BC Big Bet Battle Royale picks for Travers Day
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The Editorial team at brisnet.com is getting involved in the fun, providing selections for the remaining contest races. Here are their thoughts on Saturday’s Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), Forego H. (G1), Personal Ensign Invitational (G1) and Ballerina S. (G1).
James Scully: Flintshire certainly appears formidable but the Group 1 winner will have to negotiate a tight Saratoga inner turf and could leave himself too much to do. WAR DANCER (#8) broke on top last time in the Bowling Green but got shuffled back to fifth rounding the first turn, tossing his head in displeasure at being restrained behind horses during the early stages. He still ran a huge race to be a clear second, threatening to win after being swung five wide into the stretch, and the early speed isn’t present today. Jose Lezcano figures to send his mount straight to the lead from post 8, controlling the action up front, and the 5yo son of War Front has really come on this season since being transferred to Bill Mott. I’ll tab him wire to wire, $15 to win on #8
Vance Hanson: He enters with a reputation of consistently settling for minor awards in many of the world’s biggest turf events, and thus might be worth trying to beat here. However, it’s hard to make a strong case that any of the same old domestic faces lining up against him will knock off FLINTSHIRE (#2). Basically here in search of firmer ground that what presently exists in Europe, he owns a decided class edge against these after placing in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1), and Coronation Cup (G1). If conditions suit he’s bound for a second try in the Arc, and what other horse in the Sword Dancer’s presence would make sense in that race? $15 to win on #2.
Kellie Reilly: With far and away the best form in this race, Flintshire has every right to win this as a deserving favorite on his preferred firm ground. But at a short price, there is a slight concern about his vulnerability around a tight, left-handed inner turf circuit. His traveling head lad said as much last fall, in the wake of his runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. And that's just enough for me to take a swing with the rapidly improving MESSI (#6) for Graham Motion. The Gestut Brummerhof homebred was obviously disappointing in his native Germany, but connections must have thought it was worth giving him a chance at rehabilitation in the U.S. The gelded son of New Approach has justified that gamble by going two-for-two, both in decisive fashion in allowance/optional claiming company, the latter over this same inner course. This is admittedly a substantial leap in class, but he appears ready for a real test, gets in rather light at 116 pounds, keeps John Velazquez aboard, and rates as a tantalizing 10-1. If you find the usual U.S. suspects suspect, aim to beat Flintshire, and believe that Guardini has a few question marks, then Messi's the one. $15 to win on #6.
Vance Hanson: For a horse that looked like a rising star in the older male ranks when dominating the nine-furlong Oaklawn H. (G2) in April, RACE DAY (#1) seemed ill-suited on paper to a two-turn mile at Monmouth in the Salvator Mile (G3) last time. Although an odds-on favorite, other signs (i.e. involuntary long layoff preceding the race) suggested he was vulnerable – and he was. Things might be different as he cuts back to seven furlongs here. He’ll undoubtedly get a hot pace to chase, and he was quite effective in such a scenario around one turn at Gulfstream last winter. Potentially being buried on the rail is the main drawback, but a rebound from such a poor effort is worth considering at or near his 6-1 morning line price. $15 to win on #1.
Jennifer Caldwell: The logical choice in the Forego S. (G1) is last-out Belmont Sprint Championship S. (G3) victor Private Zone, a three-time Grade 1 winner who is 6-3-2-0 at the seven-furlong distance. However, the race also includes WILDCAT RED (#4) and I’m looking for a turnaround from the four-year-old. Wildcat Red has won from 6 1/2 furlongs all the way to 1 1/16 miles. However, it’s his stubborn refusal to quit when challenged in the stretch that endears the Jose Garoffalo charge to fans like me. The bay recently gutted out a head score in the Teddy Drone S. at Monmouth Park and could use that as a stepping-board to bigger things in the Forego. $15 to win on #4.
