The Travers, 2019 Preview

August 22, 2019

Saratoga Race # 11 $1,250,000 Grade 1 Travers Stakes, Estimated Post Time: 5:44 EST.

Story and analysis by Georgio Sette 

We’ve made it, 2019’s “Mid Summer Derby” is here.  Arguably one of the more storied events on the racing calendar.  It has run continuously since 1864 and of course, highlights Saratoga’s annual meet and what is always a fabulous full card of world-class racing packed with graded stakes events.

This year’s field starts 12 three-year-olds, many who have had solid campaigns, but there are some fabulous colts ( most notably Game Winner, Omaha Beach and Maximum Security to name a few) who will not be at the post.  Nevertheless, the Travers is always extremely compelling and a very much anticipated 10-furlong test for three-year-olds.

As a seasoned handicapper,  I’m up for the challenge, combining hours of statistical reconciliation, film study and a thorough pedigree breakdown. Everything is a contributing factor. The post positions again are vitally important, as is the weather and track condition.  I am delighted to hear that the weekend forecast is calling for sensationally sunny skies, and what should very well be a dry, fast track.

A little bit of history for you: Who can forget past winners like Damascus who thrilled the crowd to an unbelievable 22 length victory ridden by Bill Shoemaker in 1967, or the sensational, record-setting performance by Arrogate back in 2016 ( in 1:59:36). Let’s hope something magical happens this year.

The Travers Trophy is known as the Man O’War Cup and was designed by Tiffany & Co. The trophy was named for Samuel Riddle’s great Champion: Mr. Riddle donated the trophy as the permanent award for winning the race. A gold-plated replica is presented to the winner every year, by a member of the Riddle family.  

This Travers has the look of what could be a classic race. Of the 12 starters, I believe you can make a solid argument for at least 6 of them to ultimately emerge in victorious fashion; therefore, consider my top 6 in a good portion, if not all, of your deeper gimmicks. It’s always my goal to be decisive, although difficult in a field like this, so here’s my precise best order of finish and probability of winning and completing your exotics tickets.

# 7 Mucho Gusto...

In 8 lifetime starts, he has hit the board, finishing in the money each time, winning 5.  Good guy Joe Talamo is up again for Bob Baffert.  Ever since winning his debut on the west coast going clear by 4 lengths, he has run consistently in an array of Grade 3 races, as well as placing in both of his Grade 1 starts. In his last, a Triple-digit Beyer effort at the Jersey Shore Haskell Invitational, he was bumped at the start and raced wide, but showed a dynamic 2nd gear just falling short to Maximum Security. He comes into this race razor-sharp after his impressive 59.1  work at Delmar.  There are some questions about his ability to make the 10 furlongs; however,  considering his heart, his running style ( he’s almost assured to be sitting tactically 3rd or 4th after the first quarter-mile if not better), then with proper positioning and what should be a moderate to fast pace, he could get the jump on what will be a few powerful closers coming down the lane. I’m expecting him to like Saratoga as he usually adapts to new surfaces ( this being his 7th in 9 lifetime starts).  As for his pedigree, his Daddy Mucho Macho Man won the 10 furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic.

It will be tough, but he’s proven to have the tenacity, grit and heart to get the job done. 

# 2 Code of Honor… 

Like my top choice, this guy has been consistent and reliable. He’s hit the board in 3 separate Grade 1 events, both as a juvenile and during his three-year-old campaign. In his last, the Grade 3 Dwyer, he was wide, yet circled the field from last to first to win going away by greater than three lengths, and his rider Johnny V lost his whip to boot. Since then, he’s been  working well over the same Saratoga soil, and it’s the same surface he was on when winning his career debut last August. The distance is always a question, but I believe he is capable and we haven’t seen his best race yet.,

He needs to have a good trip, and if he does, he’s likely to be a strong menace as they approach the 1/8 pole. 

