The 2017 3-year-old crop lacks a standout but depth is not a concern. And that results in a large and contentious field for Saturday’s $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga. The Midsummer Derby highlights a blockbuster 13-race card featuring seven stakes, including four “Win & You’re In” qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup.
With Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit confirmed, it will be the first time three Triple Crown race winners will meet in the Travers since 1982. But unlike that year, horseplayers will have many more viable betting options in the 1 ¼-mile race.
Haskell Invitational (G1) winner Girvin and Jim Dandy (G2) romper Good Samaritan are serious win contenders. Blue Grass (G2) winner Irap has clearly improved in recent months, edging Girvin in the Ohio Derby (G3) before dominating the Indiana Derby (G3) last out. West Coast, who has won three straight, can be classified as a rising star for Bob Baffert, who sent a promising prospect to capture last year’s Travers.
Fountain of Youth (G2) hero Gunnevera returns to the upper echelon following a five-length stakes tally at Gulfstream Park and Haskell runner-up McCraken is another well-known sophomore from the Triple Crown campaign. Add in Lookin at Lee and Giuseppe the Great, the second-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby and Jim Dandy, and the Travers shapes up to be a fantastic betting race.
A former well-known maiden, Irap has developed a winning attitude that is easy to appreciate. I’m also intrigued by Cloud Computing, who will try to rebound from a disappointing last in the Jim Dandy. Trainer Chad Brown seemed to be looking for a reason not to run Cloud Computing afterward but has been impressed by his charge’s preparations. And after displaying a similar one-placed effort finishing a well-beaten third in the Wood Memorial (G2), the colt came back to upset the Preakness (G1).
I will be at Saratoga covering the Travers and here are other storylines of interest:
Songbird dazzled capturing a pair of major prizes at Saratoga last year, taking the CCA Oaks (G1) by 5 ¼ lengths and the Alabama by seven lengths, and the front-running dynamo simply thrashed the competition in her first 12 wins. She hasn’t shown the same flair winning her first two starts at age 4, posting one-length victories in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Delaware H. (G1), and I’m excited to see what Songbird has to offer in the $700,000 Personal Ensign (G1).
She will face a quality rival in Forever Unbridled, who has sandwiched facile wins in the Fleur des Lis (G2) and Beldame (G1) around a rallying third in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
A compelling match-up between Drefong and Mind Your Biscuits, arguably the top sprinters on both coasts, looms in the $600,000 Forego (G1).
A smashing winner of the 7-furlong Woody Stephens (G2) on the Belmont Stakes undercard, American Anthem will return to New York in pursuit of the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1). Runhappy and Drefong have used the 7-furlong test for 3-year-olds as springboards to winning the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and champion sprinter honors the past two seasons, and former Kentucky Derby hopeful American Anthem has really come on since cutting back in trip for Baffert.
His main rivals include Pavel, a dynamite debut winner on July 1 who finished fourth making his second appearance in the Jim Dandy. The talented Creative Cause colt appears to have plenty of upside for Doug O’Neill.
The $1 million Sword Dancer, a 1 ½-mile turf affair, became more appealing with a pair of international raiders. Idaho, who represents Coolmore/Aidan O’Brien, captured the Hardwicke (G2) at Royal Ascot two back and exits a commendable third to Arc favorite Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) on July 29. Erupt defeated Idaho when capturing the Canadian International (G1) at Woodbine in late November.
Travers Day Handicapping Seminar
Please join me for a free Handicapping Seminar Travers morning at the Saratoga Trackside Grill, which is located outside the clubhouse entrance on the corner of Nelson Ave. and Wright St. (103 Wright). The 30-minute session gets started at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) Saturday, with food and drink available for purchase, and Brisnet.com is providing a free handicapping product for the 13-race program. Stop by and say hello!