2014 Travers Stakes Picks and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 8/20/2014
The best horse racing of the summer happens at Saratoga, and the best race at Saratoga most years is the Travers Stakes. That makes this coming Saturday a very important day. Known as the Mid-Summer Derby, the Travers typically draws the class of the three year old crop, and this year is no exception. It's a deep race that promises to be competitive and exciting. Post time is at 5:46 p.m. ET, and it will be the second race featured on a broadcast along with the Grade 1 Ballerina. Here's how the field breaks down:
Bayern (2/1): This horse already won the Haskell Invitational, so we know that he is in form and competitive this summer. We can also be reasonably confident that he will be on or near the pace early on in this one. The biggest concern is that he will only be travelling to Saratoga from California on Wednesday, so he won't know the track. He has been wildly-dominant lately, but this distance could be a test for him, and the pace competition will be stiff for him. He's a very classy horse, though, and he has trained very well up to the race. Add it all up and you have a horse that could easily win but not one that offers any betting value.
Tonalist (3/1): He won the Belmont, so we know that this distance won't be an issue. He has run only once since then, though, and was a disappointing second in the Jim Dandy here at Saratoga. He's what I think of as a best-race horse - his best race is good enough to win, but you really can't trust that you will see it, and less than the best won't be good enough. His post position is perfect, and he is versatile when it comes to pace, but I don't like him at all in this spot at this price.
Wicked Strong (7/2): After costing me a lot of money by underwhelming in his Triple Crown efforts, he bounced back with a nice win in the Jim Dandy - the key prep race for this contest. He added blinkers in that race, and it seemed to make a real difference. He's an intense, strong horse, so the blinkers kept him focused and on task. He'll be running in them again. That, combined with his immense talent, makes him a real contender to win it all.
Mr. Speaker (10/1): The fourth choice in this race - albeit by a distance - is a surprising one. He won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, but that was on turf. His only dirt outing was in the Holy Bull, and it was far from impressive. I don't like him in this spot.
Kid Cruz (12/1): After looking like an also-ran in the spring, this horse won the Dwyer and was a decent third in the Jim Dandy. He's not good enough to beat the top three here, but he is good enough to grab a piece of it, so he is a factor in exotics.
The Curlin Three: The Curlin Stakes was run earlier in the meet at Saratoga, and it has a big impact on this race. The winner (V.E. Day, 15/1), runner-up (Charge Now, 15/1) and fourth-place finisher (Viva Majorca, 20/1) are all here. They are tough to judge because they have taken so long to develop that we don't know how good they are. Of the three I like Viva Majorca best - he was finishing strong in that last race, and he looks very capable of handling the distance. The price is right. Ulanbator (30/1) is a stablemate of Viva Majorca but seems definitely to be the poor cousin of the pairing, and I don't like him here.
Commanding Curve (15/1): The final horse in the field was the second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. That was a wildly-impressive race, but he hasn't done much to convince us it was anything other than a fluke since. He was horrible in the Belmont and a disappointing fourth in the Jim Dandy. I just don't believe that he is good enough.
I am not in love with Bayern's price, but the horse is special and has the chance to really prove it here. The distance is not perfect for him, but he is the best horse in the race, and it's rarely a bad idea to bet on the best horse. We'll play the exacta to try to improve the payoff:
$25 exacta - Bayern over Wicked Strong, Tonalist, Kid Cruz, Viva Majorca. Total cost of $100.
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