Travers Stakes Fallout: No 3-Year-Old Classic Contender Emerges

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D.S. Williamson

August 26th, 2018

Catholic Boy and Mendelssohn ran one-two in the 2018 Travers Stakes. Offering 5/1 odds, Catholic Boy buried Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn beat everyone else, making up for his horrible race in the Kentucky Derby. Catholic Boy was so impressive that some horseplayers immediately jumped to proclaiming Catholic Boy a Breeders' Cup Classic contender. That's not the case.

Check out the two biggest surprises from the Travers Stakes along with reasons why Catholic Boy isn't yet ready to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Travers Stakes Fallout: No 3-Year-Old Classic Contender Emerges

Catholic Boy and (gasp!) Mendelssohn Romp

Catholic Boy looked sensational beating the saddles off his competition. He got right into it with pace-setter Mendelssohn. The two ran the quarter in 23.30. They ran the half-mile in 47.81. They got the 3/4 miles in 1:11.97. They still finished first and second.

Catholic Boy's form pointed to a huge race. He had beaten Analyze It, a great runner in the Grade 1 Belmont Invitational over the turf. Catholic Boy took the lead in that race and held off Analyze It. Before turning to turf, he had won the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct over the dirt last year before finishing second in the Sam F.  Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay and fourth in the Florida Derby.

Mendelssohn holding off Bravazo was a much bigger surprise than Catholic Boy winning the Travers Stakes. Mendelssohn ran his race. If Catholic Boy hadn't entered, Mendelssohn would have won. That's a major surprise for those who had written off the Aidain O'Brien trained Scat Daddy sired colt after his terrible Kentucky Derby and equally horrible Dwyer Stakes races.

Good Magic, Gronkowski, and Wonder Gadot Fail

The most surprising thing to come from the 2018 Travers Stakes is how Good Magic, Gronkowski, and Wonder Gadot failed. Not only did the three fail, they finished in the three last positions in the race. Gronkowski finished third last, Good Magic finished second last, and Wonder Gadot finished last. Wonder Gadot might have been in too deep. The colts she beat in the Queen's Plate weren't close to these.

Gronkowski just didn't fire. Good Magic had nothing, either. Even Chad Brown should find it difficult to know why both Gronkowski and Good Magic ran so poorly. Both had never run that badly. Good Magic went into the Travers off his great Haskell score. Gronkowski went into the Travers off his second place finish to Justify in the Belmont Stakes.

Could the speed-favoring track have something to do with it? Maybe. Or, both Gronk and Good Magic could be tired after grueling early year races.

Catholic Boy not a Classic Contender...Yet

As good as Catholic Boy looked, he's not a Breeders'  Cup Classic contender yet. He finished up the 1 1/4 miles over an obviously speed-favoring Saratoga track in 2:01.94. If the track had been fairer, he still might have won but the time might not have been as impressive. He most definitely wouldn't have drubbed his competition the way he did.

That doesn't mean Catholic doesn't get better in time for the Breeders' Cup Classic. He'll have his hands full on the lead, though. Three front-runners, pressers, lead the older male division. Accelerate won the Pacific Classic last week by 12 lengths. He could have won by 15 lengths. Diversify won both the Suburban and the Whitney on the lead while West Coast, who has yet to run his prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, likes to lie 1 to 2 lengths behind the speed.

Will Catholic Boy improve enough to challenge Accelerate, Diversify, and West Coast int he Pacific Classic? Not likely, which means if his connections want to win a Breeders' Cup race, they should consider the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, or the Breeders' Cup Mile.