The Travers Day card has been drawn and is lining up as one of the biggest days of horse racing this year. The card lends itself to amazing wagering opportunities for those that have been following the best stakes horses in the country throughout the year.
In this final Part Three of the Travers Day JUMP START, we’ll focus on the three male Grade-1 Stakes races: Sword Dancer, Forego and King’s Bishop.
We’ll attempt to not “regurgitate” the Past Performances and go beyond to provide an analysis of the Graded Stakes fields including: injury and insider news, trainer talk, pace analysis, trip notes from previous races, workout evaluations and links to key replays to evaluate for the big races.
If you’re keeping track of the Travers Day JUMP STARTs this week, Part 1 covering the female Graded Stakes on Travers Day can be found here and Part 2 focusing solely on the Travers Stakes can be found here.
Also, we’ll be providing LIVE BLOG coverage of Travers Day from the paddock, winners’ circle and all over Saratoga this Saturday, so keep checking RacingDudes.com and follow us on Twitter @racing_dudes and @SaratogaSlim for more information.
Without further delay, let’s finish up our JUMP START coverage of Travers’ Day:
Sat., Aug. 27, Grade-1 Sword Dancer, $1 Million Purse, 3 year olds & up, 1½ miles (Turf)
Arguably the best turf distance horse in the world, Flintshire will look to defend his 2015 Sword Dancer title in this Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Juddmonte Farm sent Flintshire to the Chad Brown barn to focus on a United States campaign looking for firm turf and he’ll get it here in Saratoga on Saturday with little to no rain in the weather forecast. In his first two starts in New York this season, Flintshire has looked like a dominant beast, much like he did overtaking this race at Saratoga last year in one of the most impressive romps in the United States in 2015.
Still, the Juddmonte team may have been a little worried in Flintshire’s last race at Saratoga on July 30 in the Grade-2 Bowling Green as he was trailing the field late in the stretch. He drew off under wraps to take down that field with jockey Javier Castellano barely moving on him, but it might have been too close for comfort. Garrett O’Rourke of Juddmonte said on the Steve Byk radio show after the race that they would be running the “pacemaker” Inordinate in the Sword Dancer to assure an honest pace for Flintshire’s dominant late “turn-of-foot.” Inordinate shows up here for Chad Brown with one job to do: set it up for his stablemate.
The word on the street is that Grand Tito has been working great coming into the Sword Dancer. As the runner-up to Flintshire in the Bowling Green on July 30, Grand Tito may be able to hit the board again, but winning here will be a longshot. Grand Tito was able to bounce back after one of the most bizarre incidents in recent memory before the Grade-1 Woodford Reserve. He was hit by a flying sign during a quick storm before the race and had to be scratched, but has shown no issues since for trainer Gustavo Delgado.
It’s very interesting that trainer Chad Brown has decided to run any of his horses (except the pacemaker Sympathy) against his top turfer Flintshire, but he has also entered Money Multiplier. Brown picked up an easy win with Money Multiplier in an allowance on August 5 on a major class drop-down from the Grade-1 United Nations. He ran huge three back to get second in the Grade-1 Man O’ War at Belmont, so he may be a board hitter here.
The field of 7 will be filled out by:
Applicator: Three-year old stepping up against elders after seventh place finish in Grade-1 Belmont Derby for owner / trainer Yanakov Mikhail.
Roman Approval: Second last out to Money Multiplier and has fought many wars at the Graded-Stakes level in the past.
Twilight Eclipse: The old hard-knocking Grade-1 winner still hanging around, but hasn’t been the same this year as a seven-year old.
BOTTOM LINE: Everyone and their mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, mailman and milkman will be singling Flintshire in their multi-race wagers. Play the “free Bingo square” with Flintshire and be done with it. If somehow Flintshire loses this race then the Pick-4 will be astronomical! It is tempting to play a very small $0.50 Pick-4 using Grand Tito and Money Multiplier with your top “A” plays in the other three legs, but that should be the extent of back-up plays here.
Sat., Aug. 27, Grade-1 Forego, $700,000 Purse, 3year olds & up, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)
Another “Win and You’re In” race dots the Travers card as the Forego winner gets a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
The top two finishers out of the Belmont Sprint Championship, A.P. Indian and Marking headline this group, but will both be breaking from the outside posts 11 and 12, respectively.
Marking has been training at the Greentree Training Center in Saratoga for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin since that race on July 9, pointing solely to the Forego. After a trip to Dubai, where he had some gate issues in his races and didn’t perform up to par, he returned to the U.S. to run a strong fourth in the Grade-1 Metropolitan Handicap. From the outside 10 post there, he broke alertly for once and rushed up to challenge the leaders pressing the pace to set up perfectly for his stablemate Frosted to blow away the field late. Not to say that Marking was being used as a “rabbit” in that spot, but he next returned in the Belmont Sprint Championship to prove that he is more than a pace-setter. He went eye-to-eye with A.P. Indian in the stretch losing by a head in one of the best stretch duels of the year.
