Why is everyone picking against Exaggerator to win the Travers Stakes?

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Ed DeRosa

August 25th, 2016

Here is the list of three-year-old males who have won three Grade 1 races this year:

1.       Exaggerator

Not much of a list.

Here is a list of Grade 1 winners in this year’s Travers Stakes (click link for FREE Past Performances; for all Travers Stakes handicapping reports, CLICK HERE):

1.       Exaggerator

2.       Creator

That’s not much of a list either.

Here are the Grade 1 records of the 14 Travers Stakes entrants:

1.       Arrogate:                             0-0-0-0

2.       American Freedom:        1-0-1-0

3.       My Man Sam:                    2-0-1-0

4.       Governor Malibu:            1-0-0-0

5.       Forever d’Oro:                  1-0-0-0

6.       Anaximandros:                 0-0-0-0

7.       Exaggerator:                      7-3-2-0

8.       Destin:                                  2-0-1-0

9.       Gift Box:                              0-0-0-0

10.   Connect:                              0-0-0-0

11.   Majesto:                              2-0-1-0

12.   Creator:                               3-2-0-0

13.   Laoban:                                2-0-0-0

14.   Gun Runner:                      2-0-0-1

Exaggerator’s record in Grade 1 stakes: 7-3-2-0; the rest of the field’s record in Grade 1 stakes: 16-2-4-1. Take out Creator, and the 12 other horses are winless in 13 Grade 1 tries. There's a cliche that Grade 1 horses win Grade 1 races, and while I'm not a big class handicapper guy--preferring the Ragozin mentality that Speed IS Class--I have a hard time ignoring that Exaggerator is clearly at the head of this class.

I don’t write all this to malign the Travers field, which—except for two-year-old champion male and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist—has all the horses you could possibly want and then some. It’s a deep, interesting race that I’m looking forward to betting.

But that’s not because I’m getting creative. Rather, I don’t understand why everyone is dismissing a horse who has proven he is among the best of his generation for horses (except for Creator) who still have a lot to prove.

Yeah, you can point to the prices on some of these horses relative to Exaggerator as a reason to take a shot, but I view Exaggerator’s 3-to-1 morning line as fair value and would gladly take 5-to-2, which is what I think he’ll be.

For multi-race wagering purposes, I also think this is a race where many will try to go deep because of Chad Brown’s two-headed turf monster of Flintshire and Lady Eli sandwiching the Travers in the Sword Dancer and Ballston Spa, respectively. If those two bookend an Exaggerator win many will lose money because they went too deep in the Travers, but I plan to hit that Pick 3 many multiple times.

I’ll discuss my multi-race plans in a future blog, but rest assured my pick to win the Travers Stakes is absolutely Exaggerator, who is among the head of his class, and the fast track on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course will only help our price since his three Grade 1 wins came on an off track and his last fast track performance was a flop (11th of 13 in Creator’s Belmont Stakes win). However, Exaggerator’s runner-up finish behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby is good enough to beat this field two out of seven times (hence fair value at 5-to-2).

Speaking of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, I do think the best three-year-olds performed well in those races, so the Belmont exacta of Creator and Destin are my “B” picks with Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Gun Runner a “C”. I wanted to like Gun Runner more, and the slop in the Haskell gives him an excuse, but post 14 outside Laoban in 13 is a concern, and I feel like we already know Exaggerator is the better horse.

I will gamble that the second half horses who are new or relatively new to the Grade 1 stage like Arrogate, American Freedom, Gift Box, and Connect aren’t ready for this level yet. Others like My Man Sam, Majesto, and Governor Malibu I’ll play against on the premise that we already know they’re not good enough.