Happy Travers Day, everyone! We’ve got a 13-race card on tap, complete with six Grade 1 events that have attracted some of the best horses currently in training. The Travers, unfortunately, boasts an underwhelming group that lacks the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont (among other key divisional races), but from top to bottom, this is one of the most exciting cards we’ll see all year long.
There are plenty of opportunities to take stands with juicy prices, and my plays today will reflect that. If you’re diving in, pace yourself. Big fields mean potential for overlays, and a number of these events could be won by a number of contenders. From a bankroll standpoint, it’s an exciting day, as it may only take one winning ticket to ensure a profitable afternoon.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The good news is that, for the first time in a week, our action wasn’t cancelled due to a surface switch. The bad news is that Bankit needed an extra jump he didn’t get in the Albany. As such, we dropped $30.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll practice what I preach by playing four separate $5 win/place bets throughout the card. I’ll use #7 BALON ROSE (race 3), #7 PAYNE (race 4), #6 YA PRIMO (race 10, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer), and #7 MUCHO GUSTO (race 11, the Travers with an overexposed sponsor I refuse to mention). Additionally, just for fun, I’ll play cold $5 doubles starting in the third and 10th races that use these horses. If morning lines hold up, it won’t take too much for this to be a pretty good day.
TOTAL WAGERED: $50
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BEST BET: Brown entry, Race 1
LONGSHOT: Five Alarm Robin, Race 13
BROWN ENTRY: It could be a big day for Chad Brown, and he looks loaded here. #1 FRONTIER MARKET hasn’t run a poor race in nearly two years, while #1A UNLEVERAGED gets a class test after two wins in a row downstate; #8 LEMONIST: Is another consistent sort who has hit the board in each of his last nine starts. He cuts back after two solid seconds at marathon distances, and a mile is probably a perfect trip for him; #5 KEEP QUIET: Rallied to be fourth earlier this meet against similar foes and didn’t have much of a pace to rate off of that day. He’d benefit from solid early fractions, and his usual race likely gets him a piece of this.
Tap It to Win
#4 ATOKA: Settled for third in his debut after doing loads of heavy lifting early on. He debuted at a tough distance and adds Lasix here for a barn whose second-time starters are firing on all cylinders of late; #1 TAP IT TO WIN: Debuted with a second-place finish at Woodbine and comes in off of a bullet work over this surface. It’s tough to figure out whether or not Woodbine form will translate to the Spa, but he’s a logical favorite; #7 ONWARD: Hammered for $600,000 last September at Keeneland and has hinted at some precocity in the morning. This barn’s firsters are tough to figure out, but he does boast a fairly recent bullet drill.
#7 BALON ROSE: Flopped when favored earlier in the meet, but she may not have liked the yielding surface and that day’s winner has since come back to win again. This seems like a softer group, and firmer going should help her; #2 CHARREADA: Just missed when second beaten a neck downstate and stretches back out to two turns. There’s some early speed signed on here, and she figures to be running well late; #6 OCEAN FIRE: Comes back to turf after a failed dirt try and is another that exits the same July 26 event as my top choice. Her debut over firm turf at Belmont was pretty good, as she was third behind a recent stakes-winner.
T Loves a Fight
#7 PAYNE: Didn’t have a great trip (nor, to be blunt, the best ride) when third at 4/5 earlier this meet. Jose Ortiz hops back aboard, and a repeat of either of his races downstate would make him a likely winner; #11 PERFORMER: Graduated off a long layoff last time out and tries winners for the first time. The outside draw should help, but regression potential is there and I’m wondering if he wants longer than this distance; #8 T LOVES A FIGHT: Has gotten quite good lately and was most recently beaten less than two lengths when fourth in a tough state-bred stakes race. He won three in a row before that and, like my top pick, would benefit from a fast pace.
#3 MITOLE: Had to contend with a rail draw and an in-form Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt last month. The draw improves, and his rival is nowhere to be found, which means I’m inclined to give him another shot; #1 PROMISES FULFILLED: Is a logical alternative to the likely favorite. He got back on the beam last time out in the Grade 2 John Nerud, and he figures to be prominent early; #5 BON RAISON: Likes Saratoga and would benefit from a pace meltdown. He made several moves when winning the Tale of the Cat, and he could clunk up for a piece of this at a big price.