A.P. Indian proved his true grit in that race and the re-match here in the Forego should be awesome if they match up again in deep stretch. A.P. Indian for trainer Arnaud Delacour showed that his win over Marking was no fluke by next taking the Grade-1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga on July 30. As his third graded win in a row, A.P. Indian has cemented himself as one of the top male dirt sprinters on the east coast.
Anchor Down emerged as a strong player in this division with his impressive slop triumph at Belmont in the Grade-3 Westchester at a mile. He held on for second in the Grade-1 Met Mile after sitting on a fast pace there, so his staying power is unquestionable at this 7-furlong distance. His cut-back in the 6-furlong Vanderbilt to start the Saratoga meet was too short for him and his trainer Todd Pletcher had admitted that he was looking for a race for him to keep him fresh. This 7-furlong trip may be ideal for Anchor Down and looks like the top threat to the top two choices.
The bulky field of twelve also includes (in alphabetical order):
Catalina Red: Hasn’t been as impressive since his emergent Grade-2 Churchill Down win on Kentucky Derby day.
Chief Lion: May show the best early speed here from the 2 post and will have to gun it from the gate. Ran a strong second at Saratoga in the non-graded Tale of the Cat Stakes on August 12.
Dannie’s Deceiver: Will be making a major step up in class here after a second-place finish in an allowance to The Truth or Else in the Belmont mud.
Limousine Liberal: Returns to Saratoga where he emerged as a top sprinter running second behind Runhappy in the 2015 King’s Bishop. Has not been able to prove that he can compete at this Grade-1 level since, though.
Ready for Rye: His third-place finish in the Belmont Sprint is nothing to sneeze at, but I’m unsure if he’s a better turf sprinter or dirt sprinter. He has changed surfaces so often that it is tough to define his form.
Stallwalkin’ Dude: His back-class came through at nice odds as he won the non-graded Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga on August 12. He has never been able to really break-through at this Grade-1 level, though.
Tamarkuz: After winning the Group-2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai in 2015, he built up a lot of hype coming to the U.S., but hasn’t lived up to that promise state-side.
The Truth Or Else: His muddy allowance win at 28-to-1 odds two back at Belmont came out of nowhere for trainer Kenny McPeek! Will need a fast pace up front to set up his closing kick. May be a bomb to include underneath in exotics.
Schivarelli: This is a major step up in class for a horse that has not proven himself at this level, but has a good allowance win at Saratoga on August 8 over a promising horse in the returning Ocean Knight.
BOTTOM LINE: With both A.P. Indian and Marking drawn to the outside, they both may need to rate in the early stages, since trying to clear all the early speed to their inside may be difficult. Both have shown the ability to rate in the past so this shouldn’t be a major issue. For me, Marking has been one of my favorite horses since last fall and he’s my choice here to finally break through with a Grade-1 win. He has shown in his last two races in the U.S. that his gate issues are a thing of the past. McLaughlin had told me upon his return to the U.S. that the gates in Dubai are much smaller without an attendant. He stated that he hoped he wouldn’t have the same issues in the U.S. and that has been the case.
Sat., Aug. 27, Grade-1 King’s Bishop, $500,000 Purse, 3 Year Olds, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)
To handicap the King’s Bishop, you can just build a wheel with 13 equally sized spaces, spin the wheel and bet whoever it lands on! This may be the most balanced group of horses assembled at the Saratoga meet (if not the whole year!) in a Stakes race. To make handicapping this race a fun activity, I’ll include a quick hit on why the horse CAN WIN and CAN’T WIN in the “rapid fire” analysis below (horses in post-position order):
1. Economic Model: CAN WIN – This race has always been his target for the top trainer at the meet Chad Brown. His win in the non-graded Easy Goer and second in the Grade-3 Dwyer at longer distances may line up nicely for the cut-back here. CAN’T WIN – The inside post here for a horse that doesn’t display blazing gate speed may be tough to overcome.
2. Fish Trappe Road: CAN WIN – Trainer Brett Calhoun said right after his 1-turn mile win in the Dwyer that he would cut-back to 7 furlongs, so this has always been the target. He had too much pace pressure in the Grade-2 Woody Stephens, but was the only one to hold on impressively to get second there. CAN’T WIN – Had ideal post position and trip to win the Dwyer and will have to send early from the 2 post here possibly damaging his chances to win late.
3. Summer Revolution: CAN WIN – Is the “now” horse after crushing a maiden field at Belmont on July 4 and having one of the most impressive wins at the Saratoga meet in an allowance at this distance on August 6. Both of those wins were against elders and trainer Rudy Rodriguez has chosen this spot over a possible try in the Travers. CAN’T WIN – Will go up against 12 other horses in his first Stakes try in only his third career start. Will also need to “gun it” from the 3 post.
