While many slept, ate and partied on Travers’ eve, Anthony Fontaine spent the night with his past performances. This is what he came up with:
Today is the annual renewal of that glorious race known as the Mid-Summers Derby aka the Travers. Many Hall of Fame horses have won this race in history, but my favorite all time has to be Holy Bull. I guess he was running at a time when I really became enamored with the sport. I was at Gulfstream when he lost the Fountain of Youth then rebounded with a Florida Derby victory that was captivating. Needless to say, I was devastated when he lost the Kentucky Derby. I was in Basic Training at Fort Knox at the time so I found out the day after while reading the Courier Journal and my heart sank. I thought he was invincible. He later went on to prove just how good a racehorse he was, and a stiff test waited in the Travers. After rebounding from the Derby nonperformance with a scintillating Met Mile by 5, the Bull captured the Dwyer and Haskell and came into the Travers a prohibitive favorite.
At the time, Lukas were his main challenger and stated how his last few wins were equal to allowance races and how they were ready for him in the Travers. Lukas entered a rabbit called Comanche Trail to soften up the front running Bull so his main horse, Tabasco Cat could pounce late. Well his tactics almost worked, but not to his benefit. Robert Meyerhof’s late developing Concern was the beneficiary of Lukas’ rabbit. As they turned for home Tom Durkin stated “Mike Smith lets the Bull roll, but there is cause for Concern! Jerry Bailey bided his time and made a move on Concern to catch the already compromised Holy Bull. However, what they did not know is the Bull was made of steel, and Concern got to within a neck as the wire approached. When Holy Bull heard Concern coming he virtually dug in and refused to let him by. Durkin summed it up unequivocally, Holy Bull wins!!!!!!!! What a hero!!!!
What a memory, what a horse. What a game we love so!
Race One : Selections 1-10-3-5
#1 Frontier Market comes off a game try when finishing second by a neck a few weeks ago. Has worked well since and everyone knows Chad Brown is the king of NY grass racing. This runner looks primed for a top effort today. #10 Penalty has been a different horse since moving to the lawn and comes into this race off a nice victory, clearing the first allowance condition. Mott seems to have him in top form and although this is a step up in competition, he looks formidable today. #3 Frammento tries grass for the first time and comes into this off a confidence boosting score a few weeks back at a nice number. Zito’s numbers may be bad but he still knows how to train. He has probably forgotten more about horses than most of the chemists masquerading as trainers today claim to know, and this one can significantly boost exotics payouts in this spot. Do not ignore.
Race Two: Selections 6-8-1-2
#6 O’Trouble debuts for Tony Dutrow with JR Velazquez in tow. Works are spectacular and there is a chance he may go off at a good number as Tony’s numbers this year are not what they traditionally are, however, he learned under one of the best horsemen Maryland produced so beware. O’Trouble looks loaded and spotted for action in this debut. #8 Icecap is dangerous in this spot despite the slow works. Asmussen is really not known for drilling his horses fast but can have them ready nonetheless. He has the services of his main rider Santana and I will not be surprised to see him give them a tussle in the stretch. #1 Tap it to Win ran a nice race in his debut at Woodbine on the lawn. Had a bit of trouble at the start but recovered and took charge, only to be passed late and hold second. His pedigree indicates the switch to dirt will not be an issue and with the racing experience will be tough to deny today.
Race Three: Selections 2-6-7-9
#2 Charreada took the overland route last time only to fall a neck short. If there is some way for the rider to work out a better ground saving trip today, this one should get her picture taken. #6 Ocean Fire has had two less than exciting races at the Spa so far however I think the conditions are right for a rebound today. The initial race at the Spa she tried to press the pace only to tire which was a complete reversal from her initial race where she settled then closed. The most recent race was a dirt experiment that went awry. With Mott going to his main man Alvarado who can be a patient rider, allowing this filly to settle and make a run would be a more effective strategy today. #7 Balon Rose lived up to her Dam’s name and was aloof in the stretch last out, showing very little interest. I am willing to forgive that nonperformance and feel there is more talent than was displayed that day. It is also encouraging that Jose Ortiz sticks with her.
