Improving Irap rates top billing in deep Travers

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 25th, 2017

“Great betting race” has become synonymous with Saturday’s $1.25 million Travers (G1). It’s impossible to envision a short-priced favorite in the Midsummer Derby, with the potential for eight of the 12 horses to be 10-1 or less come post time, and only three lack a graded stakes victory including Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee and stakes debuter Fayeq.

The Triple Crown is well-represented with all three classic winners present and a total of seven runners from the Kentucky Derby. New faces include a pair of well-regarded candidates in Jim Dandy (G2) romper Good Samaritan and West Coast, an up-and-coming colt for two-time Travers victor Bob Baffert.

Irap has transformed from professional maiden into a formidable 3-year-old. His 31-1 Blue Grass (G2) upset in early April was dismissed as a fluke, with the son of Tiznow becoming the first maiden scorer in the race’s storied history, and he was done early in the Kentucky Derby after experiencing trouble at the start.

He’s improved remarkably since the first Saturday in May. Irap came back to edge Girvin by a nose in the Ohio Derby (G3) on June 24, registering an outstanding 109 BRIS Speed, and was flattered when that rival followed with a Haskell Invitational (G1) tally.

Trainer Doug O’Neill wheeled his charge back three weeks later for the Ohio Derby (G3) and Irap couldn’t have been more visually impressive dominating by five lengths. And while most observers questioned the caliber of the competition at the time, Colonelsdarktemper parlayed a clear runner-up effort in a victory in the West Virginia Derby (G2) next time out.

Despite being lesser events, Irap has certainly distinguished himself in the last two starts. And it’s easy to appreciate how he’s developed into as strong finisher. After mostly registering BRIS Late Pace numbers in 70s and 80s during his first nine starts, the bay colt has posted a 109 and 110 in the last two outings.

His recent BRIS numbers are the best in the field.

Post position is important and Irap received a perfect spot in gate 10 given his tactical speed. He’s fast enough to establish good position entering the first bend and should avoid any traffic congestion while stalking the front-runners.

Irap is my Travers pick.

I’ll play him over Girvin and Good Samaritan in vertical exotics and use all three runners in multi-race bets.

It promises to be a dynamite race.