2014 Travers Stakes Picks and Analysis
Travers Stakes-G1, Race 12, Saratoga, Saturday, August 23, 2014
3-Year-Olds, 1 1/4-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1.25 Million
2014 Travers Stakes Picks
1. Wicked Strong
4. Mr Speaker
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2014 Travers Stakes Analysis
We can’t fault you if you want to play possible lone speed Bayern or Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist in the 145th running of the Travers Stakes-G1, but we’re going to take a shot on Wicked Strong at what should be a more than fair price.
Wicked Strong is proven over the track, having just won the Jim Dandy-G2 over Tonalist on July 26, he doesn’t need the lead to win, his trainer Jimmy Jerkens won this race in 2010 with Afleet Express, and he is also having a killer meet at Saratoga, winning at a 38 percent clip.
The final reason we’ll take a shot on Wicked Strong is because of the presence of his stablemate V. E. Day in this race. V. E. Day has won four in a row including the restricted Curlin Stakes at Saratoga in his last start on July 25 going 1 1/8-miles. He doesn’t measure up on numbers or class at this point, but he’s proven over the track and he has a sneaky 3/8ths work on August 20. He’s never really shown speed in his races, but that work could set him up to go after potential lone-speed favourite Bayern in an effort to set the race up for Wicked Strong.
There’s no question the Bayern could win the Travers on the front end if left alone at likely underlay odds. Surely the other trainers in here know that. Bayern has won his last two starts on the front end for trainer Bob Baffert, who won the Travers in 2001 with Point Given. In his last start, the Haskell Invitational-G1 going 1 1/8-miles on July 27, Bayern turned back gutsy speed horse Wildcat Red before drawing off to win by 7 1/4-lengths. He appears to be a different horse since putting the blinkers back on two starts ago, but this group is tougher and he’ll have to go another eighth of a mile on a track that could possibly be drying out and tiring.
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It would probably be a good idea to watch the earlier races to see how the track is playing. The track at Saratoga can be very biased some days and if longshot speed is holding going into the Travers, Bayern’s chances would have to be upgraded.
Tonalist won the Belmont Stakes-G1 on June 7 so you know he’ll get the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Travers, and his prep was decent enough, a wide second-place finish beaten 2 1/4-lengths by Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy. Tonalist is expected to move forward off that race and don’t forget he did defeat Wicked Strong in the Belmont going 1 1/2-miles. Trainer Christophe Clemente is very good and he’s been pointing to this race. We’re thinking he’ll be in a three horse photo at the wire with a late rally.
Mr Speaker is our longshot at morning line odds of 10-1 based on his ability to get the distance and his trainer “Shug” McGaughey, who has won the Travers Stakes three times in the past, the most memorable being in 1989 with Easy Goer. In his most recent start, Mr Speaker won the Belmont Derby-G1 going 1 1/4-miles on the turf at Belmont Park, and while his only dirt start was nondescript in a tough race, he has won on synthetic at Keeneland. Mr Speaker appears to be a quality animal who is moving up to the next class level. And he has shown speed on occasion.
Any chance he could go after Bayern early and set the race up for our pick?
We hope so! Good luck!