Race Four Selections 11-5-7-3
#11 Performer ran like a good thing last out when breaking the maiden. The margin of victory was deceptive as the rider basically had the runner up collared into the stretch and only intermittently asked him to run. The competition gets deeper today for sure but this one looks like a runner with a promising future. #5 Off the Record won the debut a few weeks back in the slop and faces a stiff test today. He is giving away lots of experience; however, is bred to be a good horse and trainer is an up and coming star in the game. Price will be good as the speed figure from the maiden score was not that big. #7 Payne has been a bit of a disappointment on the win end. This one never really runs a bad race, however, he acts like he is camera shy and not eager to win. Jose Ortiz knows him well and will need to use all his powers and all his skills, ok no more Godfather references but you get the gist.
Race Five: Selections 3-5-6-1
#3 Mitole did not appreciate being on the rail last out. Although he was dogged by Strike Power early on, I think the pine more than anything intimidated him and he just quarter horsed the first 4 furlongs leaving little in the tank for the stretch. Today he should have a more favorable pace scenario where the rider can go or stalk right off Promises Fulfilled if that one is feeling froggy, then pounce late and start another winning streak. #5 Bon Raison closed nicely in his last race to score at a nice price. #6 Firenze Fire has been a top competitor in sprint races on the east coast for a while and will need to bring his A game to hit the exacta today. He may have regressed a bit off the Met Mile performance last out and should be tighter today but even with that I have him as a marginal contender today that may get a slice but iffy on the win end.
Race Six Selections 3-4-2-7
#3 Pacific Gale has been defeated by most of the contenders in this field before, yet I see her as an upset winner today. There is plenty of speed signed on and if Irad can let this filly settle off the pace and make a run around the bend, she may be able to pull off a shocker. It is a daunting task; however, one I think she will be able to pull off at a nice number. #4 Seperationofpowers has been consistently good throughout her career and enters off a nice performance. From a pace standpoint she may be compromised today unless the rider stalks and tries to pounce late. If she tries to burn on the front end, I do not see a victory today. # 2 Come Dancing has been laying down some very impressive performances this year. Can be forgiven for last race where she stumbled and finished second to Midnight Bisou (who is undefeated this year at the very top of the division). With a clean break will be tough to deny; however, she will have to avoid a pace duel if they intend to get their picture taken today.
Race Seven: Selections 1-4-5-9
#1 Shancelot ran off the charts last time and produced a speed figure in the stratosphere, and the conditions are ripe once again for him to do so. There does not appear to be any real speed signed on that can go with him early so the only thing I can see that can prevent a repeat performance is the rail post. If for any reason he does not break alertly and is bottled up, we do not know how he may react as in all his races so far he has been able to make the lead.
If he does so again today the rest are running for second. #4 Borracho loves this track and distance; however, he will need others to hook the favorite and create a speed duel for him to show his best. In a field that has one outstanding horse and others about even in ability, I think he is the best alternative if the favorite were to regress in any way off that giant score last out. #5 Nitrous is another runner that would love some pace to close into; however, they may be up against it today if the favorite has his way early on. Still, for exotics players, he always brings his top game and closes consistently so prefer to play underneath today.
Race Eight: Selections: 5-1-2-3
#3 Secret Message ran better last time than the running line indicates. McCarthy was trying somehow to go through the rail or praying for the Red Sea to part and was stopped cold while rallying on the inside and was gaining on Sistercharlie and Rushing Fall. Not sure she would have beat those two top turf ladies but surely would have finished much closer than she did after having her momentum stopped cold. Hopefully the rider switch to Jose Ortiz will work in her favor and she gets to display her true ability today. #5 Indian Blessing invades from across the pond and has kept some nice company in Europe. No stranger to racing here in the US, she has already shown an affinity for the Spa lawn and with a good trip today can make some noise in the lane. #9 Mascha won like a good thing off an almost one year layoff to clear the first allowance condition. The waters are deeper today and I feel she will be over-bet based on the Chad Brown factor. Has talent and ability but odds today will not reflect her true chances against this field.
