Predicteform Travers Preview: Who to bet and who should be 1,000-to-1

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TwinSpires Staff

August 28th, 2015

In-depth analysis of the 2015 Travers Stakes including Pace Figures and Past Performances each starter. Please refer to the Legend or Pattern Guide for back-up definitions and patterns.

The Grade I Travers Stakes from Saratoga Race Course is horse racing's Mid-Summer Classic. Run 10 furlongs for just three year-old's, the purse of this Grade I affair has been raised to $1.65mm solely to attract Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

The last Triple Crown winner to win the Travers was Whirlaway 75 years ago. TV coverage begins at 4pm ET on Saturday on NBC. The Grade I Forego (7 furlongs) and the Grade I Sword Dancer (12 furlongs on turf) are the pre-cursors to the Travers which has a post time of 5:45pm ET.

We now present the Race Analysis, Pace Figures and Past Performances for the Travers Stakes from the SPA.

Listen to the Travers Podcast with Brisnet's Ed DeRosa and Predicteform co-founder Danny Zucker.
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Upstart (15/1)

Here's what we had to say about Upstart's chances in the Haskell Stakes.

The Play: Too Slow – very tough to endorse as noted above; add to it the rail, lack of tactical speed and the second choice of 6/1 m/l, and eliminating this runner becomes an important part of hitting the Haskell exacta.

He was heavily bet in the Haskell (as the Violette barn sometimes is) going off at his morning-line odds and ran a decent but unimpressive and distant third. He did run a 78.8 lifetime top, 2.5 points higher than his best effort which came as a two year-old. It's tough to say whether this final figure is him getting back to his pre-Derby form or a “suck-along” effort in a race dominated by the best three year-old in 40 years.

In either case, the jockey switch back to his regular rider, Jose Ortiz Jr. will help greatly, but just not sure it's enough in this field.

Value Play: Average - it's more likely he regresses (than improves) off that final top, especially at 10 furlongs.

American Pharoah (1/5)

Here's what we had to say about AP prior to the Haskell:

Wining the Belmont Stakes in dominating fashion, American Pharoah earned his place in the record books as the twelfth Triple Crown winner. His final figure was just under 80, giving him three races in the 80 range with a rain soaked 74 at the Preakness sandwiched in between (note – the track condition for just the Preakness was so slow that final figures in that race could be moved up 5 points). Not only does he find a soft spot to return to racing, but there is an inflated purse (from $1mm to$1.75mm) and an automatic bid with travel into the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Hats off to the folks at Monmouth and title sponsor William Hill, both whom worked hard to make this race happen. AP is expected to be the easiest of winners.

Since there is so much being said in the news about Baffert and Zayat's decision to run in the Travers and his PP's speak for themselves with eight wins in a row and lifetime earnings of $5.6mm (vs. the entire field that's earned $5.77mm), we will wholly concentrate on his Pace Figures to tell the story.

His 82/79.1 Pace Figure in the Haskell was mind-bending. A lifetime top, eclipsing his 81.4 in the Derby, Pharoah now goes back to 10 furlongs in the Travers, the same distance as the Derby.

His 4f, 6f and final figures in the most recent race are each the highest in the field. And using the Value Plays sorter, he own the highest Average Final, Average 4F, Last Final, Last 4F and Top Final (lifetime). This author has never seen such domination using the Value Play sort tool.

Improving off an 82 final figure at 10 furlongs has got to be near impossible, so it's reasonable to expect regression (for a normal horse). That's the single and only possible weakness in his armor. The short turnaround of four weeks could be considered a negative but in this case it's the same situation for the main contenders.

Eric Donovan, the oddsmaker at NYRA since 2005 said this is only the third horse in 10 years he has made at 1-5 (Lost in the Fog in the 2005 King's Bishop and Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Mother Goose).

Value Play: Fringe Contender - In a race where the winner's Final Pace Figure will be an expected 79-80, even regression puts American Pharoah in the top spot. From a value perspective he will have little at 1/5 or 1/9, hence the Fringe Contender label, so the best case here is to pair him in an exacta on top.

Mild Ocean (50/1)

Starting next to the greatest three year-old in a generation is Mild Ocean who just broke his maiden after FIVE tries. With earnings of just $33K lifetime, his Final Figure of 73 was his lifetime top.

Value Play: Too Slow – his eighth place finish nets him $45k which is more than he could earn winning an allowance race in the company he belongs. His true odds are closer to 5000/1.

Texas Red (8/1)

After a win in the Grade II Jim Dandy, Texas Red gets his long awaited rematch with American Pharoah. Rewinding back to September 2014, Texas Red ran a closing third to American Pharoah in the Front Runner Stakes. He went on to dominate the Breeders' Cup Juvenile just a few months later followed by a winter turnout.

Following his three year-old return in the Grade II San Vicente, he developed a foot abscess which sidelined him through the Triple Crown run, only to make his aforementioned return to the track on Independence Day.

