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Travers Stakes Showcases the Top Classic Runners in the Country
The Grade 1 Travers Stakes is always the talk of the town. The oldest race in the country for just three year olds will be run Saturday at Saratoga.
2021 Runhappy Travers Stakes (Grade 1)
Often referred to as the “Midsummer Derby” the Travers Stakes is a chance to see many familiar names from the Kentucky Derby square of again. This year is no different with 5 of the 7 entries having competed in the 2021 “Run for the Roses.” Numbers reflect program number and post position for the race.
Midnight Bourbon (9-2) for all-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen will be ridden by first call rider Ricardo Santana Jr. The colt has tried his luck against this lot but has never been able to beat the upper echelon of this three year old crop. Last out in the TVG Haskell (Grade 1) he clipped the heels of Hot Rod Charlie and lost his rider in the stretch.
Essential Quality (4-5) is back for more. The two year old champion has been ultra impressive throughout his career. The only loss to date is the Kentucky Derby in which he covered significantly more ground than any of his opponents and still ran a close fourth. Trainer Brad Cox and owner Godolphin Stable will look for a sound performance to keep this horse’s hopes of the Breeder’s Cup Classic on track. Jockey Luis Saez is not only the top rider at Saratoga right now, but is on pace to set the record for wins at the meet.
Keepmeinmind (6-1) has been a hard knocking horse throughout the Triple Crown trail. He danced all the dances, but just seems to be in the second tier of this crop. He is always dangerous to hit the board and most recently finished 2nd behind Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy (Grade 2). It just seems as though an upset from him is unlikely here.
Dynamic One (6-1) will go out for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. Riding the horse will be Irad Ortiz Jr. which is always a positive as he is one of the top riders on the circuit. He is coming off a victory in the Curlin Stakes, but that is a much different league than the company he faces today.
Miles D (12-1) is one of the entries who was not a factor in the Derby picture. However, with the rapid development of horses during their 3 year old season that has little bearing on his ability to factor here. However, looking at his current form it would be hard to see him winning after losing to Dynamic One in a restricted event last out. Although he will be ridden by Flavien Prat who is a very accomplished rider, it does not bode well that Brown’s first call rider Irad Ortiz Jr. is on Dynamic One.
Masqueparade (8-1) has been ultra impressive post derby season, with 3 wins and 2 thirds in his last 5 starts. However, for this one to leap the top runners in this group it would take a big progression forward. Miguel Mena will ride for Al Stall, but he’s not at the level of many in the New York Racing Association’s jockey colony.
King Fury (15-1) was Kentucky Derby eligible because of a win in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. The trouble with this horse is he seems like a solid lower level stakes horse and this is a quality Grade 1 field. The horse’s 3 career victories all came in dirt routes, but they were at the maiden special weight, listed stakes, and Grade 3 levels. Every time the horse jumps in against tougher, he finishes well beaten. The 10th place finish in a turf race at Saratoga last out is a bit of a head scratcher as well.
Other Stakes Action from Saratoga
While the Runhappy Travers is the headliner of the weekend, Saratoga’s Saturday card is absolutely loaded with quality stakes races.
The Grade 1 Personal Ensign for older dirt fillies and mares and is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeder’s Cup. The field looks like it will come up extremely salty. Letruska and Swiss Skydiver will surely garner a lot of attention, but will be joined by horses like Bonny South, Miss Marissa, Dunbar Road and Harvey’s Lil Goil.
While entries are still probable, the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial could end up being the fastest show on dirt. The 7 furlong sprint for 3 year old males has a ridiculous amount of speed signed on. Following Sea, Jackie’s Warrior, Life is Good, and Drain the Clock have all shown the ability to wing it on the front. If everyone brings their A game this may be one of the most entertaining races on the card.
In yet another “Win and You’re In” the Grade 1 Balerina will see the return of Gamine for Bob Baffert, who is no longer suspended from entering horses in New York following court intervention. The horse will be joined by Sconsin, Ce Ce, Lake Avenue, and more in the starting gate.
Turf marathoners will have their chance to stamp a ticket to the Breeder’s Cup in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. Probables include early runners like Channel Maker and Tribhuvan who will face plenty of challenges from the likes of Cross Border, Rockemperor, and Gufo.
The Grade 2 Ballston Spa Handicap will be run on the turf and Chad Brown will look to have a strong hand in the event with 3 probables listed for the race. Viadera, Tamahere, and Kalifornia Queen are all possibilities to represent the Brown barn in the race.
Older male horses will get a chance to run in the Grade 1 Forego which is the older equivalent to the H. Allen Jerkens. Yaupon, Mischievous Alex, Lexitonian, Chance It, and Mind Control are all pointed to this spot. Many of the headlines however, will be stolen by fan favorite Whitmore who will look to continue his ultra consistent campaign.
Although Charles Town is often considered in the lower tier of race tracks around the country, their card on Friday will temporarily vault them into the national spotlight.
Bill Mott, Steve Assmussen, and Brad Cox will all be shipping horses to the small West Virginia track in an effort to claim the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks. The precursor to the main event will be for 3 year old fillies at a distance of 7 furlongs.
While the card is littered with restricted and listed stakes, the race to watch will be the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic. The race brought some real fire power this year with runners like Rushie, Warrior’s Charge, NY Traffic, and Art Collector.
The Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Handicap will be run under the same conditions as the H. Allen Jerkens and the Forego at Saratoga, if the age conditions were smashed together. Some of the top names from Derby crops gone by are probable in this spot including Ginobili, Flagstaff, and Eight Rings.