Travers Day is upon us, and with some cool ties to
the Breeders Cup Challenge Series. The Travers
itself, plus the Personal Ensign for the fillies, are 2
races that award automatic entries for winners of
those races. I suppose the others have to buy their
I have, as promised, the results of my handicapping
covering the Travers Stakes and the 4 stakes races
for its undercard (the Ballston Spa, which runs after,
is not included. Should that be considered the
H ALLEN JERKENS STAKES: Grade 1, 7 furlongs,
3YOs, $500k purse.
Top 3 are 8-3-1: Firenze Fire, Engage, Promises
Fulfilled. Projected overlays: Seven Triumphs.
With the ML favored Firenze Fire ahead in my picks,
this is likely a race to pass up. I will say that Seven
Triumphs does warrant some attention. He switches
from Belmont after a 6 week layoff. He’s been 1st or
2nd first after layoff in 3rd lifetime situations. Won
a $100k optional claimer event on a sloppy
Churchill track late May, returning to his 2YO best
speeds. One of several with great worktabs: 4
works in all, all at Saratoga, 2 bullets. 2nd last time
out in the Grade 3 Dwyer. Closed on the leader by .5
lengths at 2nd call. I say to use him with my top 3.
Odds prediction: Firenze Fire is the lone mover.
Being an early main favorite, he should be taking a
ton of money. Wager at your peril.
PERSONAL ENSIGN STAKES: Grade 1, 9 furlongs,
3YO+ fillies, mares, $700k. Top 3: 6-3-4: Elate,
Fuhriously Kissed, Wow Cat. Overlays: Fuhriously
Kissed, and She Takes Heart.
Just a 6-horse field, and the front half taking most
of the money here. I will take the gamble on the 2
double-digit longshots. Fuhriously Kissed is the
one I see for a possible upset under the ML favored
Elate. 3 of 19 lifetime who hasn’t won since an
optional claimer race last summer at the Spa.
Generally mixed blessings since, with 3 3rd-place
finishes in stakes races. Despite his pace pattern
around 90, I like that he has a pattern at all, unlike
his peers here. Also he’s the lone late closer.
She Takes Heart set a huge lifetime best of 98,while
finishing 2nd in the Add Elegance, improving a ton
from the Princess Rooney late June. Despite the
bounce risk, I’ll play here. Also, do note the track
bias. Half of the 9-furlong races run on the Spa dirt
track have been won by sprinters. 18% of horses in
posts 1-3 at this distance have won.
Odds prediction: Only one trend here, and it seems
that Elate, morning-lane favorite, will actually take
less money. She is potentially bouncing back in
pace after 3 double digit scores, and is the lone
horse to excel at 2nd call vs leader last time out.
Pretty good race to wager.
BALLERINA STAKES: Grade 1, $500k purse, 7
furlongs, for fillies/mares 3YO+. Top 3 are 9-4-
5…Highway Star, Cairenn, Finley’sluckycharm.
Overlays: Highway Star, Cairenn, Union Strike.
Undoubtedly a very attractive race to wager.
Highway Star was 2nd in 4 of her last 5 races, and
last won in last year’s Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Stakes
with a 96. Finally surpassed this with a 100 last
time out in the Grade 3 Bed O’ Roses at Belmont,
June 8. That score matched her lifetime best. She
actually could have won that race had she not run
3-4 wide in pursuit of Lewis Bay. Best works of this
field: 4 in all, 3 at Saratoga, 1 with a bullet.
Cairenn, following trainer switch to Graham Motion
from 25% winner Mark Reid, has run her best
lifetime races…98 running 3rd in the Bed O’ Roses,
then a 93 in a 75k stakes race, then 97 in a 100k
stakes event early this month at the Spa. Last win
came on 4/2, vs 25k optional claimers. I am a fan
of the recent pace pattern.
Union Strike is just out of the barn of Alvin Ruis,
and into the company of Steve Asmussen, winning
at a 21% clip. Last win was in April of 2017, in the
Santa Paula at Santa Anita. Not much success in
Graded company since those races, save a 2nd
place finish in last year’s Eight Belles at Churchill.
She’s the lone late closer of the field.
Odds movement: Two of the prominently favored
horses should be taking more than usual:
Finley’sluckycharm, and Lewis Bay. Meanwhile, two
others might get ignored by the public: the
aforementioned Union Strike, and longest of
longshots in Tequilita. Tequilita has very steady
fast pace figures 4 races into her 4YO career, since
a 6 month layoff.
Update: Following this morning’s scratch of Highway Star, I’m going with Cairenn, Finley’sluckycharm, and Union Strike as my new top 3. Overlays are the same.
