had] two good works since then. "It was a combination of a lot of things; just how slow the track was the first week of the meet and any times horses of that quality run 1:51-and-change, it indicates the track is pretty demanding. I think since then, it's tightened up. They've run the fastest mile-and-an-eighth they have so far at the meet yesterday, so I'm anticipating a different track on Saturday. On Tapwrit: "Everyone was in agreement that the Travers was the race for him. We felt like if we ran in either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell, we'd leave a little something on the table that we wanted to save for the Travers. I think he's been training exceptionally well and has put in some good breezes and I feel good that we have him fit enough and fresh enough to fire his 'A' race." West Coat (No. 3, 4-1 ML) Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert: "Going a mile and a quarter, No. 3 is fine. We were 1-2 last year. I think this horse really wants the distance. He looks like he wants the distance. He really doesn't have a lot of early speed, so [jockey] Mike [Smith] is going to have just play the break and put him in a comfortable position and he fires; he runs. "We got in this afternoon and everything went very well. We left very early in the morning and got in not too late, around 3:30. He ships well. Shipping in to Belmont, same thing. He's a high-energy horse, and we're happy to be here. It should be a fun day. "He's had plenty of time between races. In the Los Alamitos Derby he sat way off the pace and it's a long stretch there. He straightened out and [jockey] Drayden [Van Dyke] got him to the outside and he came firing home. I think he'll probably run similar to that, I would imagine. "We try to keep everything the same and try not ot change much. Our shipping part of the game is really phenomenal. We win at a high percentage. It's all about keeping your horses happy and having them ready for that particular day. All three of the horses we brought shipped well and have had plenty of time between races." Good Samaritan (No. 5, 5-1 ML) Trainer Bill Mott: "I think we should be good. It seems like a good post for us. For us it really doesn't matter. I wasn't really concerned about the draw, but we're fine with that. "You got horses from everywhere, all the best. You got the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, the Belmont; you've got everybody. It shaped up to be a really good field. So now, we've got to go out there and run our race. No issues at all. All is good up to this point." Cloud Computing (No. 1, 8-1 ML) Trainer Chad Brown: "We drew inside in the Preakness and it worked out. We're just looking to save some ground in this race. The track was very demanding [on Jim Dandy day]. This horse has never let us down in a workout or a race except that one day. [He was] very tired and just didn't come out of that race like we've normally seen. Since the race I've thought about the Travers a little bit, he's come back and worked great twice going to the [main] track and it's tightened up nicely and he's ready to run his race. "This race is right at the top of the list [of ones I want to win]. Since I've began training if someone asked me what race I really want to win it's this one. My team feels the same way, and with a horse training as well as he is, it's hard to stay in the barn so we're going to run." Girvin (No. 6, 10-1 ML) Trainer Joe Sharp: "We couldn't be happier [with the post]. Obviously, 5-8 would be ideal and considering it's only a 12-horse field I think everybody has a pretty reasonable shot from any post. "Coming to New York you're always nervous about adapting to a different surface. We're coming out of Kentucky and New Orleans which are stereotypically fast surfaces but he's really done well over the Oklahoma track and carried himself well over the main track, as well, so we're looking forward to it. "He's past his issues and I think it was more the trip than anything that affected him in the Derby. He was doing well aside from some minor setbacks he had, but he's 100 percent." McCraken (No. 9, 12-1 ML) Trainer Ian Wilkes: "I have no problem [with the post position]. I don't think the distance will be a problem for him. I can make up a lot of excuses [in the Kentucky Derby]. He ran very good [in the Haskell]. We were pleased with him. He came out of that race going forward. I think he's on his game. I'm ready to run. The horse has such a fine turn of foot. Brian [Hernandez, Jr.] knows, and he knows what to do. I think the way the race set up and unfolded in the Haskell, he had to move. He made a great, long half-mile move. The horse can run a strong half mile." Fayeq (half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra (No. 12, 30-1 ML) Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin: "I love the 12. He's had little issues at the gate but we're going to be last in and not be in there long. We wanted to have the speed inside of us and they're all inside of us, so hopefully it works out. "We were talking about [the Travers] with this pedigree. He's going to be a graded stakes horse at some point. This might be a little soon in his schedule but we hope it's not too soon. "I think there's 11 nice horses for us to try and beat. They're very nice horses, but we're doing well, we've won two in a row and we've won over the track. He's just doing great and with his pedigree, we wanted to give it a try." Gunnevera (No. 11, 20-1 ML) Trainer Antonio Sano: "I don't think the post is bad for my horse. My horse is a closer so it's good for my horse. [Jockey Edgard] Zayas is very quiet and very relaxed, so it's very good. "My horse bled in the Preakness and he had never done that before. We gave him some rest and the time off for my horse did him very good. His comeback race he won very easily. This race, with 12 horses, is no easy race. It's a very solid race but my horse has a chance. My horse won here last year so we know he likes the track. We're very confident." Giuseppe the Great (No. 2, 20-1 ML) Trainer Nick ZIto: "As you can see he's a very consistent horse, hasn't let us down. That was a pretty big test for him: the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, obviously, he hung in there, so why not? [He] couldn't have had a better week - and couldn't have had a better week last week - so, that's what counts. He's been doing very, very well since, I have to knock wood. He's very consistent. We saw what he could do in a race called the Jim Dandy, so that's pretty good. Lookin At Lee (No. 8, 30-1 ML) Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen: "It [the post] is great. With him, it really doesn't matter. It's fine." Other entrants: Irap (No. 10, 8-1 ML, trained by Doug O'Neill).