Wednesday, August 24, 2011
At least the Travers will be fun
By Bob Ehalt
The Travers may be one of the biggest races of the year in New York, but that doesn’t mean it always produces a memorable result.
That’s a sad fact of life in a restricted race like the $ 1 million Travers, where the quality of the field rests in the abilities and stature of that year’s 3-year-old crop.
If you disagree, quick, tell me who won last year’s Travers, and you only get half-credit for saying “Afleet Somebody.”
So in a year when nine different Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds have been won by nine different horses, it’s hardly a shock the lone 3-year-old on Saturday’s card worthy of being called a star is actually Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champ, who will run in the King’s Bishop, a sprint stakes before the Travers.
Based on his exploits and dynamic speed at two, he has some charisma.
But again, that’s at two.
Well, two things can be said about Saturday’s race. Come Sunday morning there will be a much clearer picture about the leaders of the division, and we probably will have seen a fun, entertaining, close and great betting race in the Travers.
As much as this year’s sophomore class lacks star power, they have at least been highly entertaining, with thrilling finishes and huge exotic payoffs, and the Travers just might continue that trend.
A field of 10 was entered, giving handicappers plenty of options to ponder.
Stay Thirsty was pegged as a 5-2 favorite, based on a strong victory last month in the Jim Dandy and a fondness for Saratoga with two wins and a second in three career starts at the Spa. Owned by Long Islander Mike Repole, whose attention will be diverted prior to the Travers by his other talented 3-year-old, the aforementioned Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty was third in the Belmont Stakes and would prove himself to be a rare commodity with back-to-back, not to mention belly-to-belly, graded stakes wins.
But it won’t be an easy task with an array of rivals that features Coil, who was last seen winning the Haskell, and Preakness winner Shackleford, who was second in the Haskell.
There’s also Ruler On Ice, who beat Stay Thirsty and Shackleford in the Belmont. He was third in the mile-and-an-eighth Haskell and may appreciate the extra furlong of the mile-and-a-quarter Mid-Summer Derby.
A win by any one of them would hail that horse as the division leader, but in a whacky year like this one it would be foolish to pin all of your hopes on one of the favorites.
The size of the field alone attests to the perception that these horses are vulnerable. Rattlesnake Bridge is 8-1 and the rest are a seemingly overmatched 10-1 or more, but in a year in which the $2 win parlay on the three Triple Crown race winners paid more than $15,000 having a longshot on your tickets would seem an astute move.
“A race like this, if any of the top four horses [Stay Thirsty, Coil, Shackleford, Ruler On Ice] win, he’s the leading 3-year-old. If any of them win this race they become the leader of the 3-year-old division, so this is the race. But the way things have been going this year, don’t be surprised if one of the other six horses win it,” Repole said at Wednesday’s post position draw for the Travers.
The only surprise would be if the Travers turns out to be a dull race. That would be a shock.