FOREGO STAKES: Grade 1, $600k purse, 7 furlongs
for 3YO+. Top 3 here are 7-8-1: Warrior’s Club,
City of Light, and Limousine Liberal. Overlays:
Warrior’s Club. Last win was the Commonwealth,
Grade 3 event at Keeneland back in April. Finished
2nd in the Churchill Downs Stakes with a 99, 10th
in the Metropolitan with a 92, 3rd in the Kelly’s
Landing with a small new top of 101, and 2nd last
out in the AG Vanderbilt a month ago, with a 100. I
like the paired up high scores, even if it comes at a
bit of a bounce risk. Ran a bit wide in the
Vanderbilt, and might have ran a faster race off the
slightly fast pace. D Wayne Lukas has done well
with her since that effort; she’s a month away from
the track, longest layoff of those stretching out
Odds movement: I don’t like longshot No Dozing or
4th ML choice CZ Rocket, but both threaten to take
a lot more $ than normal, more so than in the other
races on this undercard. No Dozing exploded to a
104 last time out a month ago, and is quite the
bounce risk. CZ Rocket did likewise last time out
while winning the Kellys Lounge, but his
connections haven’t run at Saratoga this meet, and
also face a bounce. Tough call as she’s got the best
speed rating for the distance, a huge 108. As for
those who may take less money, Whitmore, who is
3rd ML choice, could be ignored. Good pedigree
compared to these (Pleasantly Perfect/Melody’s
Spirit, out of Scat Daddy) I’d still key Warrior’s Club
among the threatening chalk in another possible
SWORD DANCER STAKES: 12 furlongs on Saratoga’s
inner turf course. Grade 1, $1000k purse for 3YO+.
Top 2 here are easily the favored Sadler’s Joy
(lukewarm ML edge at 7-2) and Funtastic. I can’t
separate those behind them, mainly Spring Quality
and longshot Revved Up, who appears to be the
lone overlay here.
Revved Up could shake up this relatively chalky
field. He goes from Shug McGaughey’s barn to Jorge
Abreu’s (16 to 19%). Last won in November in an
80k optional claimer, with a year’s best 98. Mixed
blessings since: 3rd in the River City, 6th in the
Gulfstream Park Turf, 9th in the Muzin Memorial,
4th in a 100k OC race, and 2nd last out in the
Arlington Handicap. Owns at least one win first off
layoff. 5 works in prep…all at the Spa, tho none
very fast. This late closer did improve on the leader
last time out, and does need a fast pace late to set
up a win.
Odds movement: Lots of money flying about here..
Horses that I predict to be bet down: Funtastic, plus
longshots Glorious Empire and Highland Sky.
Glorious Empire is just off his lifetime of 98, paired
with a 93 prior to that, 2 straight wins. Highland
Sky has had very similar story, a new small top of
99, plus a similar run of 94 last out.
Horses getting ignored here include Hi Happy and
Bigger Picture, 2 good value horses. Hi Happy
could be the sleeper of the Travers undercard.
Started his 6YO career with a 3rd place in the GP
Turf, 1st race after switch from Felipe Souza to 17%
Todd Pletcher. Won the Pan American and Man
O’War with 101s. 3rd in the Manhattan with a 96,
then bounced to a 90 in the Bowling Green last
month here. I’m rooting for him to do a nice
bounceback. I also like his last 3 2nd call numbers
very much…111, 102, 95.
Bigger Picture is the lone early closer here. Also, he
ran a 97 in the Bowling Green last time out, and ran
it increasingly wide throughout the 11-furlong
TRAVERS: 10 furlongs of championship racing,
$1250k purse for leading 3YOs. Top 3 are Vino
Rosso, Wonder Gadot, and King Zachary. Overlays:
Vino Rosso, King Zachary, Mendelssohn. This is
the other major race today worth playing.
Vino Rosso, following his triumph in the Wood
Memorial with a 102, bounced to 91 in the KY
Derby, then up again to 105 in the Belmont, then
down again to 93 last time in the Jim Dandy just a
month ago. Uptick again? Sure, why not? I’ll figure
he’ll return right back to triple digits.
Wonder Gadot, carrying 121 to the boys’ 126, may
have the edge right there. She was 2nd in the
Fantasy Stakes with an 84, peaked to a 102 in the
KY Oaks, was 2nd in the Woodbine Oaks with a 91,
then won the Queen’s Plate with a 98, and also the
Prince of Wales with an 88. Also choosing the
bounceback angle here.
King Zachary was 6th in the Wood Memorial, then
won a 75k OC race, also won the Matt Winn at
Churchill with a lifetime best 99, then bounced
again to 93 while finishing 4th in the Indiana Derby.
Best AWD numbers of these (Curlin/On My Way,
out of Giant’s Causeway). Owns the best work tab
too: 4 works, 3 at the Spa, 2 very fast, 1 a bullet.
Mendelssohn won last year’s BC Juvenile Turf, then
the UAE Derby and Dubai World Cup. Finished last
in the KY Derby, and then 3rd in the Grade 3 Dwyer
in early July. Might bounce from that 90 effort last
time, tho he’s waited longest of those stretching
Odds: I see outright longshot Trigger Warning
taking more $. He’d put up a 99 and 96 as a new
pair of tops. He placed in the Indiana and Ohio
Derbies. Prior to that, he won the 100k Tom Ridge,
and a 28k allowance. I don’t like him but he’s
bound to get bet down by others. Meistermind will
get some attention, too. A lifetime router, it took
him 5 tries to break maiden. Then he paired up that
95 score with a 90 last time on a muddy Saratoga
track. I think he’s being set up for a bounce today.
Wonder Gadot naturally deserves attention for being
the filly, but it won’t translate into $. The savvy
horseplayers will definitely give her a favorable look
but most will sense she’s got too much to
Update: Following the scratch of Meistermind, my top 3 are basically the same, with a new order of Vino Rosso, King Zachary, Wonder Gadot. Overlays remain the same.