The Travers Stakes is a 10 furlong race for 3YOs on the dirt from Saratoga. It is the most prestigious non-Triple Crown race exclusively for 3YO’s; some may argue that it is more prestigious than the Preakness. It can be a landmark race for great horses. It is a GI and the key point on the summer calendar for 3YO.
[Horses are in order from most likely to least likely]
In this year’s edition, The 2-1 M/L favorite is Good Magic, the winner of the Haskell. No horse since Point Given — who was a great racehorse — has pulled off this feat. Point Given did it in 2001. That said, he’s the fastest horse in the race and is remarkably consistent. He was the Kentucky Derby runner-up, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify. He’s generally considered the best 3YO in training and is trained by Chad Brown. He may be fast enough to win here, but he’ll have to up his game when the divisions merge, particularly in the Classic. A triple-digit Beyer today would go a long way toward assuaging those fears.
But there are still some other horses which I expect to challenge Good Magic, especially because of the Haskell-Travers “curse.” Gronkowski shocked nearly everyone by running a close 2nd to Justify in the Belmont. Unkown whether he’d like traditional dirt going into the race, he turned out to be a more than capable dirt horse — running a 99 Beyer speed figure. He’s had even more time with Chad Brown since then. He certainly could find the winner’s circle. Todd Pletcher’s Vino Rosso looms a threat. He ran a 97 BSF in the Belmont (and Hofburg came back and ran well in the Curlin.) He ran a useful Jim Dandy. His only try at the distance was in the Derby, where he finished 9th, 10 1/2 lengths back. But he’s run 1 1/2 well, so we know the 9 furlongs are within his wheelhouse. On his best day, he could win this. Will we get the really good version of Vino Rosso or better?
Tenfold hasn’t run fast enough to win this race, even with his win in the Jim Dandy. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he broke through and got the Graded Stakes win. Tenfold has an impressive resume, even if he’s lost the biggest races in the Preakness and the Belmont. After clearing his first-level allowance, he has run exclusively in Graded Stakes. He didn’t move forward for the Arkansas Derby — granted it was in his 3rd start — and the question is whether he’ll move forward today. If you like him — and there are lots of reasons to — make sure you are getting paid for the risk.
Wonder Gadot makes a great story. She’s the first filly to start in the Travers since Davona Dale in 1979 and seeking the first win by a filly since Lady Rotha in 1915. She is trained by Mark Casse. Unfortunately, she’s probably not fast enough to win here and she’s been facing restricted company (Canadian-breds) in her most impressive triumphs. She can win if she possesses the ability to rise to the occasion against males, much like Beholder running a lifetime high in the Pacific Classic or several of Rachel Alexandra’s races. If she wins, expect the chants of “How good is Monomoy Girl?” to be loud.
Catholic Boy is another with a chance. His key is being as good on dirt and he is on turf. That’s hard to argue for when he’s 4 for 5 on the surface (the only loss is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) and his highest BSF’s (by far) are recently going long on the turf. He is trained by Jonathan Thomas. It’s hard to know what to make of Mendelssohn. He ran lights out in the UAE Derby, terrible in the Kentucky Derby, and okay, but not great, in the Dwyer. He is trained by Aiden O’Brien, who does much better on turf than dirt in America. It’s possible that Mendelssohn rounds back into form and dominates the field from the front. King Zachary — trained by Dale Romans — gets consideration because of his Matt Winn score. However, the Matt Winn was nowhere as deep as this race, and his failure to back it up in the Indiana Derby raises concerns.
Bravazo is proving to be a good second place horse. Granted he’s facing the best competition, he has a second in the Haskell and a second in the Preakness. His non-maidens wins are by a neck and a nose. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, he’d need to be on his best. Trigger Warning has been hitting the board throughout the midwest, and earned a 94 for his 2nd place in Indiana. He’ll be a pace factor for sure, but unlikely to be there at the end. He’s trained by Mike Rone. Meistermind — another Asmussen trainee — makes the jump from a fifth place in the 1st level allowance to a GI. He may have talent, but this is above-his-head right now.