Shapiro's Travers Day All-Stakes Pick 5

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August 7th, 2020

It is Travers weekend in upstate New York and the racing office at Saratoga Race Course put together an outstanding 12-race Satuday card headlined by the return of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tiz the Law in the “Midsummer Derby.” The featured event is the final leg of an all-stakes Pick 5 that also includes a pair of Grade 1 races for females at 7 furlongs.

Race 7: Ballerina (G1)

I do not trust any of the favorites in the first of three Grade 1s on the Saturday slate.

#1 Serengeti Empress ran extremely well on the cutback to one turn in last year’s Test (G1), losing to champion Covfefe by just a half-length, but I am not sure the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner is the same horse. She showed little fight when failing to hit the board as the clear-cut second choice in the Fleur de Lis (G2) in late June after a no-show in the Apple Blossom (G1). The Alternation filly is unlikely to have things her way with other speed drawn to her outside on Saturday afternoon.

#4 Bellafina has struggled in starts outside of California throughout her career and ran poorly in her runner-up effort as the 1-2-favorite in the Great Lady M (G2) on the Fourth of July. Like Serengeti Empress she likely peaked as a 3-year-old.

#7 Come Dancing is the likeliest to hit the wire first of the three top choices on oddsmaker David Aragona’s morning line, but I do not trust the Malibu Moon mare. She has run some big races, including her 3 1/2-length victory in last year’s Ballerina and has shown an affinity for the Saratoga main track, but her last three starts suggest she has seen better days.

#5 Letruska draws favorably on the cutback to 7 furlongs for trainer Fausto Gutierrez. If the 9-time winner can avoid getting caught in an early tussle with Serengeti Empress and #2 Cookie Dough she has a big shot to win her first Grade 1 in the States. If Ricardo Santana is unable to relax the Super Saver filly, it will set things up for #6 Pink Sands. The 5-year-old mare lacks early zip, but has shown a ferocious turn of foot. She is a must-use at her 10-1 morning line price.

Race 8: Troy (G3)

The favorites are also difficult to trust in this 5 1/2-furlong dash over the lawn. #1 Imprimis was awesome in 2018 and early 2019, but ran sixth at Royal Ascot and was not the same horse when he returned to the States. The time off should do him well, but the 6-year-old gelding draws the rail and lacks speed making him tough to endorse off the bench at 8-5.

#4 Shekky Shebaz is a perfect 2-for-2 over the Saratoga turf course, but has tailed off considerably in 2020 after posting four consecutive triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings to end his 2019 campaign. I will let him beat me.

I am not in love with #5 Pure Sensation at his 3-1-morning line price, but I expect the son of Zensational to run much better than he did in the Jaipur (G1). The 14-time winner has won 2 of 5 at the Spa and should get a perfect trip just off #2 American Sailor. I will include the $2 million earner defensively, but prefer the value #6 Pulsate and #7 Chewing Gum offer. Both will have to make up a lot of ground in the lane, but should get an honest pace to run at.  

Race 9: Waya (G3)

I lack a strong opinion in this marathon event over the grass. #1 Mrs. Sippy will be tough to beat if she can replicate her effort in the Glens Falls (G2) last August, but she has not competed since a poor start cost her all chance in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1). #4 My Sister Nat raced against the flow after a slow start in the New York (G2) and has every right to improve with a more favorable race shape. However, her lack of victories since arriving in North America makes her tough to get excited about at 2-1.

I will spread in hopes that the pace is slow and #2 Beau Belle or #7 Fools Gold can slow things down early and have enough late to hang on.

Race 10: Test (G1)

#5 Gamine, first past the post in all three starts, looks like an absolute standout for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. The $1.8 million Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2019 purchase for Michael Lund Petersen crushed a field of seven earning a massive 109 Brisnet Speed rating in her first try versus graded stakes competition in the Acorn (G1). The daughter of Into Mischief may regress a bit off of that eye-popping performance at Belmont Park, but she should have no issue here. Onto the Kentucky Oaks. Single the chalk.

Race 11: Travers (G1)

Kentucky Derby favorite #6 Tiz the Law was much the best in his win in the Belmont, the first leg of the Triple Crown this year, but now faces the toughest assignment of his career. The Sackatoga Stable colt not only has to prove he can handle the arduous 1 1/4-mile trip at the Spa, but he also takes on undefeated #3 Uncle Chuck. The late-blooming son of Uncle Mo has crushed two fields in Southern California and is likely to get the jump on Tiz the Law. When the aforementioned Baffert ships into Saratoga for the Travers, he means business and this appears to be no exception. Look for Uncle Chuck to take control early and power away late.

Suggested Ticket: ($1 Pick 5)

  • R7: 5+6
  • R8: 5+6+7
  • R9: 1+2+4+5+7
  • R10: 5
  • R11: 3

Ticket Cost: $30