If you’re like me, then you were hitting F5 on the Saratoga handicapping reports page once the overnight for the Travers Stakes day card was available.
It’s always one of the more exciting cards of the year, but this one really delivers with 13 races, including 7 stakes–6 of them Grade 1s.
The headliner, of course, is the Travers Stakes pitting the three U.S. Triple Crown race winners against some other well-regarded types in what could be a moratorium on the three-year-old male division, but the whole card is fantastic. Here are my quick thoughts as I surveyed the landscape.
Race 1: Here’s the loaded two-year-old race we’ve all come to expect on Travers day, and it’s right off the rip to start the Pick 5. 7 of the 8 entrants would be making their career debut, including Victory Lane on the rail for Lane’s End. He cost $675,000 as a yearling and both starters out of the dam won as two-year-olds. On the outside is $1-million yearling purchase Good Magic, by Curlin for trainer Chad Brown.
Race 2: Surprised an $85,000 turf allowance only got 10, but it’s a competitive group.
Race 3: Another two-year-old maiden race, but this one two turns on the turf. Owner-trainer-breeder Roy Lerman is always good for a cagey victory at the spa, and he debuts Empirically here. Sire Point of Entry gets 17% debut winners and 20% first-time turf winners while the Polish Numbers mare Supposedly has thrown 4 winners–all on turf. Lerman, however, not only on the duck at Saratoga but also for the year.
Race 4: An allowance for older sprinters with lots of back talent but some dubious recent form. Interesting that for a sprint only a couple “E” types, and those types are 11-for-22 going 6 1/2 furlongs this year at Saratoga.
Race 5: Another turf allowance, and this one drew 11, and my initial thought is I hope the board tells me who to bet in race 1 because I think I’ll want them all in this race to close out the Pick 5.
Race 6: the stakes action starts here with the Personal Ensign Stakes featuring two-time champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Songbird, whose only career defeat came when second to certain-Racing Hall of Fame inductee Beholder in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Third in that race was Forever Unbridled, who some thing is Songbird’s biggest threat to lose after two wins this year. However, Songbird holds a major speed advantage.
Race 7: Another sprint without a lot of speed, as older female sprinters go 7 furlongs in the Grade 1 Ballerina, and none of the entrants are an “E” type or have more than 5 Quirin Speed Points.
Race 8: The H. Allen Jerkens is the former King’s Bishop, and Practical Joke sticks out on the cutback, but it’s hard to ignore the numbers Takaful put up on his return.
Race 9: As good a sprint race as we’ve seen outside the Breeders’ Cup and the concluding leg of the seven-furlong Grade 1 Pick 3. It’ll be a match race to some between Drefong and Mind Your Biscuits, but the value might be on Divining Rod who has run some big races and gets six pounds from the obvious favorites.
Race 10: Finally! A single! I’ve been waiting for Idaho to run in the states since last year’s Epsom Derby, and I plan to make him the cornerstone of my wagering strategy. A huge standout on the Brisnet.com Class Ratings.
Race 11: The big one, and I have no strong thought other than Fayeq is an overlay at 30-t0-1. I’m resisting getting married to him (or anyone) until after I run my ALLWAYS software and see Predidcteform and OptixEQ data, but this will be a fun race to watch and play.
Race 12: A Grade 2 in name only, the Ballston Spa features some big names in the older female turf division, including fan favorite Lady Eli.
Race 13: There it is! I was wondering if we’d actually make it through a big day card without a claiming race, and there is not only a claiming race but also of the maiden variety to close out the card.
Still, this is the best non-Breeders’ Cup card I’ve ever seen.