Bred by Stonestreet Farms, he was sold as a yearling in 2012 for just $17,000, one of the lowest prices paid for a yearling out of this quality producing farm. Trained and ridden by the Desormeaux brothers, the Travers is the third start off a layoff, an appreciated positive handicapping angle.

From a Pace Figure perspective, his last effort was a lifetime top of 77.9 which is just the fifth fastest in that Value Play category. Another cause for concern is the added distance of 10 furlongs, a furlong longer than he has ever run. His dam's best runner was Seto Arrow, a pure sprinter who campaigned in Japan.

Value Play: Average – stretching out while running an improved final pace figure seems unlikely.

Frammento (30/1)

Another that has clearly entered in a class way over his level; Frammento has been beaten by a combined 68 lengths in his last six starts, including a whupping by American Pharoah, Upstart and Texas Red. He's got one win lifetime, breaking his maiden in October 2014. His trainer, Nick Zito, is zero for Saratoga and he gets his seventh new rider in his last seven starts.

His most recent three final figures are 72.3 – 74.7 – 76.4, a clear decline as well.

Value Play: Too Slow –the six graded stakes efforts with nothing to show and no consideration to find the appropriate class level, tells me this owner is more concerned with being in the big races than having a shot. His true odds are about 250/1.

Frosted (6/1)

A hard trying runner, Frosted has found the winner's circle only twice in ten starts. He ran second to Texas Red in the Jim Dandy and never really had a shot to beat him as Red got a better early position. It was an odd race as there were only four starters.

He's got a reputation on the backside as a “hanger,” which essentially means he ranges up to the leader but is unable to get by. His most recent work on 8/20 was an ultra impressive 1st of 20 workers representing a bullet as the fastest time of the morning. This does support the notion that he is on a positive form cycle as the Jim Dandy was off a two monthly layoff (post Triple Crown).

He's put up back to back 78 final figures with a lifetime best of 80 in the Derby. There is something to like about these three efforts in row and the stretch-out back to 10 furlongs. The 78's represent a foundation while the 80 shows he can push the upper limit.

Value Play: Top Contender – while American Pharoah is the most likely winner, there is more value with Frosted at his morning-line odds of 6/1. In either case, progression is expected which put him as AP's main threat (if there is such a thing).

Keen Ice (12/1)

Here's what we had to say about Keen Ice prior to the Haskell:

Keen Ice picks a good spot to return to racing and with his late closing kick in a race with little more than grade III miler's, Keen Ice is our pick to run second to Pharoah.

The Haskell unfolded exactly as we expected with AP running away and Keen Ice closing to complete a cold exacta ($10). In the process, Keen Ice ran a lifetime top of 80.2, a three point jump from his race prior (Belmont Stakes).

Leading jockey Javier Castellano gets the mount as Kent Desormeaux chooses to stay aboard Texas Red. Look for “Jave” to try and stay closer to the lead, therefore reducing the number of lengths needed to close in the stretch.

Value Play: Average – combine his closing kick with a lack of competition and Keen Ice is a possibility for the bottom of tri's and superfectas.

Tale of Verve (30/1)

After a remarkable late closing second to American Pharoah in the Preakness (28/1), Tale of Verve has come back down to earth finishing sixth and seventh respectively in the WV Derby and Belmont Stakes by a combined 25 lengths.

With just one maiden win and his best performance at the Preakness Stakes on a very sloppy track, it seems like he freaked on that off track and is otherwise not near a Graded Stakes contender.

Value Play: Too Slow – the Travers pays down to eighth place ($45k) which is unlike most races that pay the top five, hence the reason why you see at least half the field with almost no shot taking a place in the starting gate.

King of New York (50/1)

A distant third by seven lengths to Smart Transition, King of New York is another looking to capitalize on the fact that the Travers pays all the way down to finishing eighth.

Not only are his two best final figures on turf but his last race final figure was 68.7, the lowest in the field.

Value Play: Too Slow – a massive improvement would be needed to compete, another with true odds north of 150/1.

Smart Transition (20/1)

A steadily improving, late developing three year-old, Smart Transition comes into the Travers off a nice win in the Curlin Stakes at 9 furlongs. Other positives include two bullet works following the win and a positive jockey change to Johnny Velazquez, one of the best big time race riders.

He starts from the very outside ten post which will enable his rider to be opportunistic as it relates to going fast early and getting a stalking position.

He is the only runner to a dam name Zardana who earned over $500k as a multiple stakes winner. This foundation on the female side of his family supports the idea that the added distance from 9f to 10f should be manageable.

He's run no worse than a 71.6 final (which was in the Curlin); while his best effort lifetime was his first race out at 75.

Value Play: Too Slow – while his figures are considerably slower than the top three in this race, he is sitting on a positive line and might have enough positives in his corner to use on the bottom of exotics.