It’s Travers Day, and since my annual diatribe against the pointless “no running” rule is obsolete without fans, I’ll focus on something I’m very good at: Shameless self-promotion.
Friday night featured a chat with the one and only Norman Chad for this week’s edition of “Champagne and J.D.,” my weekly YouTube show. Norman’s one of the voices of the World Series of Poker and has enjoyed a long career as a sportswriter through his “Couch Slouch” column, and it’s an interview I’d wanted to do for 17 years (since a high school-aged Andrew saw him call the 2003 WSOP won by Chris Moneymaker). I hope you’ll check it out, and if you like what you see/hear, hit the “subscribe” button so you don’t miss any of our weekly episodes.
I also sat down with the fine folks at the “IntoTheBit” podcast Thursday night, and we dove into not just the Travers Day card, but my career in horse racing and some of the areas where we feel the sport is falling short as well. I told a few cool stories and also got to expound on some strong opinions, and it was a blast. Go listen to that, too!
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Kemba did indeed win the fourth as my live “longshot” of the day. Unfortunately, not only was that one bet down to 5/2 off a 10-1 morning line (hence the quotes in the last sentence), but my exacta ran 1-3 and doubles were foiled when Honor Way circled most of the field to win the fifth. As a silver lining, scratches reduced my losses in this section to just $20.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: If you listened to “IntoTheBit,” you know I gave out a $21 all-stakes Pick Five, and that’s my primary source of action. It starts in the seventh, and the 50-cent ticket goes as follows: 6,7 with ALL with 1,5,7 with 5 with 6. Additionally, I’ll play a cold $4 exacta in the 10th (the Grade 1 Test) using #5 GAMINE on top of #4 WICKED WHISPER, who I think may be well-meant at a price.
TOTAL WAGERED: $25.
Best Bet: Gamine, Race 10
Longshot: Pink Sands, Race 7
Bay Street Money
The Angry Man
#4 BAY STREET MONEY: Makes sense in a puzzling Travers Day opener. He stepped forward to run a sharp second at second asking on Independence Day, and he finished quick enough that day to make me think he’s got something left in the tank; #6 THE ANGRY MAN: Was second in his turf debut, where he chased a winner who got loose on an easy lead. Luis Saez returns to the saddle, and I think he could be on or near a moderate early pace; #3 DOSWELL: Returns after nearly a year off and showed potential last year when running Good Governance to a nose. If he’s ready, he could easily win this, but he’s making his first start for a patient barn, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he needed this race to some extent.
ATRAS ENTRY: I prefer #1 LIL COMMISSIONER, who’s won four of his last six starts and didn’t miss a beat when moved from the care of Jorge Navarro following the FBI’s actions earlier this year. #1A MUSICAL HEART was second against similar earlier this meet and could improve in his first start for this outfit; #6 CREATIVE STYLE: Looked good winning going long two back at Belmont and was a decent third in a sprint earlier in the meet against slightly better. Two turns is a bit of an unknown, but he’s going well and won’t line up against any monsters here; #3 SHALAKO: Won a race several rivals in here also exit, but he sort of won by default when he rallied in a race that fell apart. That win was the ninth of his career, and he hasn’t fired a bad shot since going to the Rudy Rodriguez barn late last year.
Ava K’s Girl
Light in the Sky
#3 RISKY MISCHIEF: Tries turf for the first time and is bred to love it. She’s by Into Mischief, out of a Limehouse mare, boasts a 347 turf Tomlinson rating, and takes a drop in to face state-bred allowance foes second off the layoff; #4 AVA K’S GIRL: Cuts back to a turf sprint after going too long last time out. She ran well late to be fourth two back downstate, and she boasts a win at this route that came in her career debut last summer; #9 LIGHT IN THE SKY: May be a short price, but I have my doubts. She seems to find trouble, and it’s not like the one win of her career was an overpowering effort, so I’ll try to beat her on most of my tickets.
Schettino entry (MTO)
#5 HIEROGLYPHICS: Drops in class for Mike Maker, who’s been riding a real hot streak of late. This one’s won here twice, and a return to one of her favorite turf courses may be just what the doctor ordered (although he’ll likely be a short price); #8 GOLDEN SPEAR: Won here last year and returned with a solid second downstate in his first start since October. He’s got some versatility to him, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he sat a stalking trip and got first run turning for home; #2 SIDING SPRING: May have needed his return race off a four-month layoff, and he’s got back form that would give him a shot in this spot. He seems like the most logical pace-setter, and the inside draw could be an asset.
Bottle Rocket Man
#7 MUTASAABEQ: Hammered for $425,000 at Keeneland as a weanling and has been working lights-out for Todd Pletcher. He’s by top juvenile sire Into Mischief, and the outside draw should help in his unveiling; #5 GUANA CAY: Is one of just three in here with prior experience, and she ran reasonably well when third on the turf at Keeneland. She seems to have bounced out of that race well, and Irad rides back for Wesley Ward; #6 BOTTLE ROCKET MAN: Is another debuting runner by Into Mischief and sold for $350,000 last year. There are a few nice works on the tab, but note he’d been at Monmouth for a while before coming north, and that’s where Chad Brown generally keeps his second-stringers.
