2018 Travers Stakes Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
The Travers Stakes, the biggest race of the year exclusively for three-year-olds outside of the Triple Crown, is a little bittersweet this year. It was the likely return to action for Triple Crown hero Justify, but he's already retired and easing into stud life in Kentucky. But despite the absence of the obvious headliner, this is a truly fascinating race - and one that will be a joy to watch. Taking place at Saratoga in upstate New York on Saturday, 11 runners have signed up, and several have a real chance here. Hofburg was knocked out with a fever or the field would have been even deeper, too. Here's how the highlights of the race break down, with track morning line odds:
Good Magic (2/1): He was the most obvious horse to bet on in the Triple Crown aside from Justify, and he did well. Since then he has really blossomed. He was the convincing winner of the Haskell, the other big three-year-old race of the summer and has a chance to be the first horse since Point Given in 2001 to pull off that double. He's the two-year-old champion, and while he won't be three-year-old champ no matter what, he can certainly claim his place as the top three-year-old still racing with a win here. He's the one to beat.
Gronkowski (4/1): Like the favorite, this colt is trained by Chad Brown. The horse only came to the Brown stable from England leading up to the Belmont, but it was obviously a strong move - he was second behind Justify in that race. He hasn't raced since, and his works have been solid but not spectacular. I have to admit that I don't entirely get the hype. Solid horse, but the Belmont was an outlier effort for him, and I don't love his breeding. I respect Brown immensely, but this is the wrong Brown horse in my eyes.
Wonder Gadot (5/1): Mark Casse brings us a fascinating story here. This filly is the first female horse since Davona Dale in 1979 to even try this race, and the last winner was in 1915. She was second behind the truly outstanding Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, and that was a fine showing. And then she headed to Canada and dominated the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown against the boys. She would have been an overwhelming favorite in the third leg as well, but she skipped it to come here. This is a wildly ambitious spot, but this is a very talented filly, and the connections are top notch - Irad Ortiz Jr. took over in the saddle after Hofburg was scratched. Maybe I'm just blinded by my Canadian connection to her, but she'll be a very significant part of my exotics action - including in the top spot.
Tenfold (8/1): This Steve Asmussen colt was third as a wise guy play in the Preakness but couldn't build on that and was a disappointing fifth in the Belmont. The son of Curlin came back in the Jim Dandy, the local prep race for this one, and got a solid win against an underwhelming field. It was a nice effort, but he'll have to take a big step forward here. He's a factor for me but not up top.
Catholic Boy (8/1): I like the horse, but I don't like this spot at all. It just doesn't make sense. Last time out he became a Grade 1 winner on turf in the Belmont Derby - a very legitimate effort. Instead of building on that, though, he picks a deep field on turf as his next spot. The distance isn't a concern, but it seems they are trying to force him to be what he is not.
Vino Rosso (10/1): A win in the Wood Memorial made this colt, another son of Curlin, a Derby contender. But he was ninth in that race and fourth in the Belmont, so he never found his stride. And his third-place finish in the Jim Dandy wasn't inspiring, either. Todd Pletcher is very strong at Saratoga, but I don't like his chances here at all.
Bravazo (12/1): This D. Wayne Lukas colt has made an art form of being the best of the rest - he was second to Justify in the Preakness and to Good Magic in the Haskell. That means that we can't leave him out of our exotics here, but I'm not using him up top.
Mendelssohn (12/1): It's not that often we see a Euro trainer bring a horse to the Travers, but Aidan O'Brien obviously likes crossing the pond with this colt - this is his fourth trip. The first was by far the best, when he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. After that win and a dominating performance in the UAE Derby, he was a popular pick in the Kentucky Derby, but he was an ugly 12th. HIs next outing in the Dwyer at Belmont wasn't a lot better. I liked him in May, but the love affair has faded. He'll find a spot to shine again, but this is not it.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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