5 takeaways from the Travers Stakes post position draw

August 21, 2019 10:19am
5 takeaways from the Travers Stakes post position draw
Photo: Courtesy of NYRA

After post positions were determined and morning line odds set for Saturday’s Travers Stakes (G1), connections to most of the Mid-Summer Derby contenders also took to the microphone to weigh their chances.

RELATED: Travers odds and analysis

Here’s what we learned…

Tax is a pace factor

In previous starts, the Jim Dandy (G2) winner took fractions as they came to him, appearing to methodically grind out races rather than influence their outcomes on the front end.

That figures to change Saturday, as trainer Danny Gargan said that with Tax drawn widest in the Travers field of 12, the son of Arch will go early to establish position.

“I really don’t like it, but what are you going to do?” Gargan said of the post position. “Now if he wins this one, we won’t underrate him, right?

“We’re going to see how fast they are now. Somebody’s going to have to be real fast, because I’m going to have to heat it up. I have no choice from the 12 hole.”

Will Tacitus break out?

Trainer Bill Mott wasn’t able to celebrate his first career Kentucky Derby victory the way the Hall of Famer probably pictured it — with Country House the beneficiary of the race’s only disqualification in the win spot due to interference.

No bother if Tacitus manages to win the Travers for Mott, who said it would mean as much — if not more — than a Triple Crown race victory.

“He’s run well enough,” Mott said of the son of Tapit, who was caught wide in the Belmont Stakes and stumbled at the start of the Jim Dandy (G2) “I think we’re just looking for that breakout race — for him to have that day in the sun.

“…Stuff happens, right? We’ll hope things go better for him this time.”

In hopes of letting Tacitus create some of his own luck, blinkers on represents the only equipment change in the Travers field.

Brown’s best shot

Last year, Chad Brown came into the Travers with a reigning 2-year-old champion, Good Magic, who had just won the Haskell Invitational (G1). And yet the New York native said Tuesday, “I don’t think I’ve had a better shot than this year.”

Both his contenders exit Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes, which was restricted to 3-year-olds without a graded victory this season. Favored Looking At Bikinis faded after running on the pace over a wet track and dead rail, while Highest Honors took to the slop in the better, outside part of the track, rallying to win last month at Saratoga.

Brown called it a “tale of two trips” and noted both his colts are “fresh” for the Travers, whereas Good Magic ultimately made it his final stop before retirement. Both Looking At Bikinis and Highest Honors will be running third off the layoff on an anticipated fast surface at the spa.

“He’s always trained really well on a dry track,” Brown said of Highest Honors, “even as a 2-year-old before we got to run him.”

Owendale needs to step up

Trainer Brad Cox has spoken in the weeks leading up to the Travers about Grade 3 winner Owendale’s race spacing given the colt delivered what Cox still considers his best performance in Keeneland’s Lexington (G3) off a layoff.

A similar scenario awaits Saturday, and Cox likens Owendale’s recent training coming in as “very similar to the Preakness,” in which the Rupp Racing runner finished third.

Still, “He’s not faced horses — a field like this,” Cox said. “The Preakness was a solid race, but not quite as deep as this race. He’s going to have to step up.”

The distance will also be “a little bit of a question” when the son of Into Mischief stretches a bit farther than he went in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.

“But he’s a big horse with a big stride,” Cox said.

Who’s riding Everfast?

Dale Romans has a relative unknown, Martin Chuan, up on the Preakness runner-up. The trainer advises…

“First off, go look up his record. He's the king of South America. I wasn't the one who found him. Ramon Dominguez found him for me, which gives him a whole lot more credibility.”

Romans said Chuan has been riding his horses at Ellis Park since the barn’s first call rider, Robby Albarado, suffered an injury earlier this summer. The Travers will mark Chuan’s first Saratoga mount unless other horsemen assign him a race Saturday — and Romans suggested they do just that.

“This kid is a true race rider,” he said.

As for Everfast, the son of Take Charge Indy who seems to run hot and cold, Romans said “he's a live longshot and this is the graveyard of champions.” We only have to go back to 2015’s Keen Ice upset of American Pharoah to prove it.

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)


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