The Mid-Summer Derby returns to Saratoga on Saturday for the 145th renewal of the Travers Stakes. The field of ten has some stout contestants in it with the winner of the Haskell Invitational, Bayern, listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite. However, Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, and Jim Dandy winner, Wicked Strong, are also strong contenders at The Spa tomorrow. Here is the analysis:
The top pick here will be #7 Wicked Strong, who scored in the traditional Saratoga prep for the Travers, the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. His previous win before that had been in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. However, between those two wins came a pair of fourths in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. The Derby was the better of those two since the colt broke from the far outside post position and dealt with a relatively wide trip throughout. He did dead heat with California Chrome for fourth in the Belmont, but his come-from-behind style is usually not the way to win that race. There will be clear speed in here from Bayern and possibly more from Tonalist and Mr. Speaker. Rajiv Maragh has the ride for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
#2 Bayern was an impressive runaway winner of the Haskell at Monmouth with Martin Garcia aboard. The time before that he also scored in the 7-furlong Woody Stephens at Belmont. The only time this horse missed the money came in the Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles. This might create questions about his distance limitations, since all the other strong performances came either at the 7-furlong distance or at one mile, with the definite exception of the Haskell win. If there is no pressure to what ought to be his early lead, Garcia might be able to dictate the pace with Bayern and nurse him along for the full ten furlongs. But, if Tonalist or Mr. Speaker go with Bayern, that could seriously compromise his chances
#8 Kid Cruz could be the longshot to like in the Travers at 12-1 with the red-hot rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., at the controls. He finished third behind Wicked Strong and Tonalist in the Jim Dandy and had won the prior two starts at Belmont, the Grade 3 Dwyer and the Easy Goer. I expect the Linda Rice trainee to come running late and be a factor at the finish.
I will wrap the top four selections with #6 Tonalist. The Belmont winner was the runner-up to Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy and didn't appear capable of catching that horse on that day. His performance in the Test Of Champions was excellent, having worn down Commissioner in the final strides. Joel Rosario will ride for trainer Christophe Clement here.
They Are Off Top Four Selections: Wicked Strong, Bayern, Kid Cruz, Tonalist
Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @taoMC16 and I would like to wish everyone well on their Travers Day wagers at Saratoga. There will be plenty of excellent racing at The Spa on Saturday. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!