Ah! It’s Travers time! This is one of my favorite days of the year! The racing is great, but it’s the tradition that makes it so special.
I will always remember as a small child, heading out at 4 AM and driving in a car with my grandfather, father, and uncles for an hour just to wait in line to run for tables. We would always grab breakfast trackside and then talk about horses for the next 8 hours until post time, and you could count on my grandfather calling at least one person “a damn fool.” I’d have my $1 show bets and tickets for the Daily Double, the only multi-race wager offered back then, all mapped out so that I could focus on my real talents. By the end of the day, I was carrying at eight or more plastic grocery bags full of dropped “losing” tickets. Trust me, those “losers” always made me a winner, and they also made the hour-long drive home enjoyable because at some point, those grown men would get giddy after I found a winning trifecta that was accidently dropped. Since I’m being sentimental here, before we get into the picks, let’s watch my favorite Travers, the 125th running from 1994. I still get chills when Tom Durkin says, “But there is cause for Concern!”
This race meant so much to me that I ended up buying Concern’s saddle cloth. The memories still make me smile whenever I see it!
Sequence of the Weekend: NYRABets.com Pick 5 Featuring the 149th Travers Stakes
Base Wager: $0.50
Races: 7 thru 11
Level of Difficulty (1-10): 6
I’ll be playing two tickets here, one with a single in the Travers and one going deeper. I’m surprised that we got the Personal Ensign included in the sequence because you can really make this a Pick 4 by going two-deep there. One disclaimer – this could chalk out. If it does, we may lose money. On the plus side, if you beat every favorite, then the NYRABets.com $1 million single ticket could actually happen!
Saratoga Race 7: Grade 1 Personal Ensign
Must Use: This race starts and ends with two horses. I wish that I could get aggressive and take a stand one way or the other, but leaving off #1 Abel Tasman or #6 Elate is basically the horse racing version of Russian roulette. If I was forced to pick one over the other, I’d lean to Elate, but I don’t think that it makes much sense to separate here since (a) some other people will and (b) you only need two to get through.
Dismiss at Your Own Risk: If it rains, then maybe #5 Farrell can wire them. You also have #4 Wow Cat running for the second time in North America and is in the care of trainer Chad Brown, so improvement is highly likely. She’s got the best shot at tackling the top two if the track is fast. That being said, she needs a 10-point jump from her last-out Beyer in order to be competitive with the top two.
Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: If there isn’t rain, Farrell is going to be a sitting duck out front. Wow Cat would have run her down last time without the track bias and Jose Ortiz proved that he’s not afraid to take charge early if the pace is slow. Both of those are big-time negatives for the likely pace-setter, Farrell.
Saratoga Race 8: Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina
Must Use: You have to start with #5 Finley’sluckycharm here. She’s consistent and should get the lead or be sitting in a great spot. The reason that I would NOT single her here is the distance. When you break it down, 6 furlongs is really her jam. She’s 5-2-1-0 at 7 furlongs and 0-1 on turf. That means at 6 furlongs, she’s 11-9-1-0. They are running 7 furlongs here, so you’ve got to include others. If I did single here, then it would be a separator: #3 Still There, with a 12/1 morning line. Throw out her turf try and she’s done nothing wrong. Additionally, she’s a $180k-purchased filly by Union Rags out of a Smart Strike mare, so the pedigree fits, as does her 94 last-out Beyer. I expect her to improve, which could mean trouble for the rest of the field.
Dismiss at Your Own Risk: I’ll end up four-deep here in both tickets. You’ve got to use #6 Lewis Bay because she loves this distance, she should be right on the pace, and she has the stamina to hold. #7 Marley’s Freedom is also too tough to toss. I don’t love her prior east coast efforts coming into this race, but if she runs back to her other 7-furlong efforts, then she fits.
Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: I really like #2 Ivy Bell, but she’s going to need to take a BIG step forward if she wants to compete with this bunch. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and crossed out her last two efforts at over a mile, but I still don’t see a way that she wins here. I’d expect her to hit the board, but that just makes her a wasted combination on our tickets.
Saratoga Race 9: Grade 1 Forego
Must Use: Again, you’ve got a clear favorite – #8 City of Light – that you’ve got to use here, but I can poke more holes in him than Swiss cheese, so we will not be singling here. How the heck is #5 No Dozing 12/1 on the morning line?! Do not underestimate just how good his last effort was over this track. That allowance score was No Dozing’s 4-year-old debut, so you should assume an improvement. That’s downright scary for this field. Finally, #1 Limousine Liberal is REALLY frickin’ good at 7 furlongs, with a record of 10-5-2-1 and earnings over $1 million at this distance.
