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.
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 Ballerina, a 7-furlong filly and mare sprint for 3-years-olds and up 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 race preceding the Travers will be the $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-years-old and up going one-and-a-half miles on the turf 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 Forego, Sword Dancer and the Travers will be on NBC Sports (4:00 - 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.
The Travers will be part of a special two-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m. on NBC. A special three-hour Travers Day edition of Saratoga Live will be broadcast on FS2 and MSG + beginning at 1 p.m. The Travers is scheduled to go to post at 5:44 p.m.
Let's take a look at the three undercard races and some thoughts when building a Pick-3 ticket that starts with the Ballerina in Race 8 and finishes with the Sword Dancer preceding the Travers.
Race 8 - Grade 1 Ballerina: The first leg in the Pick-3 sequence is a race that should be fairly formful. 6-Lewis Bay (3-1) will have Saratoga leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard the daughter of Bernardini. She comes off a big win in the Bed of Roses at Belmont. You can’t leave out 5-Finley’sluckycharm (3-1), the co-second choice with Lewis Bay. She won the local prep here last month and will be coming in second off the layoff. 2-Ivy Bell (5-1) will have Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher and is cutting back in distance. We’ll go three deep in leg one.
Race 9 - Grade 1 Forego: A 7-furlong race for older sprinters, we’ll take a stand with West Coast shipper 8-City of Light (9-5) as our single in the sequence. I like the cutback move by trainer Michael McCarthy. A smaller saver ticket will have the late closing 3-Whitmore (4-1) on it, just in case.
Race 10 - Grade 1 Sword Dancer: This may be the most competitive turf race on the card. We’re going to go with United Nations winner 3-Funtastic (9-2) for the red-hot Chad Brown. 4-Hi Happy (6-1) should redeem himself after a disappointing effort in the Bowling Green over soft ground for Pletcher/Velazquez.
We’ll also include old reliable 3-Sadler’s Joy (7-2) and 6-Bigger Picture (8-1) whose style and numbers seem to fit in here.
Post Time $2 Pick-3: 2,5,6 with 8 with 3,4,6,10 (cost $24).
The other Grade 1’s on the card include the Allen Jerkens (Race 6), the Personal Ensign (Race 7) which will feature 1-Abel Tasman (6-5) and last year’s Alabama winner 6-Elate (7-5). The Grade 2 Ballston Spa (Race 12) will be run immediately following the Travers.
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 Sea Foam (2-1) for trainer Christophe Clement.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, tweets @EquiSpace.