The Travers Stakes

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.



The Haskell Invitational

It’s the end of the weekend and we have a special Sunday edition of the blog. This week is the 9f Haskell Invitational, a GI $1 million dollar race from Monmouth Park in New Jersey. It’s the highlight of a weekend with 3 3YO races. At Saratoga, we’ve already seen Hofburg capture the Curlin on Friday and Tenfold took the Jim Dandy on Saturday.

This race begins with Good Magic, who is among the leaders in this now-open division (with the retirement of Justify.) His resume includes wins in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and in the G2 Blue Grass. He had a strong second in the Kentucky Derby, finishing only 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify. He finished a close 4th in the Preakness. He’s run a 100 Beyer — in last’s year Juvenile but hasn’t reached a new level this year. He may be good enough to win today without improvement, but he won’t be at the top of the division unless he moves forward.

Bravazo was part of that close finish in the Preakness. He’s certainly moved forward this year — putting up 4 of 5 90+ Beyers in his last 5 starts. He tops out with a 96 in the Preakness. It’s tough to read how much he moved forward in the slop, I don’t quite think he’s as good as he was in the Preakness and is probably too slow to win here today. Core Beliefs and Lone Sailor both exit the Ohio Derby. Core Beliefs, who got up by a nose, has been steadily on the improve all season. He ran a 94 Beyer in the Ohio Derby.  Lone Sailor, who also earned a 94 Beyer in the Ohio Derby, ran well in the Preakness as well. He is 1 for 11 — running in top races, but still not finding the winner’s circle since his second start.

Golden Brown seems better on the turf and he’s too slow. Navy Commander won a local prep in the Long Branch but his 84 Beyer is too slow for this race. Roaming Union, who finished second in a different local prep, could be on the improve with the third start in the cycle. He hasn’t found the winner’s circle enough to be a serious contender.

Analysis: I like trying to beat Good Magic, who will play a role in the race. But at 6-5 (or worse), I think there’s risk with this horse if another one improves. Core Beliefs has been improving and can continue to improve. He’s only made 6 starts and it took him to his 3rd start to figure it out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has another gear and shows it at Monmouth.


The Preakness

Justify should win the Preakness. He’s already an amazing colt — he broke the “Curse of Apollo” — something that I strongly believed in. He’s an undefeated Derby winner. He’s started his career with four Beyer Speed Figures over 100. He’s a very deserving 1/5 morning line. The one X-factor is the sloppy track — it’s been really wet in Baltimore for days and it should continue tomorrow. He won on a sloppy track in the Derby, of course, but every track is different. I’m not terribly concerned about the track condition, although he did run slightly slower in the slop at Churchill than he had been on the fast track of Santa Anita.

If, for some reason, he doesn’t bring his “A” game (remember he still is a relatively inexperienced colt), Good Magic could be there and ready to pounce. He was game in defeat in the Derby and ran his fastest Beyer of the year in the Derby. He could very well be peaking and this form may put up a career-best performance. Would that be enough to make up the 2 1/2 lengths between them if Justify regresses? Likely not, but Good Magic has the best chance of pulling the upset. Tenfold is inexperienced, but finished only 4 1/2 lengths back of Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby. He’s only made three career starts and very well could improve in his fourth. He’s 20-1 on the M/L and could offer value on top as a win bet and underneath in an exacta. Quip is an interesting horse. Even though he had the points for the Derby, his connections chose to skip the race and point to the Preakness instead. He’s likely to improve in his 3rd start of the year. Brazavo is likely too slow, but has D. Wayne Lukas, 6th-time winner of the Preakness, in his corner (Lukas also trains Sporting Chance). He finished a good sixth in the Derby. Lone Sailor ran fast in the Lousiana Derby and finished a respectable eighth in Louisville. Like most in this race, he likely too slow to catch Justify on his “B” game. Diamond King was too slow for the Peter Pan and is way too slow for the Preakness. He’d need to move way up because of the track surface to hit the board.

Analysis: There’s no money to be made betting Justify to win, so I’ll try to match him up in an exacta with Tenfold and Quip (and Lone Sailor, if the prices permit it.)

Good luck at the races!