Restored Order (MTO)
#1 SECRET POTION: Is yet another son of Into Mischief with a big shot on the Saturday undercard. The bottom of his pedigree is also flashy, as his dam is a half to multiple Grade 1-winning turf router Point Of Entry; #4 HIDDEN ENEMY: Is bred up and down to be a very good horse. He’s by Galileo and out of the Empire Maker mare Acoma, who herself is a half to Grade 1 winner and well-known sire Arch; #10 FIRE AT WILL: Has been working consistently for Mike Maker and adds yet another flashy turf pedigree to the mix. His dam is a half to multiple graded stakes winner Decorated Invader, and sire Declaration of War is actually that one’s sire (anyone else think inbreeding’s getting out of hand?).
#6 PINK SANDS: Cuts back to her preferred route of ground and should get an ideal setup in the Grade 1 Ballerina. With so much early speed signed on, I want a closer that can come flying late, and this multiple stakes-winner from the McGaughey barn fits that bill at a price; #7 COME DANCING: Returned to the Carlos Martin barn last time out and ran an OK second in the Grade 3 Vagrancy. She’s the defending champion, and with her closing kick, she’ll be a contender once again if Martin has her cranked up; #4 BELLAFINA: Has plenty of talent, but certainly seems like a beatable favorite. Weird stuff happens to her when she ships out of California, and while her best race could win this, she’s yet to put forth anything close to that kind of effort outside of the Pacific time zone.
#5 PURE SENSATION: Is a reluctant top pick in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 3 Troy. I’m drawing a line through the Grade 1 Jaipur, which was his first start since November, and a return to his best form would put him right there for red-hot trainer Christophe Clement; #1 IMPRIMIS: Returns off the bench, and if he’s at his best, he probably wins, especially given what will likely be a favorable race shape. The issue is, he wasn’t the same since coming back from Royal Ascot last summer, and the lack of a local work is a concern; #7 CHEWING GUM: Is another that figures to sit back and make one big run when the pace-setters’ strides shorten. His win two back was good, and while he may want a bit longer than this distance, it’s not like he’s run terribly going this short in the past.
#1 MRS. SIPPY: Returns to the races for Graham Motion, who’s one of the best in the game at getting turf marathoners ready to run. She won last year’s Grade 2 Glens Falls before running second to Sistercharlie in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, and at her best, she’ll be the one to beat in the Grade 3 Waya; #7 FOOLS GOLD: Won this race a season ago and likely needed her run in the Grade 2 New York. She may get the benefit of a great trip on or near a slow early pace, and of the two Chad Brown trainees, she intrigues me the most; #5 OLYMPIC GAMES: Has run second in two stateside starts, including one at this distance downstate. She may be at her best with more pace to chase, but at a minimum, the 12-furlong journey shouldn’t be much of an obstacle.
#5 GAMINE: Ran a proverbial hole in the wind in the Grade 1 Acorn and looks much the best on paper in the Grade 1 Test. Simply put, anything close to her last-out effort would make her almost impossible to beat in this spot; #4 WICKED WHISPER: Rate’s a puncher’s chance to crash the exacta at a big price. It wasn’t long ago she was seen as the top 2-year-old filly on the East Coast following a win in the Grade 1 Frizette, and she likely needed her 2020 debut off a long break; #6 VENETIAN HARBOR: Settled for second behind Speech in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and cuts back to a one-turn sprint here. Her Beyer Speed Figures are strong, but I can’t shake the image of a horse that got an easy lead last time out as a 3/5 favorite and had no answer for the only horse that challenged her.
Tiz the Law
#6 TIZ THE LAW: Is in line to earn his fourth straight win in the Grade 1 Travers (no, I will not mention the sponsor without the money everyone else is getting, thank you very much), and it sure looks like all systems are go. I don’t think the 10-furlong trip will bother him in the slightest given his pedigree, and he’s strictly the one to beat; #3 UNCLE CHUCK: Looms the main danger after shipping from California for Bob Baffert. I respect him a great deal, but taking on the division leader going 10 furlongs in his third career start after flying cross-country to a new track is no easy task; #8 SOUTH BEND: Could be worth a look at a price in his first start for Bill Mott. He hasn’t won in a while, but he could benefit from a pace meltdown, and if multiple riders cook their horses early, this is the one that could sit the Keen Ice trip and pick up the pieces.
#5 MISTY TASTE: Gets my top pick in a mess of a race where I wish I didn’t have to give one. I’m betting that she runs to her recent works for new trainer Kelly Breen, and she may not have to be all that much in her first start against state-bred competition; #9 BANKERS BEAST: Exits a turf sprint that came up reasonably tough and has a right to improve at second asking. She was fifth of 10 that day, and this barn’s runners usually improve with experience; #7 TINY MAGOO: Makes her second start off the layoff for a barn that can pop at a price. She got squeezed at the break in her return to the races, and she was an OK second in her debut against state-bred maiden claimers at Aqueduct.