Happy Travers Day everyone! I've been on vacation for the past couple of weeks but returned in time for one of the better racing weekends of the year on both coasts. Today's Travers at the Spa (TV: NBCSN; Post time: 5:45 pm Eastern) pits a solid group of three-year-old colts against each other and against a colt that seems to be clicking on all cylinders right now: Bob Baffert's Bayern.
|1||Commanding Curve||S. Bridgmohan||D. Stewart||15/1|
|2||Bayern||M. Garcia||B. Baffert||2/1|
|3||Charge Now||J. Alvarado||B. Mott||15/1|
|4||V.E. Day||J. Castellano||J. Jerkens||15/1|
|5||Viva Majorca||J. Leparoux||I. Wilkes||20/1|
|6||Tonalist||J. Rosario||C. Clement||3/1|
|7||Wicked Strong||R. Maragh||J. Jerkens||7/2|
|8||Kid Cruz||I. Ortiz||L. Rice||12/1|
|9||Ulbanator||B. Hernandez, Jr.||I. Wilkes||30/1|
|10||Mr. Speaker||J. Lezcano||S. McGaughey||10/1|
1-Commanding Curve: His Derby run was nice when he finished second behind California Chrome but, to be honest, I'm not sold on this colt in any way, shape or form. No matter how many ways you slice and dice his career, Commanding Curve sports just a maiden win on his resume and he's run one "big" race in his career. If the Travers melts down, maybe he's the one, but I'm not going to go crazy with my bankroll in that direction.
2-Bayern: We'll find out how far this colt wants to go in this race, and that will tell us a lot heading into the fall season. Bayern has been simply brilliant in his last two starts and it's tough not to see him as the absolute standout in this field. There really isn't a single horse in this field that can run with Bayern straight out of the gate and that's a scary situation for the rest of the field. Wiring a field in a mile and a quarter race is hard but Bayern looks like a colt that could do just that in this year's Travers.
3-Charge Now: I suppose the following words are ones you could use for several horses in this field, so perhaps I'll copy and paste these again below: "He's got to get a whole lot better very quickly". His best race just isn't good enough to beat the best horses in this field. It's possible he takes a big step forward in the Travers (and that bullet work on 8/16 is some nice window dressing on the PPs), but there's not enough meat on those PPs at this point. Bayern and Tonalist and Wicked Strong are just better horses right now, so much so that Charge Now has to make a significant leap to get to their level in this race.
4-V.E. Day: See "Charge Now" above. He won the Curlin by a head over Charge now and he certainly seems like he has some room to grow, but this is a big step up. If he's ready to pop a big effort, and maybe he is, then watch out, but what's on the PPs suggesting a huge race from this colt?
5-Viva Majorca: Another colt exiting the Curlin; if you loved that race, then you have plenty of options in the Travers. If you thought it was just a good ungraded race, then it's tough to back any of the top runners from that field.
6-Tonalist: His Jim Dandy really wasn't that bad, although it was certainly a disappointment after back-to-back solid efforts in the Peter Pan and the Belmont. Like the horse to his immediate outside, Wicked Strong, Tonalist is probably going to have to chase Bayern through much of the early stages, and that certainly won't take this colt out of his element in any way.
7-Wicked Strong: I'm not sure I'd take anything much less than 7/2 (or maybe 3/1), but the attractiveness of Wicked Strong is pretty clear: he's shown a versatile running style that allows him to stalk or sit farther back depending on how the pace shakes out. He'll probably need to sit pretty close to Bayern in this spot, which is probably an excellent position to be in if the favorite falters at some point on the 10 furlong journey.
8-Kid Cruz: This colt's been a bit erratic over the course of his career - he'll run a bunch of really good efforts and then toss in an absolute clunker. His Jim Dandy wasn't awful but he wasn't making up any ground late (and that's not something I really want to see out of a closer that finishes in the money). Like some of the other horses in this field: he needs to get better in this race or hope the top guns all come up with sub-par efforts. If he can turn in one of his better closing efforts, he might be able to run down some of these in the final furlongs. But I think it's a legit concern to wonder if the pace might not be fast enough to set him up for his best effort.
9-Ulanbator: Even if you loved the Jim Dandy, it's hard to jump on this horse's bandwagon when horses that beat Ulanbator in that race are facing him again in the Travers. What's the attractions of Ulanbator in this race, other than probably big odds (which might still overestimate his actual chances of winning)?
10-Mr. Speaker: Is this race on synthetics or turf? No? Okay, just wanted to make sure cause Mr Speaker hasn't done a thing on dirt in his career. I suppose anything's possible and perhaps he's versatile enough to be a three-surface winner, but when you consider that one of the worst efforts of his career came on dirt, it's hard to get excited by his prospects in this spot. That being written, I suppose we can give him a shot if this whole thing melts down, but what's going to cause this race to melt down? The non-speed challenging Bayern? Eh, I'm looking elsewhere.
Chalk is no fun if you're looking for big numbers coming back into the old bank account, but Bayern really does tower over this field based on his recent efforts. The race shape appears to set up perfectly for him if he wants to control this field early, and , and if he can avoid trouble (unlike his Preakness disaster) it's hard not to see him leading this field in the final furlong unless he tosses in a total clunker.
I couldn't get myself interested at all in some of the price horses in this field; with the exception of some of the closers that have a shot to grind into the top three, I feel like the top colts are really going to need to slip up if some of these longer priced horses are to have a legit shot.