Bob Hope Stakes

It’s time to get over that Breeders’ Cup hangover. As always, it was a great weekend for all horses and especially the 2YOs, with a win by Good Magic in the Juvenile. Chad Brown is taking over all surfaces, classes, and levels. But racing keeps going year-round — that’s one thing that makes it great. Today, we’ve got a 2YO sprint — of the challenging 7-furlong variety from Del Mar at around 2:34 Pacific Time. It’s the Bob Hope Stakes, named for the classic comedian hailing from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. A field of 6 will race for $100K. With the smallish field, let’s take a look at the whole field and see if we can find some value down the line. Importantly, it’s the 5th race on the card at Del Mar, completing what is always a nice P5 pool.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. Greyvitos (20-1): Still a maiden, he improved in his return to the races after a 4-month layoff. He’s still a bit slow and would have to enjoy the stretchout from 5.5f to 7f, something that’s not out of the question for this son of Malibu Moon.  “Blinkers on” may add some early speed, although his trainer is 0 for 9 with this addition. A deserving longshot, he could end up in the place or show spot, but most likely to be up the track.
  2. Mourinho (9/5): Baffert has been giving Drayden Van Dyke some serious mounts and this is one of them. A $625K purchase this past March, he won on debut with an impressive speed figure. He tired in the stretch of the Speakeasy and failed at 1/5 odds. “Blinkers off” for, perhaps, the best trainer in the North America, who excels with young horses. He’s obviously a serious contender and he may be overlooked a bit because of the presence of Run Away in the gate next door.
  3. Run Away (8/5): The knock on him is that he’s a bit slower than Mourinho — perhaps dominating (he’s 4 for 5) the division when it was weaker. He obviously likes to win and that includes the G2 Best Pal. He was the favorite in the Del Mar Futurity and finished third to a strong Bolt D’Oro. But my gut says no today — he looks like a horse who has peaked.
  4. Here is Happy (8/1): Debuted in a maiden claimer, which he won at 32-1. And then two stakes tries, including a good third in the Speakeasy. He’d benefit from some good pace in front of him — which I’m not sure is going to be there. If you do, he may be worth including on some deeper tickets.
  5. Beautiful Shot (5/2): The winnner of the Speakeasy, who beat Mourinho. A solid contender — he’ll need pace that I’m not sure he’ll get. But, predicting pace is dangerous terrain — so you could include him for safety.
  6. Italiano: An inexperienced maiden winner, he did beat Greyvitos last time out. Likely too slow to be able to run with this group — at least at this stage is his career.


Give me Baffert. I’m singling Mourinho. The race sets up for him and he’s faster than Run Away.



Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Bolt D’Oro is the shortest price M/L favorite in the late P4 and is very likely to be favorite come post time. And there’s a good amount to like about him. Is he your single after dominating the west coast prep series, especially after his 7 3/4 length win routing in the Frontrunner stakes? How about his 2 wins over the track and possible 2YO Eclipse award?  With all the evidence, he seems like a clear winner and worthy of single status. That said, there’s still a great amount of talent — some unrevealed in the Juvenile, and if Bolt D’Oro isn’t himself, there are going to be some decent prices on the board.

US Navy Flag was flattered by Mendelssohn, who won the Juvenile Turf yesterday after losing to US Navy Flag by 2 1/2 lengths in the last start. The catch? It was on the turf in Europe. There’s some dirt pedigree, but that’s the $64,000 question — can US Navy Flag run on the dirt? Actually, it’s not just run on the dirt but route on the dirt — two things he’s never done. He’ll be a trendy pick — 8-1 is a dream, he might fall to 7/2, or somewhere in between. Twitter responses put him in that range. If you’re trying to beat Bolt D’Oro, he almost has to be on your ticket b/c of the chance he likes dirt (choose your acceptable price).

Tellingly, there’s only 1 other California horse and that’s Solomini, who was soundly beaten in his second lifetime start by Bolo D’Oro. One huge plus is Bob Baffert, who owns 2YO and 3YO racing, and another is that he’s racing this well after only two starts. Turning the tables is possible. Then there’s the large contingent of Eastern/Midwestern horses coming in to take their shot. The Champagne sends us its winner, Firenze Fire and 4 other horses, including second place finisher, the Chad Brown-trained Good Magic. Both are second-time routing, but Good Magic has had less experience and may have more in potential than Firenze Fire. Chad Brown is finding his way into dirt winner’s circle again and again and may find it today.

There are other G1 and G3 winners in the race, but all would need to improve to find the winner’s circle. Free Drop Billy was dominant in a slow race at Keeneland. The Tabulator won the Iroquios. Plus, you have to notice when Javier Castellano on a 20-1, as he is here on Givemeaminit. This LA-bred would need to route much better than he did last time, and I don’t think even Javier can get it done.


So, we have a race with a clear favorite, and he may just be a single. But if you’re price-shopping (and it is Breeders’ Cup Day, so so shop away!) and think Bolt D’Oro falters, look for the other California horse — Solomini to turn the tables. Also, keep an eye on US Navy Flag, if he floats around 5 or 6 to 1.