ELMONT, NY - JUNE 11: Jose Valdivia, Jr. rides Ruler on Ice to victory over Javier Castellano and Stay Thirsty during the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 11, 2011 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Travers Day card at Saratoga kicks off a 11:35am Eastern (8:35am Pacific) on Saturday morning. Both the Travers Stakes and the King’s Bishop will be telecast on NBC-TV. There are a total of 13 races on the card, including five graded stakes (G2-Ballston Spa, G3-Victory Ride, G1-Ballerina, G1-King’s Bishop, G1-Travers Stakes).
Below is my $0.10 take on the major stakes races on the Travers card at Saratoga. All post times are Eastern.
Race 8: Grade 2 Ballston Spa – (Post time: 3:28pm)
This year’s Ballston Spa came up a bit light in terms of depth; there are some nice fillies and mares in the field, but the race is lacking star power.
3-Daveron (GER) (3/1) has shown some excellent form in 2011 but she’s only run two races in over eight months. The race appears to set-up pretty well for her with Romacaca and Trix in the City likely setting an honest pace.
9-Tapitsfly (10/1) won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf back in 2009, but missed all of 2010 due to injury and has only one win from six starts in 2011. It’s been a disappointing two years for a filly that once held a lot of promise.
Race 9: Grade 3 Victory Ride - (Post time: 4:03pm)
Ten three-year-old fillies (nine betting interests) are scheduled to line up in what looks to be a wide, wide open renewal of the Victory Ride. 2-Jealous Girl probably won’t go to post at her 3/1 morning line odds given the flashy 99 Beyer she earned in her last start at Penn National. She’s won her last four races by a combined 23 ½ lengths.
6-Hot Summer (8/1) is making her first start after finishing a distant 3rd to Royal Delta and Buster’s Ready in the Black-Eyed Susan. She received a good amount of experience against stakes competition this spring and, for the most part, she held her own. The return to sprinting should help her in this spot, as should an expected fast pace.
Race 10: Grade 1 Ballerina - (Post time: 4:38pm)
The Ballerina is a key prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and it’s an excellent field of seven.
3-Hilda’s Passion (2/1) comes into this race off of a dreadful performance in the G3-Bed Of Roses at Belmont on July 3rd. Todd Pletcher didn’t have any explanations as to why this filly performed that poorly at Belmont that day, but it’s got to be a little bit of a concern going forward. On the positive side, if you like Hilda’s Passion, maybe that appalling effort will help to boost the odds by the time post time rolls around.
6-Tar Heel Mom (7/2) has run good race after good race in 2011, and comes into the ballerina sporting some of the best form of her career. She will likely be battling or stalking Hilda’s Passion in the early stages of the race. If she’s able to put away her rival by the top of the lane, she may find herself winning her fourth race in five starts at Saratoga.
Race 11: Grade 1 King’s Bishop – (Post time: 5:12pm)
I’m going to keep it simple in this race: 7-Uncle Mo (9/5) is likely to be heavily over-bet in his first race off the bench. A 100% healthy and physically fit Mo would be a deserving favorite in this spot but I’ve got too many questions to take short odds on him at this time. If he comes back at full strength and blows this field away – let the hype begin anew. But I’ll wait to see it first.
1-Flashpoint (5/2) has demonstrated in his five career races that he is a sprinter (not a router), and a damn good one. I’ll take Flashpoint to win.
Race 12: Grade 1 Travers Stakes – (Post time: 5:45pm)
All the relevant participants are in the house – Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, Ruler On Ice, and Coil – and the showdown to stamp one colt the front-runner to win the title of champion three-year-old colt is set.
9-Stay Thirsty (5/2) and 7-Coil (3/1) are logical contenders based on recent form and success against other horses in this field and I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see either of those two win. But form has been fleeting in the big stakes races for three-year-olds this season; just when you think one colt is ready to emerge from the pack a different horse surface to the top of the pack.
I think 10-Shackleford (9/2) also makes some sense in the top spot given what should be an advantageous pace situation. That might not be enough to get him home given the distance, but it’s an advantage, nonetheless. I think he’d be severely compromised if another horse decides to go with him in the early stages but, at the present time, I don’t see anyone in this field that will go with him.
I like an upset and a price play in this year’s Travers in the form of 6-Raison d’Etat (10/1). I love the pedigree: sired by A.P. Indy out of the very classy mare Sightseek. The Juddmonte Farms mare won twelve races in her career, including the G1-Beldame (twice), G1-Ruffian, G1-Go For Wand (twice), G1-Humana Distaff, G1-Santa Margarita, and G1-Santa Monica.
Raison d’Etat was a little green in the stretch drive in his last race when he finished 2nd to gate-to-wire winner Turbo Compressor in the ungraded Curlin Stakes. I don’t know if he’s going to get a lot more to run at in this race, but I doubt they’ll go slower (1:14.60 for six furlongs). If the top contenders don’t bring their A-game, I like Raison d’Etat to have a chance to play spoiler.