The $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes 2020 was moved three weeks earlier than usual in the COVID-19 adjusted racing calendar to run a month ahead of the Kentucky Derby. In doing so, the Mid-Summer Derby became an official prep race for the Run for Roses with qualifying points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10).
Tiz the Law was named the 1-1 morning line favorite in the field of eight 3-year-olds who will face challenge of the 1 1/4-mile distance for the first time in their careers.
Here is a full-field analysis of the Travers, which is carded as race 11 out of 12 with post time at 6:14 pm ET. Morning line odds are provided by NYRA.
|First Line First Samurai – O. Noda /D. Cohen – 4: 1-1-1 - $64,960]|
SCRATCH -- Reportedly, owner/trainer Orlando Noda has been saying that First Line was a Kentucky Derby horse all year long. It took four starts for the son of First Samurai to break his maiden, which he did at Saratoga just 10 days ago by a neck going a mile and an eighth. This is an enormous step up in class. Presser, toss
|Country Grammer [Tonalist – C. Brown /I. Ortiz Jr. – 5: 2-0-1 - $117,320]|
The son of Tonalist sold as a yearling for $60,000 and then was pinhooked for $450,000 the following year. He broke his maiden at Aqueduct in November in his second start as a juvenile. In the Fountain of Youth (G2), he lost footing and raced wide to finish fifth and then was third in a Belmont allowance behind Tap It to Win and Mystic Guide. In the Peter Pan, he rallied up the rail to win by a neck, turning the tables on Mystic Guide. Stalker, use underneath
|Uncle Chuck [Uncle Mo – B. Baffert/L. Saez – 2: 2-0-0 - $120,000]|
Bob Baffert brings the very lightly raced Uncle Chuck to Saratoga to face a serious test on the Kentucky Derby trail. He won his debut in June by seven lengths in a field of five at Santa Anita Park and then took the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) by four while beating only three rivals. His Los Al Derby win was flattered when the second-place finisher Thousand Words came back to upset the heavy favorite Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief at Del Mar. No doubt that Uncle Chuck will take his shot in the Travers as part of the early pace. Many times we have seen Baffert bring horses to Saratoga to run beyond expectations. Presser, win contender
|Max Player [Honor Code – L. Rice /J. Rosario – 4: 2-1-1 - $273,500]|
Max Player began his career at Parx Racing, where he broke his maiden on a sloppy track by more than four lengths in December. He became a Kentucky Derby contender when he won the Withers (G3) with a late rally at Aqueduct on Feb. 1. Trainer Linda Rice had to adjust his schedule more than once when the pandemic shut down racing. The Wood Memorial was cancelled, and he had to wait more than four months to find a race. In the nine-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1), he closed from ninth place to finish third after a wide trip. He should appreciate the added distance in the Travers. Closer, win contender
|Shivaree [Goldencents – R. Nicks /J. Alvarado – 12: 3-3-2 - $345,505]|
This Florida-bred made his first 11 starts at the Gulfstream Park racetracks, where he won two listed stakes races and was second in the Swale (G3) and the Hutcheson, all while sprinting. The Ralph Nicks runner then was second in the Florida Derby (G1) behind Tiz the Law while stretching out to a mile and an eighth for the first time. In his first start away from home, he flashed his usual early foot but then faded badly in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland. It is hard to know what to expect from Shivaree going 10 furlongs at Saratoga. Presser, toss
|Tiz the Law [Constitution – B. Tagg /M. Franco – 6: 5-0-1 - $1,480,3000]|
Tiz the Law has been the top-ranked 3-year-old all year long. He has the most wins and the most earnings in this field. He has three Grade 1 victories and the only blemish to his record came on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs last year. The Barclay Tagg runner clearly thrives on his weekly workouts. All five of his wins were by margins of three or four lengths. His stalk and pounce running style fits and makes him a formidable favorite in the Travers. Stalker, top choice
|Caracaro [Uncle Mo – G. Delgado /J. Castellano – 3: 1-2-0 - $53,800]|
This very lightly raced son of Uncle Mo made a big jump from a maiden special weight score at Gulfstream Park in January to a narrow defeat in the Peter Pan (G3) at Saratoga last month. In the Peter Pan, he took the lead in the stretch after stalking the early pace and after some bumping was defeated by Country Grammer. Those two were more than three lengths ahead of the rest of the field. He has stayed in New York to prepare for the Travers. Stalker, use underneath
|South Bend [Algorithms – B. Mott /J. Ortiz – 11: 3-2-2 - $325,114]|
South Bend won the first three races of his career as a 2-year-old, including the Street Sense at Churchill, but he has not found the winner’s circle since then while racing strictly against stakes company. He switched to the turf for five starts, where again he was a contender in most of his races. Back on the dirt in the recent Ohio Derby (G3), he rallied from 10th to miss the win by less than a length against a field of 13. Now, he's in the barn of Bill Mott. Closer, use underneath
Summary: The Travers will be the first time that these 3-year-olds face the daunting challenge of going a mile and a quarter and it is going to happen on the deep racing surface at Saratoga.
The biggest questions for handicappers to consider is which of these horses has a chance of having any run left in the final furlong?
My answer is that there are four horses that can do it. There is no question that Tiz the Law can handle the distance and that alone makes him the horse to beat. Uncle Chuck comes to Saratoga with so much hype and potential and trainer Bob Baffert has brought them to the Spa ready to run many times. Max Player finished the Belmont Stakes full of run and looks like the extra furlong will be to his liking. Country Grammer, who is a son of the 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, has the breeding.