The 2013 Travers appears to be a battle between
three horses. Three of the horses that dominated the Kentucky Derby trail and
then the Triple Crown races themselves. It comes down to your Point of View:
Palace Malice, Orb, or Verrazano?
Palace Malice [Dogwood Stables, Todd Pletcher, Mike Smith] ML 5/2 – It took Palace
Malice almost a full year of racing to get his act together. After breaking his
maiden at Saratoga on August 4, 2012, he had to wait until the Belmont Stakes
to record his second victory. The Curlin colt came right back and added a
victory in the Jim Dandy.
Those two stakes victories
have put history on the side of Palace Malice. From horses that have won a
Triple Crown race, it is the Belmont winners that have dominated the Travers.
Victories in Saratoga’s Midsummer Derby have come from 30 Belmont winners, 10
from the Kentucky Derby, yet only 8 had won the Preakness. Since 1964, when the
Jim Dandy was first run, 17 Travers winners have come directly from that
Saratoga prep race. That fact has become even more significant, as seven of
those winners have occurred since the year 2002.
Orb [Janney and Phipps, Shug McGaughey, Joel Rosario] ML 4-1 – Orb dominated the
Florida winter racing scene and his win in the Kentucky Derby made Orb
America’s favorite horse. The Malibu Moon colt reeled off five straight
impressive wins, which was probably the best streak of any horse this year.
Orb’s respite at Fair
Hills Training Center has reportedly gotten him fit and ready to run again
after his fourth and third place finishes in the Preakness and Belmont. Orb
lived the life of luxury in Maryland with ice bathes, aqua treadmills, and the
finest grasses on which to graze. Historically, Orb will be going against the
odds. Since 1960 only ONE Travers winner has used the Belmont as its prep race.
That was Birdstone in 2004.
Verrazano [Smith, Tabor, Magnier and Let’s Go Stable; Todd Pletcher; John Velazquez] ML favorite
2-1 – The More Than Ready colt is perfect except for his loss in the Kentucky
Derby. He has won six of seven
career starts including two wins at Monmouth Park since the Derby. His
supporters cite his record and his detractors question his ability to get the
10 furlongs of the Midsummer Derby.
Travers history tells us
that Monmouth’s Haskell Invitational has produced more than its share of Spa
winners. Since 1960, 13 Travers victors have used the Haskell (Monmouth
Invitational) has a prep race, with the most recent having been Summer Bird in
The rest of the field is
very solid, containing horses that would have been much shorter prices if they
had run in last year’s Travers. However, against the top three in this year’s
race, generous odds will be available should the unlikely occur.
Moreno [ML 12-1] has come into his own since moving to New York from California. He
broke his maiden on the Belmont Stakes undercard and followed that up a month
later with a front running seven-length victory in the Dwyer. In the Jim Dandy
Moreno set the pace, but faded to third behind Palace Malice after an erratic
Louisiana-native Eric Guillot recognizes the difficulty at hand in the Travers,
thus he has decided to use some unusual tactics. Guillot has created a Todd
Pletcher voodoo doll, with carefully placed pins, to try and bring bad luck to
Saratoga’s leading trainer. All in good fun Guillot said, “Previously a voodoo
doll worked on Baffert, but Pletcher told him that he had reversed the curse
Godolphin Stable will be
represented by two runners that finished first and second in the roughly run
Curlin Stakes. Romansh [ML 12-1] is
trained by Tom Albertrani and Transparent [ML 10-1] by Kiaran McLaughlin. Transparent finished in first, but was
disqualified and placed fifth, elevating Romansh to the win position. Both of
these late developing Godolphin colts were sired by Bernardini, himself the
winner of the 2006 Travers.
Will Take Charge [ML 10-1] was a presence on the Derby Trail with wins at Oaklawn Park
in the Smarty Jones and the Rebel. He ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown
with his best finish being a distant seventh in the Preakness. Trainer D. Wayne
Lukas brought this son of Unbridled’s Song back to finish second in the Jim
Dandy, giving him that strategic Travers prep race.
Trainer Dallas Stewart is
giving Golden Soul [ML 20-1] another
shot at regaining the form that allowed him to finish second in the Kentucky
Derby. Since then Golden Soul was uncompetitive in the Belmont and the Haskell.
War Dancer [ML 15-1] is turf specialist that has run on the grass six of seven
starts. Most recently this son of War Front won the Virginia Derby by a head at
odds of 7.4-1 for trainer Kenny McPeek. His only start on the dirt was a fourth
place finish in his second maiden special weight.
The 2013 edition of the Travers has one of the most competitive fields
in many years. The race has three superstars and the other six runners give the
field great depth. If Palace
Malice, Orb, or Verrazano win the race they could easily move into the top 10
in Brian Zipse’s recently published The Travers List.