NYRA President David O’Rourke and Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly unveil the banner that will hang on Broadway.. PHOTOGRAPHER: ERICA MILLER
As a race ranked only behind the Triple Crown events you would expect the Travers Stakes to be high-end, but in actual fact it could in fact be an underestimated and undervalued race.
Considering that by the time the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont come around, previous contenders have dropped out or are considered too quick or too slow to handle the varying race conditions of those Triple Crown events they are often not as deep as this contest.
The Travers however brings together pretty much the very best of the 3-year-old generation over the classic distance of 1¼ miles and the 2019 running could be a vintage one. Here’s a look at the main contenders on show for the 150th Travers at Saratoga on August 24:
Code Of Honor
A winner last time out, he finished ahead of Tacitus in the Kentucky Derby but on a line through Maximum Security from the Florida Derby he may actually have some ground to make up should both horses be granted a clear run.
His trainer has declared him “on target” for the Travers after working well recently and there’s no doubt that he is among the better 3-year-olds out there right now. Post Position: 2 Morning Line Odds: 4/1
Looking At Bikinis
Chad Brown has been simply mopping up the Grade 1 races recently and so, while this inexperienced bay colt’s form doesn’t stand up to scrutiny on paper, it would be folly not to consider him at least as far as finishing in a show position goes.
He was well beaten in a Listed race last time but it’s interesting to note he was favorite that day so more was expected and the winner, in this line-up too, is also trained by Brown so you’d have to feel he knows how good this guy really is. PP: 9 M/L: 10/1
Another Baffert contender, Mucho Gusto was beaten by a workmanlike Maximum Security in the Haskell and while his conqueror is bound to better next time, this horse in turn is a real improver too.
He is coming along nicely after winning two Grade 3 races earlier in the season and could be ready to peak right now at the top level. PP: 7 M/L: 6/1
Brad Cox’s colt warmed up for this event with a simple win in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby recently, and let’s not forget that he was many a shrewd handicapper’s choice for the Preakness Stakes back in May at Pimlico where he eventually finished an impresive third under Tyler Gaffalione.
His form stands up pretty well all in all and he is among the leading fancies this time for sure. PP: 1 M/L: 6/1
Bill Mott’s colt was a good winner of the Wood Memorial Stakes back in the spring and has continued running very well since then, albeit without winning. His promoted third in the Kentucky Derby was followed-up with runner-up efforts in both the Belmont Stakes and the Jim Dandy so he’s consistent.
His form is solid, especially considering he stumbled at the start of the Jim Dandy, and it’s interesting that he wore blinkers in his recent work which it’s hoped may just help him concentrate a little more when leaving the gate.
A large framed horse, Tacitus just takes a while to get going so if he makes a better start, he can reach a new level and that has not gone unnoticed as he is the morning line favorite. PP: 6 M/L: 5/2
This gelded son of Arch managed to beat Tacitus last time out in the Jim Dandy Stakes and so that has to rank among the best form on offer right here.
He has close form with the favorite generally having been beaten narrowly by him in the Wood Memorial Stakes back in spring when he was on the Triple Crown trail, and with Irad Ortiz Jr on board he has to stand a great chance of bagging his biggest career success. PP: 12 M/L: 6/1
Travers Race Betting
Travers stakes betting is simple with the following guidelines and tips. If you prefer you can stick with a straight bet, these being:
WIN – Your chosen horse must win the Travers outright for you to be paid.
PLACE – This time your pick must finish in the first two runners.
SHOW – Your chosen horse must finish in the first three to payoff
How Will the Race Shape Up?
It was always going to be a late decision regarding whether or not Maximum Security would run, and while his defection is unfortunate the event is still a hugely high quality one.
Without him, it may now fall to the form horse Tacitus to put up a career best and properly announce himself as the sophomore most likely to put it up to the likes of McKinzie and Thunder Snow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November.
With or without Maximum Security though, the 150th Travers is top quality and will arguably be regarded as the best 3-year-old only race since the Derby. It would be no surprise should Mucho Gusto or Tax really come to themselves at this time of year, while the presence of a stronger and potentially more focused Tacitus is an intriguing proposition.
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