Saratoga: August 26, 2017, The Value & The Vulnerable, Travers Day, By Paul Hundley

Hello and welcome to Travers Day for Saratoga. I’m going to try and sort through today’s card and see which races, and which horses in those races, represent value. Also, we’ll try to hopefully identify a couple of betting favorites that you should stay away from on top. There’s 13 races, so let’s dig in

RACE 1: With no one in this field having raced, hard to have a definitive opinion in here unless you’re a pedigree expert and/or Morning Clocker. That being said, the 3 M/L favorites in here; 2-Hazit, 5-Road to Meath, and 8-Good Magic. All are 6 and 7 figure purchases trained by high % connections. Going to take a bit of a shot with another 6 figure purchase, 6-HIGH NORTH for Brad Cox (18% FTS). Some nice works coming in, and was the 4th highest sale out of 70 for Midnight Lute offspring at the Keeneland September Sales in 2016. Dam is a former Stakes Winner, is 2 for 2 with racing foals and has produced a Stakes winner as well. Playing a key Bo 6/1,2,4,5,8 $10 ticket.

RACEs 2-4: Will PASS on all these. For more in depth coverage of all the Saratoga races today make sure to check out Jeff O’Reilly’s column.

RACE 5: I “almost” passed on this race as well, at first glance no love, or hate, for anyone. However, I’m going to give 7-TATHQEEF another shot. Had trouble right from the start last out, but I believe the cutback in distance definitely helps today. 6/1 seems a fair price. $5 WIN, $10 PLACE

RACE 6: I’m not sure there’s much I can offer in this race that isn’t fairly obvious. Songbird and Forever Unbridled are the two favorites, and hard to envision anyone else winning. Even though Songbird is 2-2 this year, has not beaten a high quality of horses, realistically should have won the Delaware Handicap by 10+ lengths over that subpar group. FOREVER UNBRIDLED came back off a 7 month layoff in a race that didn’t have a fast pace to run at in Fleur de Lis and still won going away over a group stronger than either Songbird has faced this year. Yes Songbird should have the front end to her liking, but I don’t think she’s the same horse she was at 2 and 3. I will play a $1 Super 4/2/3/1,5 , play it 4 times, $8 investment.

RACE 7: Paulassilverlining is the 2/1 morning line favorite, and for good reason. Has won all 3 starts this year, however each by only a neck; so she’s not really dominant. By The Moon is the 2nd choice, but hasn’t had a lot of luck with the favorite in past races.2-Curlin’s Approvals last race, speed figure wise, puts her right up there with Paula, but the Trainer change, and the fact that the last two times she achieved over a 100 BRIS speed figure, she was off the board next out. Going to go with an old favorite of mine, 5-CARINA MIA made a return to the winners circle last out in a restricted stakes, granted far less than what she faces today. However, was her first time this year got to sprint on a fast track, and was her first time with Javier Castellano aboard as well. This is also her 2nd start for Chad Brown. Will play her on top in a Trifecta: 5/3,4/ALL $1 play, $10 ticket.

RACE 8: It’s Chad Brown vs Todd Pletcher vs Bob Baffert here as they bring the 3 favorites in for the race formerly called The King’s Bishop, now The Allen Jerkens. I’m going, however, to go back to a horse I hit on opening day of the meet, 2-TAKAFUL.While there’s plenty of speed here, I think his inside draw actually works to his advantage. Should be on the lead early where he seems most comfortable and will play catch me if you can. I’m betting they won’t. $5 WIN, $10 PLACE $.50 Trifecta 2/1,5,7,9/ALL $14 Ticket

RACE 9: VULNERABLE FAVORITE ALERT! Drefong(5/2) had won 5 in a row over a year time period, culminating with a BC Sprint win last November and Top Sprinter honors for 2016. Tried to make return in Bing Crosby last month, ducked in and lost the jock virtually at the start. So, essentially is coming in here not having raced since BC Saturday 9 1/2 months ago. Plus, since that ill fated attempt last month, his workouts have not been the usual bullets Baffert horses fire upon a big race. I’m pretty sure this race was not originally in the plans until last month’s debacle. Should note, I’ll be surprised if he’s even the favorite here, given the current form of Mind Your Biscuits. If he is the Drefong of last year today, will be tough as the speed of the speed here. Going to go with 2nd off the shelf 4-DIVINING ROD(5/1) who romped in the mud at Laurel in 2017 debut. His best races put him right in the mix with ‘Biscuits’ and ‘Dre’, and if the latter doesn’t fire early, ‘Rod’ may find himself on the lead. A win today would push D.R. over the Million dollar mark in career earnings. You know Arnaud Delacour would love for this one to step up after recently retiring A.P. Indian. $5 WIN, $10 PLACE. $.50 Trifecta 4,6/4,6/ALL $8 Ticket

RACE 10: PASS! Sorry, I know this is a G1, and I looked this race over 5 times, and I don’t see anyone I trust. Again, Jeff O’Reilly has more extensive coverage of the card also on this site.

