Travers Stakes Preview – What to Expect, What to Bet
Wednesday, we gave you a brief look at each horse in the field, today, we tell you how the race will set up, and what you should be looking to bet for the 143rd Travers Stakes.
The hallowed grounds of the Saratoga Race Course have bore witness to some of horse racing's greatest moments. Season after season, summer after summer, the world's greatest thoroughbreds descend on the track with the hopes of finding their own place within its vaunted history. Saturday, eleven colts - lead by Jim Dandy winner and morning-line favorite, Alpha - will take to the starting gate in hopes of capturing horse racing's greatest track's greatest title - the Travers.
When the gates fly open and the field is sent on their way to the deafening roar of the Saratoga faithful, expect the one, Speightscity to find the lead. Trainer Gary Contessa emphatically announced that his ridgling would seek such a lead, and with no other horse in the field eager to be there, I suspect he'll get it. Alpha will settle in behind him, with relative long-shot Stealcase, Neck 'n Neck - who was second to Alpha in the Dandy - and second choice Nonios sitting off of the favorite. Long-shots Five Sixteen and Golden Ticket will likely come next, with contender Street Life in the midst of a pack of horses that includes closers Liaison and Fast Falcon at the back of the pack.
With Alpha held firm just off Speightcity's lead - and with Stealcase, Nonios, and Neck 'n Neck pressing the pair - I'd certainly look for quicker fractions than the decidedly slow ones Alpha thrived behind in the Jim Dandy. Still, don't expect anything too quick, here - Ramon Dominguez won't want to engage Speightscity in a duel at the front; he'll be comfortable sitting just off the long-shots flank.
This form should hold through the back stretch and into the final turn, when late-running Street Life should begin to stir from the back of the pack. As the Chad Brown colt who has shown ability to close on a slow pace begins picking off horses, expect Nonios to make his move, coming up along side Alpha, and prompting the favorite to kick it into gear. The two will easily overtake an outclassed Speightcity, but will soon be joined by an unexpected run from the patiently ridden Neck 'n Neck. Stealcase will move with that Ian Wilkes colt, but as the field hits the top of the stretch, it will be Neck 'n Neck striking the lead - with Alpha joining him and opening on the field.
Stealcase will continue to move with them, but expect the sweeping run of Street Life to be the one making waves he tries to run down the leaders. In deep stretch, though, I think it will be Neck 'n Neck separating himself from the pack. A victim of the Jim Dandy's slow pace, I think a pressed lead and quicker fractions for Alpha makes the Leandro Goncalves mount a formidable force in this race. With an extra eighth of a mile, and with others to force the issue, I'll take Neck 'n Neck as the one to claim the mid-summer Derby. Alpha will stay up for second - and could certainly be the one on the wire - Street Life should get third, and I'll peg long-shot Stealcase as the one to take fourth.
What to Bet: With the morning-line favorite at 5-2, here, you should get some good prices. I'll expect Neck 'n Neck to be bet down from his morning-line 9-2, but a Neck 'n Neck - Alpha - Street Life exacta/trifecta could pay well - it's hard to know at this stage of the game. I do know that anything you play should include Alpha - his Dandy performance so impressive that he could potentially wire this field - and Neck 'n Neck, whom I'll take to win, here. As for a possible long-shot, I love Stealcase. He should be bet down from his 15-1 morning-line slot, but if he's anywhere close, consider him a must bet. A disastrous break in the Haskell cost him any shot at winning last time out, but a stirring run around the final turn brought him from last to a solid third at the race's end. His trainer says he'll want the colt forwardly placed Saturday. If he is, he could very well take this race - if he's at any price at all, bet it. For betting tips throughout Saturday - including the Travers - follow me on Twitter @joe_1045. I'll be live-tweeting from Saratoga all weekend. Good luck, and happy Travers!
**Be sure to check out the 2 Guys 1 Mic Podcast for my interview with retired jockey Richard Migliore previewing the Travers. The link is listed below**