4. Tale of S’avall: CAN WIN – His maiden breaker last year on the Travers day undercard was one of the best 2-year old wins of the meet, so maybe he just loves the Saratoga dirt. His third in the Dwyer may denote that he’s rounding back into form. CAN’T WIN – Hasn’t won a race in a year since breaking his maiden last Travers Day! He’s run in two Grade-1 races, two Grade-2s and a Grade-3 since then.
5. Bird Song: CAN WIN – Won 6-furlong allowance on July 24 at Saratoga and would be a heart-felt win for his owner,Saratoga legend Marylou Whitney. CAN’T WIN – Major class step up for trainer Ian Wilkes.
6. Mohaymen: CAN WIN – Classiest horse in the field after running fourth in the Kentucky Derby and gets a smart cutback by McLaughlin here. Put on 20 pounds as he was recently weighed after a poor Jim Dandy when he stumbled badly out of the gate. CAN’T WIN – Hasn’t performed well on deep tracks like Saratoga and may need a hard, firm dirt course like Gulfstream to run his best races.
7. Star Hill: CAN WIN – Has been the “wise guy” horse this whole year and has consistently got outside posts in his past four Graded Stakes races. Is this the moment for Star Hill to finally break through? The pace to his inside and outside look like he’ll be able to drop back and make one big run. CAN’T WIN – Saratoga hasn’t played to deep closers this meet, but it did when Gunnevera won the Saratoga Special, so maybe all hope isn’t lost for a deep closer in this speed-laden race. Has never had a Brisnet speed figures over 100, unlike many others in this field.
8. Mind Your Biscuits: CAN WIN – Won local prep Grade-2 Amsterdam on July 30, so is proven as a Graded-Stakes winner at Saratoga. CAN’T WIN: Surprisingly, none of the other six entries in the Amsterdam come back here, so you have to question the group he beat. The waters get much deeper here.
9. Jazzy Times: CAN WIN – Top connections with trainer Bob Baffert and the Zayat Stables ship from the west coast to bring “Jazzy” to Saratoga after his impressive first level allowance win at Del Mar against elders. Baffert thought he was his best two-year old last year. CAN’T WIN: Will have to use his blazing early speed to clear the field from the 9 post as he’s a “need-the-lead” type. Steps up in class for his first stakes try and will give the Zayats a chance at some redemption from their loss last year in the Travers with American Pharoah.
10. Rated R Superstar: CAN WIN – Rides a two-race win streak after winning Grade-3 Carry Back at Gulfstream. Beat Jazzy Times at Churchill two back, so he may be living up to the promise that he showed as a top two-year old prospect last year. CAN’T WIN – He’s a closer that will need a good pace set-up and good trip by returning jockey Cornelio Velasquez for trainer Kenny McPeek, so everything will need to break right.
11. Noholdingback Bear: CAN WIN – Has been one of the best sprinters with devastating early speed in Canada all year and will get backed by the bettors to the north. Has good form on dirt at Keeneland and Gulfstream at the end of last year and early this year. CAN’T WIN – Tough to back a horse whose best races have been over the synthetic Woodbine surface. He’s also a “need-the-lead” type that may have issues getting it from the 11 hole.
12. Tom’s Ready: CAN WIN – After running in the Kentucky Derby, the cut-back to 7-furlongs in the Grade-2 Woody Stephens hit him “right between the eyes” as he swerved and weaved his way to an awesome win. Trainer Dallas Stewart has bided his time pointing him here the whole time. CAN’T WIN – Not many knocks on him as he is more than a deep closer and has shown the ability to stay nearer to the pace when needed. He ran fourth in a maiden and fifth in the Grade-1 Hopeful at Saratoga last year, so hasn’t set the world on fire on this surface, but that’s a small knock.
13. Drefong: CAN WIN – Morning line favorite from the far outside post for Baffert. Rides a three-race win streak including two optional claimer wins this year where he has put up big speed figures. CAN’T WIN – This seven-furlong trip will be the longest of his career. The outside post does him no favors as he has done his best running on the lead in his short four-race career.
BOTTOM LINE: I thought going through that whole exercise would help me pick a winner and all it did was help me sort out the top competitors. From the analysis, the horses with the smallest knocks on them are Tom’s Ready, Jazzy Times and Star Hill. With speed to the inside and outside in the race, the run to the first turn is going to be a mosh pit! I don’t want to rely too much on closers since they can always be compromised by traffic, but I will include Tom’s Ready and Star Hill on all wagers. Both have shown the ability to stay nearer to the pace when needed. This is a “spread” race in multi-race wagers and you will need to include Mohaymen (based on class), Jazzy Times (based on speed), Summer Revolution (based on the unknown) and Fish Trappe Road (based on his Dwyer win). Economic Model and Drefong are tough to leave off tickets and will be used as small back-up plays. So I basically said to use eight of the 13 entries in multi-race plays, which I usually don’t suggest, but this is the rare case that it’s needed!
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim for a SPECIAL LIVE BLOG on Travers Day from the track and coverage of the whole Saratoga meet.