How to Bet the Travers

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 24th, 2018

Saturday’s $1.25 million Travers (G1) will miss the star presence of Justify but the Triple Crown winner’s retirement makes the “Mid-Summer Derby” a more compelling betting race. A nice field of 11 has been entered including Triple Crown participants Bravazo, Good Magic, Gronkowski, Mendelssohn, Tenfold and Vino Rosso. And the filly Wonder Gadot adds a level of intrigue following smashing wins over male rivals in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales.

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The July 29 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park serves as a key race in my estimation. Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up and two-year-old champ Good Magic showed his superiority that afternoon posting a three-length victory and will take some beating in the Travers, but don’t overlook the runner-up performance by Bravazo, who wound up six lengths clear of third while gaining ground on his rival in the final furlong.

1ST Selection: BRAVAZO

Three-time Travers winner and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has been pointing Bravazo to the race since his sixth in the Belmont Stakes (G1). The only three-year-old to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown along with Justify, Bravazo has performed admirably at times this season, winning the Risen Star (G2) in February and finishing second in the Preakness Stakes (G1). However, his BRIS Speed ratings finally reached triple-digit level in the last two starts and I think the Awesome Again colt’s best races are ahead of him.

He reminds me of Will Take Charge, who captured the Rebel Stakes (G2) early in his three-year-old season but wasn’t a serious factor in the Triple Crown events. That Lukas trainee signaled he could be a force in the second half of the season when recording a runner-up in the Jim Dandy (G2) and followed with his first Grade 1 triumph in the Travers.

Good Magic was too good for Bravazo last time but circumstances were different. Chad Brown was under extreme pressure with Good Magic, who had been a bit of a disappointment entering the Haskell with only two career wins, and Brown had his pupil geared for his best at a 1 1/8-mile distance that favored him. Lukas used the Haskell as a steppingstone for a supreme showing at a 1 1/4-mile Travers distance that benefits Bravazo.

Saturday will be Bravazo’s turn to shine.

2ND Selection: GOOD MAGIC

Good Magic is the only other runner I want on my multi-race tickets. I thought he looked much-improved in the Haskell, registering a 103 BRIS Speed rating that towers over the disappointing numbers he was posting earlier this year, and the chestnut Curlin colt has made a good impression in a pair of works since according to reports. His tactical speed should ensure a good trip with Jose Ortiz.


An excellent winner of the Belmont Derby (G1) and Pennine Ridge (G2) in his last two outings, Catholic Boy will switch from turf-to-dirt and rates as a wildcard for Jonathon Thomas. The front-running colt showed good form on dirt as a juvenile and catches a Travers field that appears to lack pace. Didn’t like the far outside draw, but Catholic Boy remains eligible to show good speed under Javier Castellano and the last two runnings of the Travers have been won wire-to-wire.


Wonder Gadot faces an extreme class check after defeating suspect Canadian-bred foes in her last two appearances. But it would be foolish to dismiss her chances outright given how big she ran. The Medaglia d’Oro filly is coming on presently for Mark Casse and won’t be far back in the early stages with her tactical speed. She appears capable of grabbing a share under Irad Ortiz Jr.


$20 Win & Place: 4 ($40)
$10 Exacta Box: 4-9 ($20)
$5 Exactas: 4 over 2,9,11 ($15)
$1 Trifecta Part-Wheel: 4 over 2,9,11 over 2,3,5,9,10,11 ($15)

Total Budget: $90

Good luck betting the Travers!