Travers Stakes Day Preview

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D.S. Williamson

August 24th, 2017

This Saturday, August 26, is the biggest day of the Saratoga Meet. Multiple Grade 1 races take place this Saturday. The biggest race of the day is the Travers Stakes, often called the Mid-Summer Derby. I believe the 2017 Travers Stakes has much more drama than the Kentucky Derby had.  The reason is because Derby winner Always Dreaming, Preakness winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont winner Tapwrit, have all entered the Travers. The race could decide 3-year-old of the year.

I preview the Travers as well as the following other Grade 1 races on the Travers Day Stakes Card:  G1 Personal Ensign, G1 Forego, and G1 Sword Dancer.

G1 Personal Ensign Stakes - Race 6

Based on her last 2 races, Songbird shouldn't be a 2 to 5 morning line favorite. I agree that she should be favored in the Personal Ensign Stakes. I just don't believe that she should be a 2 to 5 chalk. I wouldn't bet on Songbird to win this race at anything less than 8/5 odds.

What Songbird does has in her favor is the lack of any real speed. I suspect that Forever Unbridled's jockey, Joel Rosario, sticks to Songbird early. She does have enough speed to stay within a length to a length and a half.

Rosario has an outside chance of pulling off the upset. I must admit, though, I'd prefer Songbird to win this race by 10 lengths so that I can bet against her in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. If Songbird loses, both my top 2 choices to win the BC Distaff, either Stellar Wind or Vale Dori, won't offer any odds.

G1 Forego Stakes - Race 9

Drefong is the 5/2 morning line choice to win the Forego Stakes on August 26. Drefong threw Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby in his last. He shouldn't throw Mike Smith on Saturday. At the odds, though, I'm not biting.

I believe Divining Rod at 5/1 on the morning line is worth a long look. Divining Rod can either take the lead, or track Drefong if Smith definitely wants the lead with that one. Divining Rod jockey Javier Castellano hasn't had as many winners at this Saratoga Meet as he usually does. He could break out in a big way on Saturday.

G1 Sword Dancer Stakes - Race 10

2/1 morning line favorite Idaho breaks from post-position 7. Erupt, the 3 to 1 second choice, breaks right to the inside in post-position 6. Bigger Picture won the Grade 1 United Nations 2 races ago. He shouldn't go off anywhere near his 6/1 morning line odds.

What it  means is that I might get better odds on Money Multiplier than the 7/2 morning line. The Chad Brown trained runner adores Saratoga. He has 2 second place finishes and a win over the Saratoga lawn. The Sword Dancer, like every year almost, lacks any real speed, meaning that Money Multiplier should be in the best position to take over once Frank Conversation, the likely pacesetter, tires.

Also, Javier Castellano takes the call aboard Money Multiplier. I told you Javier could have a big day on Saturday.

G1 Travers Stakes - Race 11

Tapwrit is the morning line favorite at 7/2. The fact that he's only 7/2 tells us how deep the 2017 Travers Stakes is. West Coast, trained by Bob Baffert, is the second choice at 4/1. Good Samaritan is the third choice at 5/1. Derby winner Always Dreaming is the fourth choice at 6/1.

I'm not going with any of those horses. I believe Irap, the Doug O'Neil trained son of Tiznow, is the horse to beat. Irap, just like his dad, is a late-blooming three-year-old. Sure, he won the Bluegrass Stakes, but he didn't really get good until he won the Ohio Derby at Thistle Downs in June.

In July, Irap easily handled his foes in the Indiana Derby. There doesn't appear to be any speed in this race. Irap should either take the lead, or get a dream trip tracking Always Dreaming through soft fractions. If jockey Mario Gutierrez can get the jump on Tapwrit, West Coast, and Cloud Computing, he could drive Irap home first.