Look for Cloud Computing to rebound in the Travers
A dozen three-year-ols will line up for the 148th running of the Travers (G1) on Saturday afternoon in sunny Saratoga Springs, New York. To show you how well-balanced the field is, morning-line maker Travis Stone made Belmont S. (G1) winner TAPWRIT a tepid 7-2 favorite and half the field were designated at single-digit odds.
My initial reaction from watching the prep races was that the Jim Dandy (G2) is most likely to produce this year's Travers winner. The Haskell Invitational (G1), at Monmouth Park, was a strong race, but it's hard for me to think this year's renewal will produce a Travers winner. GIRVIN made an improbable rally from behind to get up by a nose over MCCRACKEN and PRACTICAL JOKE was right there in between horses for third.
Practical Joke is turning back to seven furlongs Saturday for the Allen Jerkens (G1) going seven furlongs. McCracken is a good horse, but has not been inspiring confidence this year with only one win and is a question mark at 10 furlongs.
Girvin is the real deal and is versatile enough to work out a trip here in behind the speed. Trainer Joe Sharp has taken care of the hoof problems that plagued him all spring and his last two starts have been solid. He never strikes me as being brilliant but more workmanlike.
IRAP beat Girvin by a nose two starts back in the Ohio Derby (G3) then came back and won the Indiana Derby (G3) by five lengths. He has been relaxing in his races, and if you give Girvin a chance, you have to give Irap a chance.
This year's Jim Dandy attracted the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, ALWAYS DREAMING, and the Preakness (G1) winner CLOUD COMPUTING. Since the Belmont winner Tapwrit trained up to the Travers, the Jim Dandy clearly had the strongest field.
When it was run on July 29, the Saratoga main track was being dominated by inside speed horses. Before the Jim Dandy, the main track was watered heavily. After the race, the horses that raced behind others were covered with mud.
Even though the track was favoring inside paths and speed, running times were very slow at the start of the meet so even though it looks like Always Dreaming was getting away with an easy pace, it was closer to par than fast. PAVEL was expected to go to the lead but when he didn't, it allowed Johnny Velazquez to put Always Dreaming on a loose lead. On the first turn, Pavel came over on GIUSEPPE THE GREAT and caused him to tap on the breaks and get off Cloud Computing's heels.
When Pavel did not show up as a pace factor, it hurt Cloud Computing more than anyone since now he had to do the dirty work and try to apply pressure earlier than he wanted. Midway around the far turn, the three leaders bunched up through six furlongs in 1:13.27.
At the top of the stretch, Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Pavel were three abreast. Luis Saez pulled Giuseppe the Great to the outside and loomed boldly, and just when it looked like he might pull off the upset, GOOD SAMARITAN was widest of all and blew right by everyone to win going away. Giuseppe the Great surged to hold second and Always Dreaming battled on the rail to get third.
It was Good Samaritan's first start on dirt and he won it with authority. He ran his last three furlongs in :36.13 while out in the middle of the track. The question for me is how will he run with horses directly in front of him? Joel Rosario had him so far behind in the Jim Dandy and took the widest path of all, he never got a lot of kickback.
Turf horses dislike racing on dirt for two reasons: First, the footing; turf provides a better grip when the horse's hooves make contact than dirt. Second, the kickback; turf horses are not used to handling the clogs of dirt that get kicked back and they are likely to throw their heads up and lose interest in running.
Good Samaritan never had any kickback in the Jim Dandy racing far behind and outside of four other horses. In the Travers, he will have 11 other horses to contend with and I can't see him getting the ideal set up he got in the Jim Dandy. Not saying he can't; just that he won't.
In a counterintuitive move, I like the horse that could not get by Always Dreaming and weakened to finish last, even behind Pavel. I think Cloud Computing has a burst of acceleration that he can unleash with a better setup. He draws the rail and should be able to let others do the dirty work before Javier Castellano pushes the button.
The main track is currently very different than the one they raced over four weeks ago, and Cloud Computing should have gotten a lot of conditioning out of it. Look for him to bounce back and give trainer Chad Brown a victory in his home track's biggest race.
(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club photo)