Shapiro's Top Four for the 2017 Travers
The three-year-old picture is as murky as ever in 2017. With three different victors in the Triple Crown races for the second consecutive year and two other unique winners in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2) , the Travers (G1) will go a long way in determining champion three-year-old male in 2017.
The 12-horse field offers a plethora of ways to go as Belmont S. (G1) winner Tapwrit is listed as the lukewarm 7-2-morning line favorite, while Easy Goer and Los Alamitos Derby (G3) winner West Coast as the 4-1-second choice as Hall of Famer Bob Baffert attempts to make it back-to-back Travers after the eye-popping performance last year from Arrogate.
After much deliberation here are my top four selections in this years "Midsummer Derby":
#3 West Coast -- The $425,000 Keeneland September 2015 purchase missed his two-year-old season, but has done little wrong during his three-year-old campaign. The Gary and Mary West-owned colt has rattled off three straight wins, including a 3 3/4-length score in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day followed up by a 2 3/4-length victory in the Los Alamitos Derby.
Most years the Travers would be seen as a class check for the son of Flatter, but this year that is not the case. He should have little issue getting the 1 1/4-mile distance and his connections are clearly capable of winning big races.
The most likely winner, but the price will be too low to wager on him to win.
#10 Irap -- This Reddam Racing colt struggled to win races as a two-year-old and early on in his three-year-old campaign, but broke through for his maiden score in the Blue Grass (G2) and has done little wrong outside of the poor performance over an off track in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The son of Tiznow was given a near seven-week freshening after the "Run for the Roses" and has come back in the best form of his career.
A hard fought victory against Haskell winner Girvin in the Ohio Derby (G3) followed by a dominating five-length score in the Indiana Derby (G3) have his connections feeling good as he makes his first start in the Northeast Corridor on Saturday.
I have slight concerns on whether he can get the 1 1/4-mile distance, but I love his current form. At anything higher than 10-1 I will consider getting involved on the win end and will strongly consider him as a key in the vertical wagers if he looks well on the racetrack.
#1 Cloud Computing -- The Preakness (G1) winner put up a "dud" in the Jim Dandy in his first start off the nine-week layoff for trainer Chad Brown. It was a bad race, but I am all but certain that Brown's goal was the Travers and not the Jim Dandy so I will forgive that effort and expect much better on Saturday afternoon.
He draws well to the inside and should get a great stalking trip under jockey Javier Castellano.
His effort in the Preakness may be the best race we have seen from this crop in 2017. A repeat of that effort is likely going to be good enough to get him his second Grade 1 win.
If he drifts up from his 8-1-morning line price I will consider a win wager. Like Irap, I will make a decision after I see them on the track as to whether I want to key vertical wagers around this son of Maclean's Music.
#6 Girvin -- The Haskell winner has done virtually nothing wrong outside of the poor performance in the Kentucky Derby in May. That is easily excused due to his health issues. He probably would have been scratched had it been any other race. He has finished in the top two in all six of his other starts and has put forth two of his best races since the start of the summer.
I have concerns that he may regress off of the strong performance in New Jersey, but respect his consistency and his ability to stalk or come from well off the pace depending on the flow of the race.
I will not consider a win wager, but will use him on all tickets.
Good luck on the big day!