Race Nine Selections: 5-4-1-6
#5 Wow Cat is poised to pull an upset in this race against two top distaff runners. Her most recent race was a prep off a long layoff and I think Velazquez will keep her a bit closer than she normally runs in this spot. Elate will be her biggest challenger as Midnight Bisou has yet to win at this distance and the stretch of the spa can be unforgiving late. #4 Elate has been good for a long time and usually runs her race. It can be argued she should be undefeated at the Spa but somehow the three blind mice acting at stewards allowed the same horse two years in a row to compromise her late in the lane, I guess winning 2 triple crowns has its privileges. I expect her to run her race once again today and be the main danger. #1 Midnight Bisou has developed into a great filly and is having a banner year. For all her accomplishments a victory at nine panels has eluded her so far, and as good as she may be I do not see her winning today against this group.
Race Ten Selections: 9-7-4-5
#9 Sadler’s Joy is the quintessential turf horse that has great ability yet more times than not gets blocked in the stretch and finishes fast just outside the money. For all the trouble he encountered in his last race , he was beaten less than 2 lengths and that race was basically a paceless merry go round affair. With a better flow today and some pace to run into, I see him making a rare appearance in the winner’s circle. #7 Annals of Time took a two year vacation and somehow returned this year with two top races and enters at the top of his game. Not sure he can handle this caliber of competition but the price will be right if he is able to so will take a swing he gets into the exacta. #4 Channel Cat led the aforementioned merry go round race last time and emerged victorious as the other riders thought they were in Europe and allowed him to waltz on an uncontested slow lead. Do not see this happening again today as hopefully some trainers are cognizant and instruct the riders as such. Still should be able to give a good performance and hold for a slice.
Race Eleven: The Travers Stakes Selections 3-7-6-2
#3 Highest Honors is an up and coming late developing horse that has loads of talent that can shock this Travers field today. His only defeat came because of a tough trip so we do not know just how good he can be. Perennial leading trainer Chad Brown would love nothing more than to silence the critics that feel he is only a turf trainer by taking the meet’s premier three year old event. Going out on a limb and taking him to shock the racing community with a top performance. #7 Mucho Gusto ran a great race last out in the Haskell and fell just a bit short late. He can use his natural speed to gain a good position and if left alone upfront may try to emulate Arrogate from a few years back. I do not see that happening for one reason and that is Chad Brown. I am sure the rider of his other entry will be instructed to go with Mucho Gusto to ensure a good honest pace and not allow him to steal the race on the front end. We all know the saying the best laid plans and riders for whatever reason make split second determinations during a race. This one is formidable nonetheless but do not see him as a major win candidate at ten panels. #6 Tacitus is talented and a very nice horse but lately has been his own worst enemy. He would love to see a duel develop and be able to pounce late. The distance should be right in his wheelhouse and with a clean getaway will be the one they have to hold off to get their picture taken.
Race Twelve: Selections 3-6-2-2
#3 Alien Season has had frequent layoff lines but those concerns are alleviated by the connections and the fact this one scorched the ground outworking 106 horses last time. Strictly the one to beat. #6 Durkin’s Call shortens up and tries the turf in an attempt to shake things up. These races are always chocked full of speed and runners like this tend to pounce late and boost payouts, a longshot look in this spot. #2 Fled loves the distance and the lawn at the Spa and gets a stiff challenge today. If able to repeat the performance from last time will be in the mix late.
Race Thirteen: Selections 7-1-5-10
#7 So Gracious ran between runners when being forced to attend the pace in the sprint attempt last out and held reasonably well to finish 4th. If this one can be allowed to settle on the stretch-out may be able to finish stronger and pull off a nice score to end the day. #1 Aymara ran wide on both turns last out and the ground loss impacted her finish. With a better trip today and gained fitness from the last race, she can finish stronger and be formidable in the lane. #10 Keepme in Thegame returns to the races off a freshening and looks poised for a top effort. The horse that beat her last time just won nicely again for Chad Brown yesterday and I do not see anyone of her challengers today of that caliber so this one may be too much for them to handle late to close out the card.
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