Dismiss at Your Own Risk: I almost included #3 Whitmore in the “Must Use” section since he should have won his last two times out, but Ricardo Santana, Jr. rode him very poorly at Belmont. However, he’s been riding very well at Saratoga, which should make Whitmore very dangerous. I will not leave him off of any tickets that I play. #6 CZ Rocket will be the last one in for me. I don’t like him, but I won’t let him beat me, either.
Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: When it comes down to it, #7 Warrior’s Club has just been beaten by too many horses in this field. Four of the five above have defeated him at least once, so the likelihood of him turning the tables on all of them in the same race is extremely low.
Saratoga Race 10: Grade 1 Sword Dancer
Must Use: Alright, who wants to get frisky?! If you want to step out and single, then this is the spot. Everything here lines up for #10 Sadler’s Joy. This deep closer is going to get pace to chase, he loves the Saratoga turf (2-for-5), and half of his career wins have come at this 1 1/2-mile distanace. Additionally, Saratoga’s turf has been playing to closers when firm. This one really sets up for him, and he always fires.
Dismiss at Your Own Risk: I will only be singling him on one of my tickets, so for the other, let’s add some! How #4 Hi Happy is 4/1 on the morning line is beyond me. He was 8/5 against many of these last time out and just ran a clunker. He’s 2-for-2 at today’s distance and should have some pace, which is a good thing for him. I’m leaving out the speed (see more below), so I’ve got to use closers #6 Bigger Picture and #7 Channel Maker. Both will be dangerous. I’m also going to put #2 Spring Quality here since I can see why he’d be a usable horse, but going from 18/1 (his post-time odds before winning the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes) to 4/1 (his morning line here) while adding 6 lbs means that I might pass. He only beat Sadler’s Joy and Hi Happy by a neck each, and the weight change easily flips that.
Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: Both of the speed horses, #1 Glorious Empire and #3 Funtastic, got dream lone leads last time out while carrying less weight. Here, they will face each other, so neither will have an easy lead, and you’d also be taking much less value with both. Glorious won at 22/1 while carrying 116 lbs, but here, he’s 10/1 while carrying 120 lbs. Funtastic won at 23/1 while carrying 118 lbs and is now 9/2 while carrying 124 lbs. No, thanks.
And for those of you that want to know why I pay so much attention to weight when horses consistently run together, here’s a great chart to illustrate my point:
For the Sword Dancer, Sadler’s Joy will carry his lowest weight since his 2018 debut – which he won.
Saratoga Race 11: Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes
Must Use: Much like last week, there really is only one horse that’s a must-use and, unfortunately, it’s not very creative. Don’t worry, we saved that for the next two sections. #9 Good Magic is the class of this field, and if he stays at his 2/1 morning line, then sign me up all day. Unfortunately, he will not be close to that when they break from the gate, AND he will be the obvious single on all public tickets, so if we want a payout, then we have to try beating him.
Dismiss at Your Own Risk: The rest of this field is use-and-throw-out, so I’ll put them in order of who I would play. I hate typing this, but #3 Gronkowski has the race’s best Beyer in 2018 (tied with Good Magic) and you’ve got to include him if you don’t single. Who’s number three? … I’ll wait… it’s #7 King Zachary, who should like the added distance here of 1 1/4 miles. I mentioned this on Twitter, but you can’t leave off #5 Vino Rosso. He was very much up against a track bias in the Grade 1 Jim Dandy Stakes and still closed 10 lengths on Tenfold at the 1 1/8-mile distance, so going longer helps him, too. Finally, pace is missing here, which means that you’ve got to include the most talented horse with pace, so #8 Mendelsshon makes it onto the ticket.
Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: The rest. I am 100% against #10 Tenfold, who was tired at a shorter distance after having everything his way. #11 Catholic Boy hasn’t proven it on the dirt, so he can go ahead and beat me. He started on turf for a reason, and he’s been better on turf for a reason. #4 Bravazo will probably hit the board, but he can’t win. #2 Wonder Gadot… no. Just no. The only positive is that she can get the distance, but I wouldn’t play her at 20/1, so of course her morning line of 5/1 is a hard pass for me.
You’ve got to take a stand in a race other than the Travers if you don’t want to single Good Magic, so I’m going to play two tickets and hope that I can be right and beat Good Magic, but I’m also covered in case Good Magic gets home because I’ll be spread in every other leg.
$0.50 Pick 5 – 1, 6 / 3, 5, 6, 7 / 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 / 10 / 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 – $100
$0.50 Pick 5 – 1, 4, 6 / 3, 5, 6, 7 / 1, 3, 5, 8 / 4, 6, 7, 10 / 9 – $96
Good luck on Travers Day and be sure to Follow along with me on Twitter @somobomb18 throughout the card!