#4 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Won last year’s Grade 1 Test and is proven at this seven-furlong distance. She’s been freshened ahead of this race and could sit a dream trip just off the pace; #5 MIA MISCHIEF: Was shuffled back a bit in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and never recovered when fourth behind a loose-on-the-lead winner. She’s better than she showed that day, and a return to form would give her a big shot; #1 SPECIAL RELATIVITY: Takes a big jump up in class but certainly deserves the opportunity. She’s undefeated in four local starts and won a minor stakes race at this route a few weeks ago.
Hog Creek Hustle
#1 SHANCELOT: Reminded some fans of Groovy with his romp in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, where he earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure. Anything close to that, and the rest of this field will be fighting for second; #9 HOG CREEK HUSTLE: Was last seen finishing with a flourish to win the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. If Shancelot bounces, he may be the one they have to hold off in the stretch; #4 BORRACHO: Was impressive when winning an optional claimer at this route earlier in the meet. He loves this distance and is another that will be doing his best running late.
#9 MASCHA: Gets a reluctant nod in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. Her American debut was a winning one, and she showed plenty of class overseas last year; #8 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran second in a pair of Grade 2 events at Woodbine and is very flexible. She can sit close to the pace or rate and make one run, which figures to give Jose Lezcano plenty of options; #2 FIFTY FIVE: Is cross-entered in a state-bred race Friday, but is a contender if she shows up here. She hasn’t finished out of the money in nearly two years and was most recently second in a Grade 3 event at Parx.
#4 ELATE: Seems to be in peak form ahead of another try at the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She was second in the controversial 2018 renewal and may be better than she was a season ago; #1 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Has reeled off five wins in a row and certainly merits respect. However, she’s 0-for-4 going longer than a mile and a sixteenth, and the rail draw is less than ideal; #6 GOLDEN AWARD: Sprang a mild upset in the Grade 3 Shuvee earlier in the meet and figures to be one of the pace-setters. If she can clear the field going into the first turn, she could dictate terms and hang on for a share.
Annals of Time
#6 YA PRIMO: Ran well when second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, which doubled as his U.S. debut. He may have needed that race off of a layoff, and improvement is logical second off the bench for a world-class barn; #7 ANNALS OF TIME: Looked good when cruising home against optional claiming foes earlier in the meet. At his best, he’s quite good, and this isn’t the strongest Grade 1 Sword Dancer renewal in recent history; #8 CHANNEL MAKER: Was beaten less than a length in the Bowling Green and was second in this race a season ago. He was a bit wide that day, and a smoother trip could make the difference here.
Looking At Bikinis
#7 MUCHO GUSTO: Ships in for Bob Baffert after giving Maximum Security all he could handle in the Grade 1 Haskell. His recent works are strong, and when in doubt, there are far worse strategies than going with Bob Baffert in a big race; #6 TACITUS: Had an eventful journey when second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The blinkers come on, and his best is certainly good enough to beat these, but has he gotten to where he actively puts himself in bad spots?; #9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS: Didn’t run well when a distant third in the Curlin, but that was over a sloppy track and he may have bounced to boot. He’s continued to work well, and I think he’s got a shot to hit the board at a nice price.
#2 FLED: Has won two in a row since being switched to the turf, and most recently rallied from way back to top state-breds at this route. A repeat effort would put him right there in a wide-open event; #11 DISCRETIONARY MARQ: Drew a terrible post but is absolutely capable of winning with his best effort. He’s finished in the top two in eight of 14 career outings and should be on or near the lead early; #13 DOWSE’S BEACH: May not draw in, and will have to contend with an awful draw if he does, but he’s 5-for-8 at Saratoga and won here earlier in the meet. When Jason Servis gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there.
Five Alarm Robin
Keepme in Thegame
#5 MAGIC STAR: Seems well-meant in her unveiling and could cap off a big day for her connections. Her dam won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old and is a half to Grade 1 winner Overanalyze, so she’s got every right to be a runner; #9 FIVE ALARM ROBIN: Has improved in every start and was a close-up third downstate. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and she seems like an overlay at her 8-1 morning line price; #10 KEEPME IN THEGAME: Ran well when third in her debut, which came going two turns at Keeneland. She returns to a similar route here, and given her pedigree, she should embrace this journey.