The calendar says it’s Travers Day. But it sure doesn’t feel like Travers Day. I’ll start with the positives, optimist that I am. Usually Travers Day means that it’s all almost over – the bittersweet feeling typically begins after right after the big race is run and the grim reality sets in that there are only six days left of Saratoga. This year we have still have a month left.
On the negative side of the ledger, my crew and I typically rent out the area known affectionately as the DG Lounge for a day of open bar, unlimited Shake Shack, and nearly unlimited pari-mutuel wagering.
This year I was supposed to have a party but I ended up getting so busy I didn’t have time to host properly and decided to punt on third down – instead I will just watch on the computer from non-racing friends’ house by the lake. No half measures for me.
I almost certainly could have tried to hustle to get myself into the plant for the day, between my ability to gain a media credential and other friends with horses in. I decided not to, somehow thinking it might actually make me feel worse to be so close and yet so far.
In the big picture of life, I am super glad there is racing in Saratoga, and will be watching and betting with interest. Speaking of which. . .on to the tips!
This one owns a decent last out figure and is bred to go longer than the 5.5 furlongs of the debut. The dam has dropped six winners from eight starters and as a group they’ve been better going a mile or farther. Ian Wilkes trainees typically improve with their racing, adding to this one’s appeal.
BEWARE: there are main track only runners in the later betting so best to wait until they are out to wager
In the Ballerina (Race 7, 20:42) I’m with BELLAFINA, a pleasing price at 9/4. While it’s true that she is 12 for 12 in the exacta in California and 0 for 4 elsewhere, some of that is circumstantial. I like the trip she’s going to get just off the speed, and I like the confidence connections show in sending her here.
This is a race where there are major question marks surrounding the three favorites: will Imprimis be ready off the long break? Are the best days of Pure Sensation? Will Shekky Shabazz get back to form out of the Jason Servis barn? Given those, this is a good spot to try a price.
In The Test (Race 10, 22:39), MRS DANVERS is friendless in the market, as high as 22-1 in places. In one sense this makes sense, she’s got A LOT to find on figures, and figures make the market. But looking more closely, she is a late runner who has been crying out for a good setup, and she’s also in patient hands where I expect she’ll take a step forward in what surely is the target race.
I do not have a strong wagering opinion in the race that gives the day its name, the Travers Stakes (Race 11, 23:15).
I am very torn in fact. My official “pick” in the race, as in the horse I think will win and the horse I want to see win is #6 TIZ THE LAW. He stamped himself a contender for this from his first appearance on the racecourse in the afternoon, right here at Saratoga last summer.
He has blossomed as a three-year-old, finding a thriving partnership with his jockey, Manny Franco, he already has a classic win and is a deserving ante-post favorite for the Kentucky Derby. If I can get 5/6 or above I’ll bet him here (I even see evens in one place).
The issue is the presence of #3 Uncle Chuck. We’ve seen this movie before with Bob Baffert sending a young, talented horse across the country to win Saratoga’s most valuable sophomore prize. And the fact is, Uncle Chuck shows up here with better credentials than Arrogate did – he is already a stakes winner and the form of that stake is working out well with runner-up Thousand Words coming back last weekend to defeat Honor A.P., another serious Derby Hopeful.
The track has been playing well for inside speed, that’s the trip he’ll get. I’m seeing lots of 5-2 and even 9-4 and I think he’ll be considerably shorter than that on the tote. He technically offers more value than my choice.
This is situation where the betting must be monitored closely and the bets made accordingly and at the right places. I could also see betting Uncle Chuck to win at 9-4 and playing a one-way forecast Tiz the Law-Uncle Chuck.
If the tricast is your think, consider mixing in #4 Max Player. This horse is a late running improver who shapes like he’ll enjoy the ten furlongs of this race. I could see him running on for a good third or splitting the top two.