A QUICK TRAVERS THOUGHT OR TWO
Ahh yes, the mid-summer Derby otherwise known as the Travers Stakes. First run in 1864, to say this race for three-year olds is steeped in tradition is a bit of an understatement. The 147th edition has all the makings of another spectacular event. With 14 of the finest in the division slated for the starting gates this could be as talented a field as any in recent memory.
How about Belmont champ Creator? Listed at 15-1 on the morning line, this Steve Asmussen trained closer is getting little respect. Having won every other race he has started in this year, the brilliantly marked son of Tapit is coming off a disappointing sixth place finish in the Jim Dandy. Does that mean he wins here?
“I hope it means he is in the winner’s circle,” jokes the hall of fame conditioner. “Saratoga has not set up for closers so far this season, but none of those were the Belmont champion. I think he is certainly one of the three year olds that can get the mile and a quarter distance. The pace was not right for him in the Jim Dandy. He has been working really well and we think he can move forward here.”
Exaggerator is the morning line favorite at 3-1. With a forecast for sunny skies, we have to wonder if this son of Curlin can work his magic on a dry track. His last three wins (Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Haskell) have come on wet tracks with a hot early pace. He’s a nice horse, but will he like the Spa?
The other Steve Asmussen entrant, Gun Runner is also intriguing. A horse with front-running speed, this son of Candy Ride is also coming off a less than stellar performance with a fifth place finish in the Haskell. Full of run, he could play a major role in the outcome.
“We were really disappointed in his Haskell,” says Asmussen. “His two worst outings of his life came on wet tracks and we know he is much better than how he ran there. I don’t think he will be on the lead but he will be close. The distance is a question because even though he finished third in the Kentucky Derby, he was out of gas at the end.”
Bob Baffert has shipped in a pair of runners (Arrogate, American Freedom), Todd Pletcher has the dangerous Destin, and Jim Dandy winner Laoban will certainly be in the mix early. Chad Brown has three contenders (Connect, My Man Sam, Gift Box) and Governor Malibu gives Christopher Clement a real shot too. The scenarios are numerous here so figuring this one may be tougher than an overcooked brisket.
So how do you play it?…Summer Bird was the last Belmont winner (2009) to capture the Travers, so maybe that means Creator is due. The pace scenario could be in his favor too. Box American Freedom and Destin to complete the trifecta and a nice payday.
Lastly and most importantly…good luck and have fun!