SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York Racing Association has put together a monster racing card for Travers Day, which includes seven straight graded stakes races. The card has a Breeders’ Cup feel to it, with quality horses entered in each of the seven stakes.
In addition, four of the stakes (Personal Ensign, Ballerina, Forego and Sword Dancer) and are Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" races, which automatically qualify the winner's a spot at Del Mar in the Breeders' Cup.
The three graded stakes races preceding the $1.25 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Saturday afternoon will highlight a super day of racing at Saratoga Race Course. The H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (formerly the King’s Bishop) for 3-years-old will start off an all-Grade 1 stake Pick-4 followed by the Forego, a 7-furlong sprint for three-year-olds and up the $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-years-old and up going one-and-a-half miles on the turf will highlight the undercard on the Spa's signature day.
There will be 13 races in all with the first race going to post at 11:35 a.m. The Sword Dancer and the Travers will be on NBC Sports (4:30 - 6:00 p.m.) with the Travers scheduled to go off at 5:44 p.m. local time. A Travers preview will be in Saturday's print edition tomorrow morning.
Let's take a look at the three undercard races and some thoughts when building a Pick-3 ticket that starts with the Jerkens in Race 8 and finishes with the Sword Dancer preceding the Travers.
Race 8 - Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens: The first leg in the Pick-3 sequence is a race that has wielded some improbable winners over the past few years. 9-American Anthem (2-1) seems the most logical off his 7-furlong win in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day for the lethal Baffert/Smith combination. Trainer Kieran McLaughlin is very high on 5-Takaful (5-1) and made a point to get a plug in for him at the Travers draw on Tuesday evening. We’ll also include the undefeated 7-Coal Front (4-1), a Stay Thirsty colt with Pletcher/Velazquez in charge. Throw in 1-Practical Joke (5-2) who could be sitting on a big race and we’ll start four deep.
Race 9 - Grade 1 Forego: A 7-furlong race for older sprinters, we’ll take a stand with last year’s King’s Bishop winner 10-Drefong (5-2) as our single in the sequence. While he’s coming off a long layoff, he’s lone speed in the race and could be deadly on the front end, especially breaking from an outside post.
A smaller saver ticket will have 6-Mind Your Biscuits (3-1) on it, but other than those two, it would be a major upset if one of the others in the field were to win.
Race 10 - Grade 1 Sword Dancer: When Ryan Moore flies in from overseas to ride a horse, you pay attention. 7-Idaho (2-1), who ran in last year’s Canadian International at Woodbine, ships in for trainer Aidan O’Brien. The 4-year-old Galileo colt comes out of a key race at Royal Ascot and looks to be the class of the Sword Dancer. He’ll run on Lasix for the second time in his career.
We’ll also include old reliable 3-Sadler’s Joy (6-1) and 5-Money Multiplier (7-2) whose style and numbers seem to fit in here.
Post Time $3 Pick-3: 1,2,7,9 with 10 with 3,5,7 (cost $36). $1 Pick-3: 1,2,7,9 with 6,10 with 7 (cost $8).
The other Grade 1’s on the card include the Personal Ensign (Race 6) which will showcase last year’s Alabama winner 2-Songbird (2-5). The quality field also includes 4-Forever Unbridled (7-2) and 3-Going for Broke (5-1) who will look to unseat last year’s 3-year-old champion. It’s only a five-horse race, and I think Songbird is ripe for an upset in here.
Race 7 is the Ballerina featuring 2-Paulassilverling (2-1), 5-Carina Mia (7-2) and 4-By the Moon (4-1) and 2-Curlin’s Approval (4-1), all which have a decent shot to win.
Race 12 after the Travers will include superstar mare 1-Lady Eli (4-5) who lost last year’s Grade 2 Ballston Spa by a nose and will look to avenge that loss. Trainer Chad Brown has the first three choices on the morning line, as 5-Antonoe (3-1) and 2-Roca Rojo (9-2) will accompany Lady Eli in the gate.
Today’s action on New York-bred Showcase Day with the $250,000 Albany Stakes, the last leg of the Big Apple Triple in Race 10, which includes the New York Derby winner Twisted Tom (8-5) for trainer Chad Brown.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, tweets @EquiSpace.