Who is the Best 3yr Old? 2017 Travers Stakes is a Wide-Open Affair

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For only the 3rd time in the storied history of the Travers Stakes, 3 different Triple Crown race winners will square off in Saratoga’s mid-summer derby….
Ron Cogswell, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

For only the 3rd time in the storied history of the Travers Stakes, 3 different Triple Crown race winners will square off in Saratoga’s mid-summer derby. Twelve 3yr old hopefuls will contest the 148th running of the G1 Travers at 1-1/4 miles around the 2 turn dirt course for a $1,250,000 purse. With no one stepping up to take the lead in this year’s 3yr old class, whoever wins the Travers will be the front runner for year-end honors leading into the Breeder’s Cup Championships.

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Every week a different 3yr old is winning a graded stakes race, but no one has been able to string together any consistency to set them apart. None of the three Triple Crown winners, Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing nor Tapwrit, have won a subsequent race. In this year’s Travers, 6 of the 9 other entrants won their last race and only a single horse finished out of the money in his last. While not spectacular, this group is competitive.

The Saratoga dirt course has been playing to speed, especially around 2 turns. With a 12 horse field, establishing early position will be key, but I do not expect a quick pace. In spite of the plethora of graded stakes winners, there is absolutely no real speed. The best early speed numbers in the field belong to Belmont winner Tapwrit, but the Belmont was the last time he ran and his speed there was the first time he had shown it.

Derby winner Always Dreaming, breaking from post #7, and Preakness champion Cloud Computing from the rail, will also seek to be forwardly placed. With the #1 post I expect Cloud Computing to inherit the first turn lead. Recent speed figures, however, suggest that it could be a replay of the Jim Dandy where they do the heavy lifting and leave the stretch running to the closers.

Will Jim Dandy closers Good Samaritan and Giuseppe the Great get similar trips behind the speed this week? In spite of the trip notes of the race citing wide trips, neither covered much more ground than the rest of the field. And then there are Girvin and McCraken, who had similar closing trips in the Haskell. All four of these horses closed in races where the pace was lethargic at best. Last but not least are Gunnevera, who closed to a victory in a non-graded stake where the pace was nonexistent and Lookin at Lee who wants no part of an early run. The consistent theme in this year’s 3yr old crop is…no speed.

The horse that I landed on is 8-1 morning line Irap. Trained by Doug O’Neill and breaking from post 10, Irap’s only bad outing was in the slop of the Kentucky Derby. Outside of that race, this is a horse that has done nothing wrong. After a loss in the Sunland Derby, a race that surprisingly became a key race for derby preps, he beat the likes of Practical Joke and McCraken in the Bluegrass Stakes, threw in that clunker at Churchill Downs, then defeated Girvin in the Ohio Derby and followed that with an Indiana Derby Victory.

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Irap’s victory in the Indiana Derby utilized a well-timed middle move and should be the type of run that can win the Travers. His recent speed figures are more than enough to beat this field and his ability to move at any point in the race will be an asset.

The bottom line is that I will take Irap for the win and hope for a nice price.

August 25, 2017
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