Saratoga will host the mid-summer derby this Saturday as a top notch field of eleven 3yr olds will compete in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. With Justify embarking on his 2nd career in the breeding shed, the 3yr old division is still up for grabs. The Travers will be the first step in sorting things out.
The 149th running of the Travers will be at the classic 1-1/4 mile distance around 2-turns over the historical Saratoga dirt course. It should be noted this NOT a Breeder’s Cup Classic “win and you’re in” event.
The 2-1 morning line favorite is the top 3yr old in training, Good Magic. Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic has been a clear number 2 behind Justify. The field also includes a filly, Wonder Gadot, winner of the first two legs of Canada’s Triple Crown. She is bypassing the 3rd leg to compete against the boys at the Spa in an attempt to be the first filly to win the Travers since 1915.
Saratoga’s dirt course has been showing some speed bias, even in deep routes. Two turn 9f dirt races are being won gate to wire at a 36% clip, and of the two 10f dirt events this meet, one gate to wire and one deep closer.
The pace should be provided by 30-1 morning line long shot Trigger Warning. Trainer Mike Rone is 0/22 with shippers and 0/2 in graded stakes, with both stakes efforts being Trigger Warning. He won’t be there late but he will be there early. He will be joined on the engine by Catholic Boy who is coming off of a wire to wire score in the G1 Belmont Derby.
Behind this duo will be a veritable who’s who of the 3yr old division with Good Magic, Wonder Gadot, Bravazo, Tenfold, and Mendelssohn. Towards the back will be closers Gronkowski, King Zachary and Vino Rosso.
Good Magic will be the horse to beat, and with cheap speed up front, jockey Jose Ortiz will surely keep Good Magic within striking distance straight from the gate. The same could be said for Wonder Gadot who is making a giant leap from Ontario bred stakes to the Travers. She has wins over the dirt at Aqueduct and Fort Erie as well as on Woodbine’s all-weather surface. She has beaten open company and beaten the boys before, and posted a very competitive 102 Brisnet speed figure while finishing 2nd in the Kentucky Oaks.
This race looks to have a lot of contention near the front and could possibly be pushed along a little faster than many would like. Bravazo may be too forwardly placed and his worst runs have occurred when close to a fast pace. Mendelssohn could not stay when close to a modest pace in the G3 Dwyer. While Tenfold posted a win in the G2 Jim Dandy, he got away from his stiffest competitors by rationing his speed in a dawdling pace.
The mystery horse will be the 4-1 morning line Gronkowski. Shipped to the U.S. for The Belmont Stakes and trained by Chad Brown, Gronkowski will need a pace to run at. When given a pace setup, he usually fires, as he did in his 2nd place Belmont finish in his only North American start.
Good Magic is too good to dismiss, but with a contentious pace, the horse I landed on to beat him is Gronkowski. His effort in the Belmont was off of a layoff so he can surely fire at first asking. With Joel Rosario in the irons, he will be guided to the rail to save all the ground in the hope of making a winning move in the lane. Saving ground will be the key to overcoming any speed bias.
Let’s hope for a hot pace and play Gronkowski for the win.