RACE 11: This race is one of the most wide open editions of the Travers I’ve seen. Let’s go through this horse by horse. 1-Cloud Computing : I’ve never seen what others seeing this CC, think his Preakness win was basically gift wrapped for him, and couldn’t sustain pressure on Always Dreaming last out in Jim Dandy. 2-Giuseppe the Great: Passed tiring horses like CC and AD to get up for 2nd, no match for Good Samaritan last out. Was first try at two turns, so could improve this time. Especially with the pace potentially very fast. Definitely include underneath. 3-West Coast: If this one WAS NOT trained by Baffert, I wonder if he would be getting this much hype? Never been worse than 2nd in 6 starts, but has faced 2bd tier competition doing it. 4/1 seems like a low price to take on a horse that isn’t proven vs the best. Respect, but will let him beat me on top. 4-Tapwrit: VULNERABLE FAVORITE ALERT! TAPWRIT(7/2) yes, did win the Belmont last out but Irish War Cry and Patch, who ran behind him, both came back to run less than impressive in their next races. I certainly see him in the Superfecta, just not on top. 5-Good Samaritan: Could not have been more impressive in dirt debut rolling by Derby and Preakness winners in a soft pace. Will be a contender again today. 6-Girvin: I think Girvin showed everyone in Haskell that he deserves to be included in the top tier 3 year olds with Haskell win. Can he get the extra furlong? And can he break a streak of Haskell winners not coming back to win the Travers? He’s got a good shot, and 10-1 is extra enticing, should he stay that price. 7-Always Dreaming: Should be on the lead early, as honestly, this race lacks pace. But, didn’t he also have the front end to himself in Jim Dandy? You could say he may have needed that race, but he doesn’t seem like the same horse that won Florida and Kentucky Derbies. And though 6/1 morning line, I don’t see him going off that high. Will let him beat me. 8-Lookin at Lee: Will be running late if at all and could sneak into Super, but that’s the best case scenario for him. 9-McCraken: really surprised me with his run in the Haskell, though I can’t help but believe the pace falling apart had a lot to do with it as much as anything. Pedigree wise, should appreciate the 10 furlongs as much as anyone in here. 12/1 is tempting. 10-Irap has only ran 1 bad race in career, the Kentucky Derby where traffic trouble and a 20 horse field can compromise a horse’s chances quickly. Most impressive is the horses that Irap defeated in Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby came back to win the Haskell and West Virginia Derbies. Will probably be sitting 2nd or 3rd early behind Always Dreaming. Strong contender. 11-Gunnevera: I’m off this train. Really liked him in the Derby and Preakness, had opportunities in both and just couldn’t make a bid. Beat far lesser last out, and I just don’t get the impression he wants 10 furlongs. 12-Fayeq: Half brother to Rachel Alexandra and Dolphus, gets first stakes test today. I’ve seen far worse 30-1 shots , should appreciate the distance and one could make a comparison to him and last year’s winner Arrogate, though the latter did come in with a lot more expectations. Kiaran McLaughlin is having a nice meet, and this could be a big day for him. So I’ve narrowed it down to 5 horses on top; 5,6,9,10 and 12. Going to put MCCRAKEN, IRAP and FAYEQ on top in an Exacta over 1,2,3,4,5,6,9,10,12 $24 ticket. Also playing McCraken $5 WIN $10 PLACE, FAYEQ $5 PLACE, $10 SHOW

RACE 12: Lady Eli is the heavy favorite, Antonoe is the wise-guy choice, but apparently I’m stubborn and/or a glutton for punishment, because I’m going back to DICKINSON, who was my selection in Diana last month. Pace wise, should be alone on the lead, just a question if she’s good enough to hang on. $5 WIN, $10 PLACE

RACE 13: PASS

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