On Wednesday August 24 the field for the 142nd Travers Stakes was drawn at Saratoga Race Course. In a racing season that has seen the same group of top 3-year-olds winning one big race only to fall short next time out, racing fans are looking for a definitive performance by one of the top choices in the Mid-Summer Derby to settle the 3-year-old division once and for all. The winners of the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Jim Dandy have all been entered, with the 5-2 morning-line favorite honors going to Stay Thirsty followed by Coil at 3-1. Shackleford, who was beaten only a neck by Coil last time out in the Haskell, is pegged at 9-2, with Belmont Stakes victor Ruler on Ice at 6-1. These top four will be taking the bulk of the money on race day, which may create some opportunities on some overlooked horses. After all, in a division that has been exceptional in its inability to create a standout leader – this edition of the Travers may be ripe for the taking by a longshot.
Two of the four top choices already have several factors working against them. While it’s tempting to bet on a gritty speed horse like Shackleford, he simply doesn’t get the job done all the time. While he may be able to steal a race on the lead at 1 1/8 miles or shorter, this becomes a much more difficult task at the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Travers. On top of that, Shackleford will be breaking from the far outside post, and will need to overcome traffic on the inside to make a clean break for the lead without losing ground. As for Ruler On Ice, a 6-1 on the morning line is hardly an endorsement of his ability; after all he did win the Belmont Stakes at odds of 25-1, which some saw as a fluke on a sloppy track.
Coil, who put in a huge run to win the Haskell in style, is recovering from an eye injury and has needed to wear a protective cup over his eye. However, a sharp workout this week over a fast track has convinced trainer Bob Baffert that the horse is on the muscle and ready for a big performance. According to the horse’s connections, he will have fully recovered from any problems with his eye by race day.
Stay Thirsty, who was knocked at the beginning of the season, has finally won over some of his detractors by winning the Jim Dandy with a career best 106 Beyer Speed Figure. He is also looking to be a legitimate favorite due to the fact he is 2 for 3 at Saratoga and seems to relish the main track. As the 2nd place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, distance will not be an issue.
If you’re looking for a legitimate longshot, don’t pass up a chance to put down a WPS wager on Moonshine Mullin. This Woodbine shipper came down to Saratoga to race in the Jim Dandy and outran his 37-1 odds to finish second behind Stay Thirsty. The fact that he gave his all and was able to run down the favorite Dominus in that race showed that this horse has talent. At morning line odds of 20-1, Moonshine Mullin looks to be the best value bet of the field.