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Travers Stakes 2016: Odds and Analysis

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Photo: NYRA

Travers 2016 is Saturday, August 27th!

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Travers 2016

The Mid-Summer Derby was first run in 1864, and in all those years, few if any editions have come up more wide open than Travers Stakes 2016. Exaggerator will be favored off victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, and Haskell, but you only have to look as far back as two starts ago in the Belmont Stakes to see that he is far from invincible. There will be no shortage of prime competition for the son of Curlin, in fact, a full field of 14 starters will fill the starting gate. Below you will find my projected odds and analysis on the entire field, but before you get too worked up about how far down the list a favorite or two of yours is, keep in mind, I found it incredibly hard to find much between the top 11 horses. The Travers waters will run deep this year, so don’t be too surprised if any horse of many emerges victorious in the signature race at the hallowed grounds of Saratoga.


9) Gift Box (12-1) – As soon as I saw the talented son of Twirling Candy dominate a strong allowance field at Belmont Park in his comeback race this spring, I immediately thought of him as a Travers horse. Trained by top trainer, Chad Brown, I’m sure this has been his goal for a long time. Not rushed in the least, I believe his one race since, a second to stablemate Connect in the Curlin Stakes was merely a means to an end, with that end being August 27 at Saratoga. Connect got the better race set-up that afternoon, but the experience should be just what Gift Box needs to peak on Saturday. He has the tactical speed to find a good position early, no matter the pace, and the explosiveness to take over a race at the right time. To Upset the Travers


4) Governor Malibu (8-1) – Seemed primed for a big run at the Belmont Stakes winner’s trophy at the top of the lane, but the hands of fate were on not on his side that afternoon. Traffic issues were serious, and the New York-bred son of Malibu Moon could only manage a fourth-place finish in the final leg of the Triple Crown. Still, he adequately proved his ability to go ten furlongs or more in the Belmont, and now he comes into the Travers off a very nice prep in a paceless Jim Dandy. More pace in the Travers will suit him, and Clement should have him primed for another strong effort. Time for a Breakthrough?

[Bet the Travers on the brand new]


8) Destin (6-1) – Just behind Governor Malibu in the Jim Dandy was Destin. His third-place finish in Saratoga’s top prep for the Travers was a very nice effort for his first race since a heartbreaking loss in the Belmont. He let Laoban off with too easy a lead that day, but as always the talented and tactical runner tried hard all the way to the wire. Assuming that was a prep, I would suspect to see an even better effort on Saturday. Look for him to sit right off the lead, as he did in the Belmont, and make his move heading into the far turn. This time, he may just make it to the wire first. Consistent as They Come


7) Exaggerator (7-2) – With all of his big wins, it’s hard not to call this one the one to beat. He is classy, he can handle ten furlongs, he should get pace to run at, and he already has a win over the Saratoga main track. On the other hand, each of last four stakes wins have come on an off track. Of course, he has run very good races on a dry track too, such as a second in the Kentucky Derby, but you have to wonder if the advantage he enjoys on a wet racing surface has been the difference maker in some of those trips to the winner’s circle. The forecast, as of now, looks like it will be fast on Travers day. I respect him and his strong rally in here, but as the favorite, he will not be one of my top plays. Going for a Championship


12) Creator (10-1) – Well, the Belmont winner did not do much running on Jim Dandy afternoon. Call it a workout if you will. Remember, his Kentucky Derby run, albeit troubled, did not look great either, but then he came right back to claim the Belmont Stakes. I would not at all be surprised if another reversal of form was on tap for him Saturday. If the pace is brisk, as it looks to be on paper, this multiple Grade 1 winner becomes a major threat to sweep New York’s two biggest races for three-year-olds. Beware the Belmont Winner


2) American Freedom (6-1) – He continues to impress in both the mornings and the afternoons for trainer Bob Baffert. So why is it that I am finding it a little hard to see him winning this? Perhaps it is because the only good horses he has beaten, came on a sloppy track at Monmouth, or maybe it is because he is one of several speed types who figure to have a tough time staying on the entire 1 ¼ miles of the Travers. Either way, I know he is a very good horse, but one that I just do not seeing winning this one. Talented, but Not His Spot


14) Gun Runner (8-1) – I could probably say many of the same things for Gun Runner that I just said about American Freedom, and that one was the better horse on Haskell day. While I have great respect for this one, I just do not see the ten-furlong Travers, with plenty of speed, being the right set up for the Louisiana Derby winner. Back at nine furlongs or less, I expect that there will be many more nice wins for the son of Candy Ride down the road. Not Best at 10 furlongs


10) Connect (8-1) – Make no mistake, this is a serious racehorse. I saw him in person at Belmont Park, and he has all the qualities of a Grade 1 type of horse. He also comes in off a nice win over the track, beating Gift Box. So why is he not higher on this list? First off, I think that speaks volumes on the overall depth of this race. Secondly, I am just willing to bet that this son of Curlin needs just a little more seasoning to win something like this over such a big field. Future is Bright


1) Arrogate (10-1) – The West Coast version of Connect. Clearly, he is a major talent, as evidenced by his domination of his recent conditions races. While his Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert insists that he is born to run long, I fear that the combination of his first stakes attempt, large field, and the demands of the classic distance, will all lead to being a little more than he can handle this time. Like Connect, though, this is definitely one to watch for the future. Not Quite Yet


13) Laoban (12-1) – Hey, Eric Guillot did it again! This time with a maiden in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Last time he made a splash in that race, Moreno came back to run huge in the Travers. My guess is that Laoban will not find the same success. Last time, he got away with an easy lead on an easy pace. I just cannot see that happening in this field. He deserves respect off the last, but I think this will offer more pressure than he can fight off. Too Much Pace this Time


3) My Man Sam (20-1) – A Chad Brown runner with a strong late run, and a sneaky good prep, this low on my list? As I said, there are at least 11 legitimate horses in this race, and this one happens to be the eleventh. I’m not quite sure he fits on a class level, but there is a lot to like here, especially if this race features fast early fractions. He is older and more experienced than when he tried the Kentucky Derby. Do not Dismiss


5) Forever d’Oro (30-1) – He was thrown to the wolves two starts back in the Belmont Stakes, and finished last. He has since returned with a solid performance when third in the Curlin, so I am actually expecting him to improve off his Belmont experience. Still, to expect him to beat all of these good horses seems a little too ambitious. Should Improve off Belmont Last


11) Majesto (50-1) – My longshot pick for the Kentucky Derby never lifted a hoof that day. Nor did he do much running in his return race. He is from the same connections that shocked the Test recently, but still, he is hard to be confident about in here. Hard to Recommend


6) Anaximandros (50-1) -Well, he did pass some tired horses to finish fourth in the West Virginia Derby at odds of 52-1. Having said that, I would touch him this time at those same odds. Not Good Enough


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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