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Jeremy Plonk: Travers Stakes Draw Rapid Reaction

by Jeremy Plonk

August 22, 2023

Kentucky Derby winner Mage, Preakness champ National Treasure and Belmont Stakes victor Arcangelo will clash for the first time in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga as part of a seven-horse field drawn today. But it is last year's Champion 2-Year-Old Forte, winner of the Florida Derby and Jim Dandy, who is the 7-5 morning line favorite for the 154th renewal of the Midsummer Derby.

Forte (post 1) could assert himself in a second consecutive Eclipse Award discussion with a win Saturday after missing the Kentucky Derby with a foot bruise and being forced to skip the Preakness while in injury protocol. He could give trainer Todd Pletcher a third Travers win, adding to Flower Alley (2005) and Stay Thirsty (2011). But the 3-year-old championship also would appear squarely in the grasp of any of the Triple Crown race winners in the starting gate.

Jockey Javier Castellano was in the enviable position as first-call rider of both Mage (post 4) and Arcangelo (post 2), opting to pilot the latter on Saturday. That put Luis Saez back on Mage after partnering with that one in Florida this winter. Saez’s change of saddles led to Jose Ortiz picking up the mount on Tapit Trice, winner of the Blue Grass and third in the Belmont.

Forte likely goes favored, but expectations here are that Arcangelo will be strongly backed at the windows as the second betting choice, endorsed by a 5-2 morning line price. The latter has caught eyes working at Saratoga in the lead up to the Travers. Check out all the key local workouts free at XBTV.com.

The Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure (post 5) went wire-to-wire in the Preakness and expect veteran jockey John Velazquez to employ similar tactics. His early competition could come from Scotland (post 7), a front-running winner of the local Curlin Stakes for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He’ll be outside National Treasure in the starting gate and could apply more pressure from that vantage point. Mage could also be closer to the pace than his recent form shows with the return to Saez in the saddle.

Disarm (post 6) will try to give jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Steve Asmussen back-to-back Travers victories. They won it last year with Disarm and could become the second duo in history to repeat in this race. Mike Smith and Bob Baffert did so in 2016 and 2017 with Arrogate and West Coast.

First post on Saturday’s 13-race card will be 11:40 am ET and feature five Grade 1 stakes races. The balance of the card will be drawn Wednesday.

154th Travers Stakes // Saturday // Saratoga // Race 12 // 6:15 pm ET

#1-Forte (Irad Ortiz Jr. // Todd Pletcher) 7-5
#2-Arcangelo (Javier Castellano // Jena Antonucci) 5-2
#3-Tapit Trice (Jose Ortiz // Todd Pletcher) 12-1
#4-Mage (Luis Saez // Gustavo Delgado) 4-1
#5-National Treasure (John Velazquez // Bob Baffert) 8-1
#6-Disarm (Joel Rosario // Steve Assmussen) 8-1
#7-Scotland (Junior Alvarado // Bill Mott) 12-1