Game Winner, Mr. Money add intrigue to early Travers field

July 14, 2019 02:23pm

The Travers Stakes is regularly the most anticipated race of the summer stakes season, and this year will be no exception. As we are just fewer than six weeks away from the "Mid-Summer Derby," it’s worth taking a look at how the field is coming together.

The race was boosted Saturday by powerful wins from Game Winner in the Los Alamitos Derby and Mr. Money in the Indiana Derby.


 
The 2-year-old champ Game Winner got off the mark, tasting victory for the first time since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a five-length score in the Los Alamitos Derby.  “This should set (Game Winner) up for the Travers just perfect,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “West Coast, we did the same thing with him. Hopefully we’ll have the same kind of year with him.” It could be argued that that Game Winner never got a chance to show his true ability as he got bounced around over the sloppy Kentucky Derby day track. This win sets up Game Winner to be one of the top contenders for the mile-and-a-quarter Travers, but the depth of the field and a few remaining questions offer the potential for a nice price.   
 


 
Mr. Money continued his Grade 3 tour de force with a 2 ½-length win in the Indiana Derby, following dominant scores in the Matt Winn (G3) and Pat Day Mile (G3), which were both at Churchill Downs. 

While only possible for the Travers at this point, trainer Brett Calhoun listed the Travers as an option to “take on the top echelon”.   Also of note, Calhoun quickly dismissed the idea of going to Santa Anita Park later this season for the Breeders' Cup, saying “I don’t know about that, they have a lot of issues going on out there right now.” If the championships are indeed out, then it makes even more sense for Mr. Money’s connections to take a shot at the big time in the Travers.  There’s reason to believe he can compete with the top 3-year-olds in the country, while at the same time he’s a horse that could come into the Travers on a three-race win streak yet still go off at around 10-1.  
 


Next Saturday’s Haskell Invitational (G1) will go a long way to shaping up the makeup of the Travers.  Maximum Security gets a rematch after his Pegasus loss to King for a Day, and Mucho Gusto, Joevia and Everfast get another chance to impress in here along with some other longshots. 

We could see Maximum Security, King for a Day and one other runner take the Haskell path to the Travers. 

 
The Jim Dandy (G2) on July 27 at Saratoga could be the deepest Travers prep, with a host of challengers including Belmont runner-up Tacitus, Preakness winner War of Will, Dwyer winner Code of Honor plus with Owendale and Global Campaign coming in off wins in the Ohio Derby and Peter Pan, respectively. 

Given that the Jim Dandy at nine furlongs is a prep for the 10-furlong Travers, it’s not uncommon to see the top four in the Jim Dandy continue on to the Travers.  Other contenders Gray Magician and Math Wizard, second and third in the Indiana Derby, still remain in the picture but could also look to the West Virginia Derby (G3) on August 3.  That race is three weeks before the Travers and could still produce a starter or two.   Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes on Friday, July 26, also has the potential to produce a Travers starter or two. The $100,000 race is at nine furlongs for sophomores without a graded stakes win this season. Nominations should be announced this week.  Putting it all together, Game Winner is in, and we’ll wait on a decision from Mr. Money’s connections. That’s a great start to a deep and talented field and then it’s on to the Haskell next weekend.  Via Horse Racing Nation's Stakes Tracker, here is how the 2019 Travers Stakes is shaping up:

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)

 

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