A look at the Travers 5 without Triple Crown experience

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 24th, 2016

For only the second time in its 147-year history, the $1.25 million Travers (G1) will feature a full field of 14. And most names are familiar, with nine entrants competing in Triple Crown races this spring, including Preakness (G1) winner Exaggerator and Belmont Stakes (G1) upsetter Creator.

Let’s take a look at the five runners who bypassed the 2016 Triple Crown:

Chad Brown, a native of nearby Mechanicville, New York who is poised to win his first local training title with a 10-win advantage over Todd Pletcher and only two weeks remaining, is launching a serious bid for his first Travers victory, sending out a trio including Connect and Gift Box, the top two finishers in the July 29 Curlin Stakes at the Spa.

After being sidelined nearly the first half of the season, both colts rate as intriguing contenders in their Grade 1 bow.

Listed as the 4-1 second choice on the morning line, Connect easily broke his maiden when opening the year at Belmont Park in early May and followed with another convincing tally over entry-level allowance foes on June 11. A son of Curlin, the dark bay led wire to wire when making his stakes and two-turn debut last time, scoring by a length in the 1 1/8-mile event, and he looms as a legitimate win threat Saturday with further improvement. Connect is bred to handle the extra ground and should be forwardly-placed under 2005 Travers winner John Velazquez.

Gift Box owns more juvenile experience, establishing himself as a Kentucky Derby prospect when concluding 2015 with a runner-up to Mohaymen in the Remsen (G2), but he disappeared from the worktab over the winter and didn’t reappear until May 26, returning with a smashing 4 ½-length victory over a salty allowance field at Belmont. The gray son of Twirling Candy was favored at even-money in the Curlin but the race didn’t set up well for his late kick with Connect being the lone speed. Gift Box should receive a favorable set-up this time, with a contentious pace expected in the bulky field, and is eligible to keep moving forward in the third start back. I expect him to make an impact from post 9.

American Freedom and Arrogate got on track too late for this year’s Triple Crown, making their first career appearance in April, but they’ve established themselves as highly-promising prospects for Bob Baffert. The Southern California-based colts have invaded upstate New York for the Hall of Fame conditioner, who will be seeking his second Travers triumph after taking the 2001 edition with Point Given.

Runner-up to Exaggerator in the July 31 Haskell (G1), American Freedom is a stakes veteran despite making only five starts, jumping straight to black-type competition after winning first-out. He captured the May 21 Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard before a 4 ¾-length romp in the July 1 Iowa Derby (G3) and the Pulpit colt could still be any kind. However, the speedy American Freedom will have to overcome a tough inside draw (post 2) while removing blinkers. Rafael Bejarano will be in to ride.

Arrogate has reeled off three straight wins since dropping his debut, including a sharp allowance tally over older horses at Del Mar on August 4, and the son of Unbridled’s Song will try stakes company in outstanding form. I like how he’s registered century-topping BRIS Late Pace ratings in all four outings, including a whopping 114 last time, and won’t be surprised to see Arrogate come charging late if he can overcome the rail post.

Anaximandros completes the quintet but the South Florida-based colt appears overmatched following a non-threatening fourth at 52-1 odds in the West Virginia Derby (G2).