The Travers Stakes is on the card this Saturday at Saratoga and it has long been one of my favorite races of the Summer, as well as one of the most prestigious races of the year. This year's edition is missing the Triple Crown winner which is unfortunate, but still has a nice group of the best three year olds still earning their keep on the racetrack.
Lets look at the field.
1. Trigger Warning
At first glance, he really seems up against it in here. He is taking on the big boys after a respectable 3rd in the Gr 3 Ohio Derby followed by a better 2nd in the Gr 3 Indiana Derby. In the former, he was given no chance (he went off at 86-1) and in the latter, he almost wired them.
But, these are much better horses. Still, he draws the rail in here and he's one of only three confirmed front end types in here, so you have to give him a second look. His trip will depend on what Mendelssohn and Good Magic decide to do from much further outside. If those two leave hard, he might get the ideal inside stalking trip. If they have trouble getting away from out there, he could find himself on an easy lead.
In the end, I think he has to be used. He is most probably a notch or two below these, but his running style makes him a candidate to hit the board. I will be using him.
2. Wonder Gadot
She's been beating up on the boys up in Canada and now takes a turn at beating up on the boys down here. She's a really nice filly, but there will be no easy leads in here and if she tries to stalk and pounce, there are several battle tested colts who will be trying the same thing.
I can't blame them for trying since Justify isn't around anymore. Heck, they may think chasing Monomoy Girl is every bit as hard as chasing Justify. She can't be eliminated here, but I wouldn't want her at a short price. She would've made me extremely happy if she went by Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, but she won't be 17-1 in here. If her odds are greater than 5-1, she'll be on my tickets, otherwise, I'll let her beat me.
No matter how many times I watch it, I continue to be amazed at his Belmont. After spotting the field 10 or 15 lengths, he was the only horse running at the end of the race and that includes Justify. We know the mile and a quarter presents no problem and he is nicely drawn down inside, so if he can manage to break with the field, he will take some beating.
I'm not sure what their strategy will be, but if he can sit mid pack and save ground near the fence, he should definitely come running off that far turn. Anything approaching his Belmont effort, puts him right there. He is my pick to win the 2018 Travers.
He should get the ideal stalking trip from here and won't have to chase hard after Good Magic like he did in the Haskell because there are a couple of other speeds that should keep that one occupied on the front end.
He did come awfully close in the Preakness and he is battle tested against the best three year olds. He might actually get overlooked in here, but he has a big shot. If the odds are right, say between 6-1 and 10-1, I will use him with Gronkowski.
5. Vino Rosso
I've gone back and forth on him all Spring and Summer. He always seems to be doing enough to catch your eye, but coming up short of the prize. He was going best at the end of the Jim Dandy, but still only managed third in a five horse field.
He will be coming late, but I don't see enough pace in here for a meltdown. I can see him losing tons of ground and swinging wide and running late, but I'm not using him.
Asmussen knows a lot more about racehorses than I ever will, but if he thinks running 5th in a NW1 allowance is how you get ready to win the Travers, then he's going to have to show me. I give this horse no chance!
7. King Zachary
He was trounced by Vino Rosso in the Wood and couldn't go by Trigger Warning in the Indiana Derby. What to do? I know, lets go win the Travers! I'll pass!
I've been skeptical of him ever since the titanic win in the UAE Derby. I thought that race was vastly overrated because of the ridiculous speed bias at Meydan this year. His Derby was awful, but he did get banged around at the start and it was a mudfest.
But what about the Dwyer? Firenze Fire went around him with ease. A mile is probably not his best distance, but still... I simply do not think he is that good. Here is his chance to prove me wrong. He'll be leaving from here with Good Magic on his shoulder and he should be able to make the lead. Good Magic and Trigger Warning will stay right off him and we'll see if he's good enough to go all the way. I don't think so.
9. Good Magic
He is the logical and deserving favorite in here and will take a world of beating. He did all the hard chasing of Justify through the Triple Crown and he always tries. His win in the Haskell was very impressive. He chased a loose speed from the outside, lost a good bit of ground in the chase, and still put that one away and opened up on the rest.
I do have some nagging doubts about the distance. That said, he is the one they'll probably have to run down late. I have to use him with my pick Gronkowski, but I will be playing against him to win.
He won the Jim Dandy and almost won the Preakness, but the former had only five horses and the latter was a no excuse 3rd. He figures to get a very wide trip here with speed to his immediate inside and I don't think he's good enough to overcome any adversity and win. I will not be using him.
11. Catholic Boy
He will definitely relish the distance, but I think he is more a grass horse than a dirt horse. Drawing the far outside in an eleven horse field at the Spa is not exactly ideal either. I have trouble envisioning just how he can weave through this field and beat several others who figure to get much better trips. I have to pass.
That's how I see it. Gronkowski is my pick to win the 2018 Travers Stakes. I will be using Trigger Warning, Wonder Gadot, Bravazo, and Good Magic in combinations with my pick.
Good Luck to all who are playing.