Baffert Stuns Travers Field Again, Also Songbird Takes an "L"

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D.S. Williamson

August 29th, 2017

Bob Baffert stunned the Travers Stakes field again. This time, Baffert won the race with West Coast, a horse whose biggest win to date had been a Grade 3 at Los Alamitos. Lest we forget, last year Baffert won the Midsummer Derby with Arrogate.

Arrogate promptly took the lead and decimated his fellow contenders in the 2016 Travers Stakes. West Coast did the same thing on August 26. Keep reading for a deeper recap of this past Saturday's Travers Stakes, arguably the most important three-year-old race this year.

1. West Coast

Bob Baffert, an Arizona alum just like me, beared down this Saturday by taking his second straight Travers Stakes. I wrote a blog before the Saratoga Meet where I said something to the affect that Mr. Kentucky Derby may have become Mr. Three-Year-Old Summer Racing.

If Bob could get a horse to the Derby, he used to do everything he could to run the horse in the Kentucky Derby. I suppose after you win a Triple Crown, it doesn't really matter much to win the Kentucky Derby. This is 2 years in a row where Bob has left his best three-year-old on the bench until after the Triple Crown races.

With that being written, West Coast did get away with a pedestrian-like :48.12 half-mile. Did the pace affect the race? It absolutely did.

2. Gunnevera

Jockey Edgard Zayas aboard Gunnevera felt how slow the pace was. Zayas moved Gunnevera to within third place by the mile marker. But, because the pace was so slow, Zayas couldn't get his horse past West Coast.

Quicker fractions and Gunnevera might have won the Mid-Summer Derby. Still, for a horse that bombed in Kentucky and in Maryland, Gunnevera looked like a boss this past Saturday. He managed to beat Irap, and had the best shot at getting to the Travers winner.

3. Irap

Oh, man. I thought I had it. Every exotic bet I had put Irap in first or second place. I missed a sweet tri, big win bet, etc., etc. But, that's horse racing, right?

I feel that Irap was a victim of the pace as well. Irap is fast enough to run on the lead. He probably should have gone right to the lead or at least force West Coast into faster fractions. Although he closed willingly, he appeared to give up in mid-stretch after realizing that he wasn't going to catch the Baffert horse.

If the 2 face off again, expect Mario Gutierrez to really force the issue. Tiznow always forced the issue. He dared his opponents to pass him. Even when his opponents did pass him, like Sakhee in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Classic, Tiznow sometimes repassed his opponents.

Irap looks a lot like his sire, Tiznow. If improves the way Tiznow did in that champion's three-year-old season, watch out. Tiznow finished second to Skimming in the Pacific Classic before beating Giant's Causeway in the BC Classic.

Other Travers Stakes Entrants

Cloud Computing didn't show up. My guess is that his best was in the Preakness and there's no way he's going to ever replicate that win. Still, Cloud Computing's showing in the Travers wasn't nearly as bad as Always Dreaming's

The Derby winner finished 9th. He didn't even put forth an effort. The Belmont winner, Tapwrit, ran much better than Always Dreaming did. Tapwrit made a move to get within contention. Then, he flattened out to finish 4th.

Good Samaritan actually proved himself. Although the fractions were ridiculously slow, he managed to finish fifth. Why was that impressive? Good Samaritan was 14.5 lengths behind West Coast at the half-mile marker. For the Travers only being his second race on dirt, it was an exceptional effort.

Lookin At Lee proved to be what many of us horseplayers always expected him to be, a closer that has no shot versus a slow pace.

The most disappointing horse to me was Haskell Invitational winner Girvin. The Joe Sharp trainee had finished second to Irap in the Ohio Derby before beating Irish War Cry and Timeline in the Haskell. I expected a top effort.

Girvin finished 11th out of 12 entrants in the 2017 Travers Stakes. The only horse he beat was Fayeq, whom jockey Luis Saez pulled up shortly after the break.

Songbird Loses

The other big news on Saturday was Songbird losing to Forever Unbridled in the Personal Ensign. I discussed how I didn't believe Songbird had improved from her three-year-old season to her four-year-old season.

I had seen the same pattern with other great three-year-old fillies including Rachel Alexandra. That doesn't mean Songbird is a toss in this year's BC Distaff. It does mean that the chances of her suddenly getting fast enough to beat either Vale Dori or Stellar Wind isn't likely to happen.

Expect big odds if you do back Songbird to beat those two exceptional mares.