Travers 2022: Odds & analysis for mid-summer derby

Travers 2022: Odds & analysis for mid-summer derby

The Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes drew a field of eight 3-year-olds that will be facing the 1 1/4-mile distance at Saratoga on Saturday. Epicenter drew post-position No. 6 and was named the 7-5 morning line favorite.

Taking a look at the past-performances of this year’s Travers field, you can make a long list of noteworthy facts and figures.

•Seven stakes winners.

•Five winners of more than $1 million.

•Five horses that participated in at least one Triple Crown race.

•Four Grade 1 winners.

•Four horses won their prep race for the Travers

•Three come from the barn of Chad Brown.

•Two stallions, Not This Time and Gun Runner, sired half of the field.

•One trainer has a past Travers win, Brad Cox in 2021 with Essential Quality.

•Zero Travers wins from the jockeys in this year’s field.

Here is a full-field analysis for the Travers with the official track morning line odds. The race is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. EDT and is carded as race 11 out of 13.

1. Cyberknife (7-2 Gun Runner Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 9: 5-2-0 - $1,596,250) Cyberknife won four out of his last five races with the only loss coming in the Kentucky Derby (G1) when he beat only two horses to the wire. Amongst his victories are the Haskell (G1) in July and the Arkansas Derby (G1). It is well known he needed to mature mentally as a 3-year-old and he did just that as he won the Matt Winn (G3) and then the big race in the Haskell at Monmouth Park. After the Haskell, the son of Gun Runner moved north to train at Saratoga. It is likely that Cyberknife will be ignored a bit at the betting windows as was the case in both of his Grade 1 victories. Win contender.

2. Rich Strike (10-1 Keen Ice Eric Reed / Sonny Leon – 9: 2-0-3 - $2,016,289) The long shot Kentucky Derby winner makes his first start since running a non-threatening sixth in the Belmont Stakes. He was also a long shot in his four races leading up to his stunning Derby upset with mutuel prices of 46-1, 8-1, 20-1, and 26-1.

Rich Strike has been in Saratoga for two weeks to prepare for the Travers and has looked the part of a talented 3-year-old. However, he needs to prove on the track that he can get another win to go with his victory on the first Saturday in May. Trainer Eric Reed said after Rich Strike’s recent five-furlong workout in 59.82 seconds that his horse has the natural speed to race closer to the pace then he did i the Derby, but that he has yet to show any interest in doing so in a race. Rich Strike is the only horse in the field with a victory going ten-furlongs. If you like him, you are going to get good odds once again. Toss.

3. Ain’t Life Grand (20-1 Not This Time Kelly Von Hemel / Tyler Gaffalione – 8: 5-0-2 - $399,500) Ain’t Life Grand is a rare Iowa-bred with bloodlines that belong in Kentucky. He is by Not This time, who also sired Epicenter, and is out of a Medalgia d’Oro mare. Ain’t Life Grand has five career victories at Prairie Meadows with four in restricted races to go with the Iowa Derby on July 9. His only start outside of Iowa was at Oaklawn Park in April when he was fourth in the Bachelor Stakes.

Trainer Kelly Von Hemel moved his colt to race around two turns in his last three starts. He has been training at Saratoga since the middle of August and will get a rider change to Tyler Gaffalione. Ain’t Life Grand will have to run without Lasix for the first time as he moves into graded stakes company for the first time. Toss.

4. Gilded Age (30-1 Medaglia d’Oro Bill Mott / Junior Alvarado – 8: 2-1-1 - $204,579) Gilded Age was second in the July 29 Curlin at Saratoga behind Travers contender Artorius following an allowance victory at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles. Mott sent Gilded Age to Meydan for the UAE Derby (G2) earlier this year where finished near the back of the large field.

Mott seems to be able to get horses to return from the Middle East and run well as Gilded Age has done. The stretch out to ten furlongs should not be a problem for this son of Medalgia d’Oro as he seeks his first victory in a stake of any kind. Toss.

5. Artorius (9-2 Arrogate Chad Brown / Irad Ortiz Jr. – 3: 2-1-0 - $142,250) Not surprising that the least experienced horse in the field with only three starts comes from the barn of Chad Brown. The son of Arrogate was second in his debut at Keeneland in April and then moved quickly from his maiden victory at Belmont Park to win the Curlin at Saratoga against a field of eight at odds of 5-2.

In the Curlin, regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. guided the son of Arrogate from a stalking position to get the lead at the top of the stretch and then drew off to win by almost five lengths. Arrogate won the Travers in 2016 on his way to a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Like his father, Artorius will try and win the Travers in his first start in a graded stake. Top Choice.

6. Epicenter (7-5 Not This Time Steve Asmussen / Joel Rosario – 9: 5-3-0 - $2,270,639) Epicenter is the favorite in the Travers based on his second-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and the recent Jim Dandy (G2) victory. He also won a pair of Grade 2 races on the Derby trail, however he is still seeking his first Grade 1 win.

Earlier in the year, Epicenter won races on the lead or pressing the pace, but recently he has been racing from off the pace. No doubt that it will up to his regular rider Joel Rosario to decide early positioning for Epicenter. The ten-furlong distance on a Saratoga track that has been deep and tiring does seem better suited to his late running style. The one to beat.

7. Early Voting (8-1 Gun Runner Chad Brown / Jose Ortiz – 5: 3-1-0 - $1,347,500) The Preakness (G1) winner was a bit of a disappointment when he finished fourth in the Jim Dandy (G2) at odds of 9-5. With his usual running style, he was up on the early pace but could not sustain the effort in his first start at Saratoga.

Early Voting won his first two starts at Aqueduct as he moved from a maiden score to the Withers (G3) and that led to a second in the Wood Memorial (G2) behind Mo Donegal. Brown opted to skip the Derby with the Preakness as the goal and the plan worked out perfectly. Can Early Voting run a winning race in the Travers in what would be the toughest field of his career? Morning line odds of 8-1 make him an interesting prospect. Win contender.

8. Zandon (5-1 Upstart Chad Brown / Flavien Prat – 6: 2-2-2 - $1,113,000) Zandon has never run worse than third in his six-race career which includes five graded stakes and thus he has earnings over the $1 million dollar mark. He has a Grade 1 victory in the Blue Grass (G1) on the Kentucky Derby trail and since then he was third in the Derby and second in the Jim Dandy. His supporters will say that he had less than ideal trips in races like the Remsen (G2) and the Derby, but his critics will point out that the seconds and thirds are piling up. Zandon fits going the ten-furlongs against at Grade 1 field, but is the Travers when he puts all the pieces together? Win contender.

: It is hard to look beyond Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in big races at Saratoga this summer whether it was dazzling 2-year-old victories or graded-stakes wins with the likes of Jackie’s Warrior, Clairiere, Gunite, or Epicenter. The most surprising factor heading into the Travers may be that the Asmussen-trained favorite Epicenter is not a Grade 1 winner.

Cyberknife, who is 7-2 in the morning line, is the only horse in the field with two Grade 1 victories.

Then there is Artorius, the least experienced horse in the field who will try and do what his sire Arrogate did back in 2016 – win the Travers in his first try in a graded stake. Artorius won his Travers prep in the Curlin last month at Saratoga. He will be my top choice at 9-2 in the morning line.

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