Friday, August 22, 2014

The 145th Travers Stakes

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!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The 32nd Arlington Million

The 32nd running of the Grade 1 Arlington Million takes place on Saturday at Arlington Park in Chicago. There is a very compact field of seven horses in the race, including the winner of the 2013 edition of the Million and the winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Turf. Let's take a look at the analysis:

My top selection in the Arlington Million will be an 8-1 shot, #7 Side Glance. This selection is based mainly on the way I see the pace setting up in the race. Side Glance appears to be able to go right to the lead and go all the way in front. Based on his most recent effort in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, Side Glance should be in front here with no other pace pressure apparent. This should allow jockey Jamie Spencer to dictate how fast this gelding will go through the early stages. I also am taking into account the fact that the U.N. was a furlong farther than the Million is. Side Glance set the early pace at Monmouth and still finished 3rd after digging in late. He was part of the result last year in the Million, placed 2nd after the DQ of The Apache.

#6 Real Solution will be my second choice here. He actually crossed the finish line first for the first time in some time last out at Belmont in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day. He sat in mid-pack most of the way around the racetrack and uncoiled a decisive run through the stretch under his jockey, Javier Castellano, who might very well be the best turf rider on this continent right now. In the Man O'War two starts back, he essentially ran the same race that won the Manhattan, but just couldn't get past Imagining in the stretch. Real Solution is attempting to become the first horse in the history of the Million to win the race in back-to-back years (John Henry did win the race twice in 1981 and 1984). Another major factor for Real Solution is the lineage with Kitten's Joy as the Sire and Pulpit on the Dam side, both excellent for turf pedigree.

#3 Magician has won only once in five starts since scoring in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita last fall. That victory came in the Group 3 High Chaparral Mooresbridge Stakes at The Curragh in early May. While he did follow that up with back-to-back seconds, he was never really a threat in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, finishing sixth. It makes one wonder how this horse will be coming into the Million, but it is never a smart move to dismiss anything that the O'Brien connections put out there.

#4 Finnegans Wake could be a juicy value in here at 12-1 on the morning line. He did win at the distance over the Arlington turf course last time out on July 12 in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. He also posted a bullet 5F workout on August 10 at Churchill Downs, covering the distance in 1:00.2. Ryan Moore has the ride for trainer Dale Romans, who won the Million two years ago with Little Mike.

Arlington Million Top Four Selections: Side Glance, Real Solution, Magician, Finnegans Wake

Keep in mind that you can follow me on Twitter: @taoMC16. Chamberlain's Choice each night at Vernon Downs in the summer and Turf Paradise each day in the winter is available there. The best of luck with all of your Arlington wagers this weekend. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!