Saturday Aug 27 will mark the 142nd running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.  After the Kentucky Derby, it’s arguably the most important race for 3 year old horses, and certainly has implications for the Breeders’ Cup.  A competitive showing could lead to a shot at the Classic this November.

12th Race - Saratoga – Saturday, August 27th, 2011 (5:45 pm EST)STAKES. 1 1/4 Mile Dirt. Purse $1,000,000. Travers S. (Grade 1)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 Bowman’s Causeway (ON) 12/1 Ramon A. Dominguez 126 3 C L Chad C. Brown
2 Rattlesnake Bridge (KY) 8/1 John R. Velazquez 126 3 C L Kiaran P. McLaughlin
3 Moonshine Mullin (KY) 20/1 Emma-Jayne Wilson 126 3 C L Reade Baker
4 Ruler On Ice (KY) 6/1 Jose Valdivia, Jr. 126 3 G L Kelly J. Breen
5 Malibu Glow (KY) 20/1 Rajiv Maragh 126 3 C L George Weaver
6 Raison D’etat (KY) 10/1 Eddie Castro 126 3 C L William I. Mott
7 Coil (FL) 3/1 Martin Garcia 126 3 C L Bob Baffert
8 J W Blue (KY) 20/1 Cornelio H. Velasquez 126 3 C L o Anthony W. Dutrow
9 Stay Thirsty (KY) 5/2 Javier Castellano 126 3 C L Todd A. Pletcher
10 Shackleford (KY) 9/2 Jesus Lopez Castanon 126 3 C L Dale L. Romans

The winners of the Preakness, the Belmont, and the Haskell are running here (#10 Shackleford, #4 Ruler on Ice, #7 Coil respectively).  There’s even a Canadian connection in this race with #1 Bowman’s Causeway, an Ontario bred who almost won the Prince of Wales in July.

I expect #10 Shackleford to put in an honest effort here, but am concerned the distance is too long.  He was caught late in the Kentucky Derby and ended up 4th, and I can see this race unfolding in a somewhat similar manner, especially with horses like #2 Rattlesnake Bridge, who do their best running late.  This is also a field of 10, which reduces the chances of stretch runners getting a bad trip during the last few furlongs.

#9 Stay Thirsty took the Jim Dandy stakes by 4 lengths, and deserves favouritism being the winner of the main prep race for the Travers.  I looked backed at the last 25 years of this race however, and could only find 5 instances where there was sweep of the Jim Dandy and Travers by the same horse.  With many writers calling this year’s crop of 3 year olds rather ordinary, it’s a bit of a stretch to elevate Stay Thirsty to the same level as horses like Street Sense and Medaglia D’Oro, who both successfully pulled off the Saratoga sweep.  There’s a good bet in this race, but I suspect it won’t be from backing this runner.

Longshot #8 J W Blue seems interesting at 20-1, although I’m not familiar with the company he has run against (all non graded stakes).  Still, some 3 year old horses can mature late in the racing season.  That just might be the case here.  Keep #6 Raison d’Etat on your betting radar for same reason.

#7 Coil, trained by Bob Baffert, will have to be respected for a gutsy performance in the Haskell at Monmouth Park.  After recovering from a poor start, he managed to catch Shackleford near the wire.  I can see him running in the money, but this might be too obvious of a horse to bet.

#5 Malibu Glow has won against maiden company and entry level allowance runners.  He did not impress in the Dwyer stakes.  I’d be cautious of investing in this one.

#4 Ruler on Ice took the Belmont Stakes, but the final time of 2:30.88 seemed rather slow, even for a sloppy track.  It looked very difficult for runners to get past him that day, so maybe the track was biased towards front runners that day?  Regardless, he proved he belonged with the top tier of 3 year olds with his 3rd place showing in the Haskell.  Expect him to be involved in some way.

And now we get to some interesting longshots…#3 Moonshine Mullin came second in the Jim Dandy at a big price, and has been running well since May.  He’ll be closer to the pace, and it’s not certain if he can handle the distance too.  Looks to be a versatile horse, running well on both polytrack and natural dirt.  #2 Rattlesnake Bridge is another lightly raced colt, who just happened to come second to Uncle Mo.  Not sure if that has much meaning today, but he was also beat by 3.5 lengths.  Not sure about the ability of this one, although his morning line is -1.  Finally, #1 Bowman’s Causeway has a good story.  Besides the Canadian angle, he had a rather poor start to 2011, coming dead last in the Florida Derby.  However, things improved once he was back on Canadian soil.  Either he was getting better, or the competition in Canada was that much easier.  Considering how Inglorious, the Queen’s Plate winner, was schooled last week in the Alabama, my hunch is the latter.  The feel good stories in racing tend to be the worst bets, and I don’t think that’s going to change today.

Take #6 Raison d’Etat and #8 JW Blue to win and place



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