Vance Hanson: Champion Untapable has not reproduced her best form this year and the relative class of Sheer Drama is still a bit in doubt despite her recent Delaware H. (G1) score against a soft field. That leaves STOPCHARGINGMARIA (#4) as the one to beat in this nine-furlong test. She had to gut out a one-length score over Untapable in the Shuvee H. (G3) last time, but was asked to do so off a 2 1/2-month layoff. In doing so she improved her record at Saratoga to four wins in five starts. In other words, she thrives at this track. She’s never run especially fast, and perhaps has accomplished more than she would have if she’d come along at another time, but I like her chances to prove narrowly best against the East Coast’s top fillies and mares. $15 to win on #4.
Jennifer Caldwell: SHEER DRAMA (#2) has been a gutsy performer her entire career and, following a nice two-length score in the Delaware H. (G1) last out, is in line to make it two in a row on Saturday in the Personal Ensign S. (G1). The five-year-old mare has won or placed in eight of her last nine races, including a three-quarter length second in the La Troienne S. (G1). She’s no stranger to the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign distance either, rallying for second in the Fleur de Lis H. (G2) in mid-June. The David Fawkes trainee brings regular pilot Joe Bravo in for the ride, and the duo could school their younger rivals. $15 to win on #2.
Kellie Reilly: I'm often guilty of sticking with horses despite indicators that they've gone off the boil (Exhibit A: Bayern in the Pacific Classic [G1]). And I might be doing so again here with UNTAPABLE (#6). Still, there are three cogent reasons why the champion filly can turn the tables on Stopchargingmaria, who beat her in the Shuvee (G3) last time over this track and trip. First, trainer Steve Asmussen wasn't even certain of running Untapable in the Shuvee, at one point suggesting that she could await this race, which he defined as "her main target" at Saratoga. Second, there's precedent for Untapable disappointing in her prep and rebounding for her main target: she was second as the 1-10 favorite in the Azeri (G2) before dominating the Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn this spring, in a timespan much the same as the 27 days between the Shuvee and the Personal Ensign. Third, Untapable was drawn inside of Stopchargingmaria in the Shuvee, but now finds herself in the tactical catbird's seat on the outside. That could presage a reversal of roles, and of form. $15 to win on #6.
Ed DeRosa: Going to go with SHEER DRAMA (#2) who will be third choice and is consistently as fast as Stopchargingmaria or Untpable with triple digit Brisnet.com Speed Ratings all year. $15 to win on 2.
James Scully: The pace figures to be hot and seven furlongs isn’t La Verdad’s best distance (0-for-2). Liked how UNBRIDLED FOREVER (#7) came back from a lengthy layoff to post a confidence-building win last time, finishing fast to snap a seven-race losing streak, and she’s eligible to be more formidable with a tightener under her belt and a prime set-up. I like her from off the pace with John Velazquez, $15 to win on #7.
Jennifer Caldwell: The seven-furlong Ballerina S. (G1) has attracted tenacious winner LA VERDAD (#2) and the bay mare is just going too good right now to pick against. The five-year-old has strung together four straight wins, three in romping fashion, including the Honorable Miss H. (G2) last out over the track while going six furlongs. La Verdad tried this race last year and ended up fifth, but that also came after a fifth-placing in the 2014 Honorable Miss as well. The Linda Rice pupil is riding a hot streak right now and keeps regular jockey Jose Ortiz in the irons. $15 to win #2.
Ed DeRosa: DAME DOROTHY (#6) is 4-for-4 at the seven-furlong distance sticks out here. I’m a buyer at 3-1 but if she floats down and MERRY MEADOW (#3) floats up I’d look at Merry Meadow at 4-1 or better getting a couple pounds and able to pop a 100+ number. Seven furlongs is a concern for Merry Meadow, but I like her at this trip more than La Verdad, who as the favorite is an absolute bet against at this distance. $15 to win on #6 if 3-1 or greater, but if less then $15 to win on #3 at 4-1 or better.