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Travers Stakes Picks

2015 Travers Stakes Picks and Analysis

Graveyard of Favorites won't bury American Pharoah

Travers Stakes-G1, Race 11, Saratoga, Saturday, August 29, 2015

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/4-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1.25 Million

2015 Travers Stakes Predictions

1. American


2.  Keen Ice

3. Texas Red

4. Frosted

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2015 Travers Stakes Analysis

Thousands of fans will show up at Saratoga today hoping to see American Pharoah lose the 146th running of the Travers Stakes. Tens of thousands more will be there hoping he romps. And despite Saratoga's "Graveyard of Favorites" reputation, the latter group will probably get their wish.

Saratoga is unlikely to add American Pharoah to its list of famous upsets that include fellow Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox in 1930 and Secretariat in 1973, both of whom lost to much lesser rivals. Gallant Fox lost the Travers Stakes to 100-1 shot Jim Dandy in the mud after taking part in a sizzling duel with Whichone. Secretariat lost the Whitney to Onion, who was trained by the youngest trainer ever inducted into the Hall of Fame, H. Allen Jerkens.

Many of the upsets at Saratoga over the years can be attributed to mud, track biases and trainers.

Examples include Willow Hour's sloppy-track 24-1 win over Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony in the 1981 Travers Stakes; Runaway Groom's 13-1 perfect-trip track-bias aided win in the 1982 Travers over Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol, Preakness Stakes winner Aloma's Ruler, and Belmont Stakes winner Conquistador Cielo; and V. E. Day's 19-1 victory over stablemate Wicked Strong in the 2014 Travers for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, son of the late H. Allen Jerkens, and currently one of the best horse trainers on our planet.

We don't see any of the above scenarios in this year's Travers Stakes. But it will still be up to American Pharoah as to whether he wants to win or not. The Triple Crown winner has more talent than this bunch and comes into the race off a "something left" win in the Haskell Invitation-G1 on August 2 over two of today's rivals, Upstart and Keen Ice. He's already defeated Frosted, Tale of Verve and Texas Red and Frammento. That leaves only Mid Ocean, King of New York and Smart Transition to add to his list of defeated rivals after the Travers.

Wise guys are on two horses to post a possible upset, but neither are convincing.

Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1 champ Texas Red looks like he's back on top of his game after winning the Jim Dandy Stakes-G2 going 1 1/8-miles at Saratoga on August 1. His trainer Keith Desormeaux thinks he can win the Travers and has been pointing Texas Red to this race all year. The problem is, Texas Red looked "good" winning the Jim Dandy. American Pharoah is better than good.

The other horse longshot bettors are looking towards is Smart Transition, who has the trainer in John Shirreffs (conditioned Zenyatta), as well as a runaway win in the $100,000 Curlin Stakes going 1 1/-8 miles at Saratoga on July 31 in his favor, but he's making a seriously tough class raise in the Travers.

Keen Ice looks like the logical exacta horse for us, after a good rally to finish second behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational. He should be able to sit and wait for Texas Red and Frosted to take their failed runs at American Pharoah and swoop passed them late as they're tiring.

Even if American Pharoah is having an off day, he proved in the Kentucky Derby that he could overcome both the fitness and heart challenge to win. And he's not a one-dimensional horse. He doesn't need the lead to win. If gets it by himself he could be long gone. If he rates off the pace he should be able to open up into the stretch, probably on Texas Red, and still have lots left to hold off exacta ralliers Keen Ice and Frosted. That's if he's not already running away from them.

As Triple Crown winners go, American Pharoah has not yet proven to have the talent of a Secretariat or the heart of an Affirmed or Seattle Slew. But in all fairness to the talented young star, he hasn't had to. Yet.

We'll take American Pharoah over Keen Ice in our main exacta, and also use Texas Red and Frosted on some smaller tickets, including trifectas, while taking all on the bottom of our Travers Superfecta. We'll also take a crazy and small saver exacta box on Texas Red and Keen Ice. Just in case... the ghosts show up.

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