Logical horses are likely to win the majority of Grade 1 events at Saratoga on Saturday afternoon, but it is also possible that the “graveyard of favorites” will produce a longshot or two on the Travers Stakes Day card.
Here are a few runners that are listed at double digit odds on the morning line and are worth consideration in your exotic wagers if not on the Win end:
Ballerina Stakes (Race 8)
#5 Finley’sluckycharm, #6 Lewis Bay and #7 Marley’s Freedom are likely to take the bulk of the action at the pari-mutuel windows in this seven-furlong dash over the main track, but #8 Union Strike could be in line for a career best performance on Saturday.
The four-year-old filly has not won since last April when she came from off the pace to run down a field of 7 in the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita Park, but she gets a massive trainer upgrade to Steve Asmussen after being in the barn of Mick Ruis in Southern California. The $375,000 OBS April 2016 purchase will need a hot pace to run at to be at her best, but at 15-1 you could certainly do worse.
Forego (Race 9)
9-5-morning line favorite #8 City of Light has put forth 4 straight triple-digit BRIS speed ratings dating back to a 2-length win in the Malibu (G1) last December and draws favorably to the outside in his first start since May for trainer Michael McCarthy. The four-year-old colt is the clear one to beat, but he has not raced in 3 months and is coming out of a pair of two turn events, so it remains to be seen if he is ready to run with some of the top sprinters around.
If City of Light is not at his best off the freshening, perhaps #5 No Dozing can spring the upset. The four-year-old gelding was competitive versus graded stakes company as a three-year-old and posted a career best 104 BRIS speed rating in his initial try of 2018 for trainer Arnaud Delcaour. I am concerned about regression off of the perfect trip win over this surface on July 21st, but the price is right at 12-1 to give him a shot if you are looking to get more “bang for your buck” than the more logical contenders will offer.
Sword Dancer (Race 10)
#1 Glorious Empire took control early in the Bowling Green (G2) on July 28th for trainer James Lawrence and ended up dead heating with #7 Channel Maker. The son of Holy Roman Emperor will probably need things his way on the front end once again in the Sword Dancer, but it is possible jockey Julien Leparoux could once again make an easy lead or find a way to relax the seven-year-old gelding right off the early pace from his inside draw. I am not sure he is good enough to win a Grade 1, but hanging around for a minor share makes him worth consideration in the exotics at the very least.
Travers (Race 11)
#8 Mendelssohn was extremely impressive in winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last November and appeared poised to make a big run in the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), but was banged around at the gate and never got a fair shake over the sloppy going. The son of Scat Daddy dueled with Noble Indy early on in the Dwyer (G3) in July and put that Todd Pletcher trainee away, but was no match in the lane for eventual winner Firenze Fire.
I would have liked to have seen more fight from Mendelssohn in the Dwyer, but this colt still has the talent to win a race of this nature. Furthermore, I do not think trainer Aidan O’Brien would have brought him back for the Travers if he was not ready for a big effort. The stretch out to a mile and a quarter should help his chances. I doubt we see the 12-1-morning line price, but anything near there makes him worth diving in on given the upside.
Good luck on the big day at the Spa!