# 1 Owendale…..   

Overall, I have been impressed with his race-line and improvement as the 2019 season has moved along. Florent Geroux is back in the saddle for Brad Cox ( a Trainer and barn I have great respect for). This colt always comes late. He’s finished in the money in 7 of his 10 career races, with his performance numbers getting better. He also travels exceptionally well with this being his 8th different track and surface in 11 career starts. I like his paddock composure and he’s becoming a very professional racehorse. He comes into this race fresh and fit with a series of quality works at Churchill Downs.  I expect him to sit a nice trip inside, saving ground. If the pace is what I feel it will be, he should be a major presence during the stretch run. He, in my eyes, is a contender to win this and should be considered on many of your gimmick tickets. 

#12 Tax…..   

Most of my readers should know that I have been very fond of this colt throughout the year and he was my top selection when he won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy over this same Saratoga Strip.  I have great respect for his connections. I feel Danny Gargan is one of the better Trainers on the racing circuit today, and he’s got Irad Ortiz up again who is one of the best, if not  arguably the best, rider in the country.  He possesses quality tactical speed and should be on or near the lead even from his 12 hole. He’s a tough colt who has more than proven his ability in big races, but he’s my 4th choice today. He is capable of even better effort, but considering the added furlong from his last, this may prove to be just a little too much to overcome.  He must be respected though. 

# 6 Tacitus….  

This guy, as everyone knows, is an extremely talented colt who is bred to make the distance. His connections of Jose Ortiz and Bill Mott are as good as you will find.  Since winning the Wood Memorial as the favorite back in April ( a race where he had a troubled trip)  he has found some sort of trouble in every start since -traffic issues, being bumped, going wide or starting slow. In short, his races have been calamities. So now Mott adds Blinkers in the quest for a perfect trip.  If he gets it, he should be a major threat down the lane.  Although he’s my 5th choice on the board, make no mistake, he’s got the talent to win this. I just feel he’ll carry little value at the windows.  Based on his running style, perhaps trouble will find him once again, and I’m not getting beat at a short price. He deserves your consideration at the windows, but to me, my top 4 listed above give you greater value in your wagers. It’s your call, he’s a solid colt and as good as all of them and his pedigree screams the distance. 

# 3 Highest Honors...

This lightly raced colt began his career only this past April, so he did not run as a two-year-old.  The very capable Luis Saez is up for Chad Brown. This gray is built for the distance and has shown great promise already in his career; albeit with only 3 races, and two of them on Muddy surfaces. His numbers are impressive too, so I’m giving him a respectful 6th choice grading because his upside is tremendous . If he improves he is capable of hitting the board on some of your exotics tickets.  

So there you have my top six in precise order, and for my bottom-six, I will offer a bullet point or two as follows in my best order of contention. 

# 11 Endorsed….   He’s improving from a top barn, and gets Rosario in the silks. Watch the board, he should close well too.

# 4 Laughing Fox …. Santana up for Asmussen is always inviting, but this guy has the propensity to start too slow. He’ll need a sizzling pace to be a serious threat in this race. Passing on him as he is a feast or famine type of horse.

# 8 Chess Chief … Gets Mike Smith who’s a world-class smart Pilot and has won this race 4 times. He’s got a bullet breeze for the race, but his overall numbers say pass on him….Strictly for Mike Smith believers.

# 9 Looking At Bikinis     Lightly raced Chad Brown colt was purchased for 240,000 as a yearling. He’s got speed and SIX TIME winner Javier Castellano in the saddle, but this just seems too much of a race for him to be a serious contender. I’m expecting a nice run, but for him to tire during the very competitive stretch run for home.

# 5 Everfast….  This guy again?  C’Mon man, he’s just 1 for 13 and 0 for 8 this year. Yes he has the most experience in the race, but his numbers are just too slow when compared to most of this field.  He may close well passing some tiring horses, but it would be a shocker if he won this

#10 Scars Are Cool…   Yep, they are, I have a few too, but what isn’t cool is asking a horse who just broke his maiden to win the Grade 1 Travers.  I love and respect his old school trainer, but he really seems up against it in this spot. If you want something to hang your hat on with him, his only win came over this same Saratoga Soil.

Well there you have it, as always your following and comments are very much appreciated, now let’s go and make some money.

~Geo

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