Analysis: Maximum Security may catch paceless Travers Stakes

August 12, 2019 03:04pm
Analysis: Maximum Security may catch paceless Travers Stakes
Photo: Taylor Ejdys/EQUI-PHOTO
Inside of two weeks from race day, the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga looks like an inviting spot for two-time Grade 1 winner Maximum Security. Browsing through the probables, there is almost no pace to accompany him.

But Maximum Security's participation is still not certain. A decision pends from trainer Jason Servis, who said recently that "I just want to make sure he is 100 percent" having exited a Haskell Invitational (G1) victory on a sultry day at Monmouth Park.

Nevertheless, if Maximum Security gets the green light, that will be difficult on his rivals. Who among the probables owns enough speed to make the known frontrunner work early?

Tacitus possesses the talent to win a fair-paced Travers, and for what it is worth, trainer Bill Mott worked him most recently in blinkers. But in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) Tacitus came from last, five lengths behind, after a terrible start. The colt got away cleanly in the Belmont Stakes and still settled seventh.

In most races, Tacitus lands anywhere from midpack to last. If the connections go ahead with blinkers, that will probably not change drastically.

Game Winner only ran 2 1/2 lengths off the pace in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) before going on to win, but he faced weaker horses through a slow pace. At best, Game Winner will run in mid-pack in the Travers, too.

Code of Honor runs from off the pace as well no matter the scenario. For example, in the fast Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), Code of Honor settled in fifth, 7 1/2 lengths off Hidden Scroll. In the slow-paced Florida Derby (G1), he came all the way from eighth, 4 1/2 lengths off the leader.

Owendale's early positions in the Lexington Stakes (G3), Preakness Stakes and Ohio Derby (G3) confirm him as a deep closer. Throw Laughing Fox and Everfast into the same category, too. Laughing Fox only ran closer to the pace in the Jim Dandy because War of Will set a slow pace.

Highest Honors came from fourth to break his maiden and last to win the Curlin Stakes with an outside bias helping him. He will need pace.

Curlin runner-up Endorsed owns a bit more speed, as he initially settled in fourth in that race. But, he will not run too far ahead.

If any Curlin Stakes horse is capable of pressing Maximum Security, it is the pacesetter Looking at Bikinis. But the feeling is that he set the pace by default, rather than by natural instinct. Notice he opened in 24.23 and 49.36 -- slow fractions for nine furlongs -- and he still faded (albeit after running along a dead rail).

In any case, put Maximum Security and Looking at Bikinis up front together, and Maximum Security should handle him and still win. 

Tax, Spinoff and Global Campaign are left on the list.

While Tax owns some speed, it's not the type to wipe out Maximum Security early. Rather, it is the kind of speed to press in a slow-paced race or settle farther back in a faster pace.

Recently, Tax chased War of Will closely in the Jim Dandy. But in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), Tax fell seven lengths back at one point in third.

Similar to Maximum Security, Spinoff and Global Campaign are listed as "possibles." The connections are not committed to the Travers yet.

With blinkers added, Spinoff recently won a local optional claimer by 5 3/4 lengths over the familiar Lone Sailor. He is not a pacesetter, though, as he initially settled in third, 5 1/2 lengths off Flowers for Lisa.

The latter is the only hope to significantly weaken Maximum Security. In the Fountain of Youth, Global Campaign did not run too far off the insane pace, chasing in third and three lengths behind Hidden Scroll. Even in third, TimeformUS gave Global Campaign big pace figures of 157, 159 and 138.

Global Campaign bypassed the Kentucky Derby and waited for the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Belmont. This time, Global Campaign pressed Federal Case through swift fractions of 23.19, 46 and 1:10.16. TimeformUS gave Global Campaign 132, 133 and 123 pace figures, which are still fast numbers.

Connections intended to send Global Campaign in the Jim Dandy, too, but the colt inexplicably didn't find his footing early. WhileWar of Will opened in 24.89 and 48.80, Global Campaign ran wide and chased in third at the half-mile point.

Global Campaign offered nothing late and stayed third off a layoff.

Given how flat Global Campaign looked trying to stalk a slow pace in the Jim Dandy, the plan might let him go this time if he runs in the Travers.

Therefore if Global Campaign enters, Maximum Security may need his “A” effort to contest the pace with Global Campaign, put him away and hold off a closer like Tacitus. But Global Campaign may get stuck stalking, too.

With both Maximum Security and Global Campaign listed as possibles, perhaps neither of them enter and the early Travers pace becomes a lifeless slugfest with Tax or Looking at Bikinis opening in 25 and 50. In that case, the pace could work against Tacitus, which is good news for value bettors.

If Maximum Security runs, given the early makeup of this Travers, it would be more sensible to put him on top and build a ticket from there rather than guess on a longshot. If he doesn't go, the race is plenty playable, as Tacitus doesn't figure to get the right setup, and blinkers remain an experiment.

The Travers will offer bettors a good opportunity either way. But from a racing fan's standpoint, Maximum Security's presence is preferred.

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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