How to Bet the Travers Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 23rd, 2018

No matter how you slice it, Saturday’s $1,250,000 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga is the best race of this coming weekend.

With its hefty purse, huge field, challenging 1 ¼-mile distance, and competitive list of entrants, the Travers Stakes is certainly the most prestigious race of the week, and it promises to be a fantastic betting race as well. Truthfully, a case can be made for every horse in the field, so tossing anyone from consideration is easier said than done.

The 2-1 favorite on the morning line is #9 Good Magic, and deservedly so. The son of Curlin finished second behind Triple Crown winner Justify in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and while you can argue that 1 ¼ miles might be just a bit beyond his best distance, it’s hard to knock his authoritative victory in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) last month, in which he seemed in command from the start and won easily by three lengths with a 103 BRIS speed figure.

However, I was also impressed by #4 Bravazo’s runner-up effort in the Haskell. This experienced colt lost a shoe during the race and faced a tough setup trying to run down Good Magic, but despite these obstacle he fought on gamely down the homestretch and did gain some ground in the final furlong while finishing well clear of the rest.

This performance was hardly a fluke; with the benefit of a better pace setup, Bravazo finished ahead of Good Magic while running second in the Preakness Stakes (gr. II), and earlier this winter he won the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) against a quality field. As a son of Awesome Again out of a Cee’s Tizzy mare, Bravazo is bred to relish ten furlongs, and if a contested pace unfolds in the Travers, I think Bravazo can turn the tables on Good Magic and rally to victory.

#3 Gronkowski will draw support after finishing second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), but this son of Lonhro has a grinding style that was well-suited to the extended distance of the Belmont, and he also received an excellent ground-saving trip that day. Considering that he missed some training time last month and is entering the Travers off an unexpected layoff, I think he could be vulnerable on Saturday.

Likewise, #10 Tenfold will be well-bet following his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga, but this son of Curlin has raced greenly in several of his races and was especially green in the Jim Dandy, nearly giving away the race while drifting around dramatically during the final furlong. I’m not sure I trust him at a short price. The same value-based perspective applies to the filly #2 Wonder Gadot, who won the Queen’s Plate Stakes and Prince of Wales Stakes against Canadian-bred colts. She’s very good, but holds no edge here in terms of speed figures and might be over bet compared to her actual chances of winning.

#11 Catholic Boy, winner of the Belmont Derby (gr. I) on turf, ran well on dirt during the winter and could be a serious threat with his outside draw, which should help him stay out of the kickback and get a clean trip. #5 Vino Rosso has also shown flashes of significant talent during his career and was beaten less than a length in the Jim Dandy despite falling much too far off the early pace; if he can show more tactical speed in the Travers, he’ll have every chance to contend.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$6 to win on #4 Bravazo $2 exacta: 4,9 with 4,5,9,11 ($12) $1 trifecta: 4,9 with 4,5,9,11 with 3,4,5,9,10,11 ($12)

Good luck!