Without the presence of Maximum Security, Game Winner or War of Will, some racing fans might feel let down by this renewal of Saratoga’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes. But Saturday’s (August 24) race remains a fantastic one for bettors with many ways to go about playing it
Most eyes will fall on Tacitus, the hard-luck colt with recent runner-up finishes in the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on his resume. But the field also contains the Jim Dandy winner Tax and other well-known 3-year-olds such as Mucho Gusto and Code of Honor.
The Travers will air during an hourlong program from 5-6 p.m. ET on Fox, with post time approximately 5:45 p.m. Meet the field with the official morning line below:
1. Owendale, 6-1 (Into Mischief – Brad Cox/Florent Geroux – 10: 4-1-2): Despite finishing third in the Preakness, the connections decided to skip the Belmont. Were they afraid of the longer distance? Next, Owendale did well to capture the Ohio Derby (G3) with a 124 TimeformUS Speed Figure, but look at the weak horses he beat, including the runner-up Math Wizard who burned money in his next two starts. Toss.
2. Code of Honor, 4-1 (Noble Mission – Shug McGaughey/John Velazquez – 7: 3-2-1): It was a good return in the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont. He settled at the back and finished sharply in the stretch to return from the Kentucky Derby a 3 ¼-length winner. The race turned out weak, though, with the runner-up Final Jeopardy going on to finish third in the Canadian Derby (G3). Another concern is the 1 ¼-mile distance, which might prove too far. Use underneath.
3. Highest Honors, 10-1 (Tapit – Chad Brown/Luis Saez – 3: 2-1-0): He did well to win the Curlin Stakes over Endorsed. But the question is whether the dead rail helped eliminate some of his competition, including Looking at Bikinis. On the plus side, he runs like a long-winded router, and the pedigree is there to get 1 ¼ miles. With only three overall starts, the sky is the limit. But he needs to move forward. Use underneath.
4. Laughing Fox, 30-1 (Union Rags – Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana Jr.) – 9: 3-0-0): This closer only could rally for fifth in the Preakness Stakes behind Everfast and Owendale. But his overall form feels a lot more trustworthy than Everfast. Plus, he settled closer in the Jim Dandy Stakes in fourth (albeit through a slow pace) before running evenly in the stretch for fourth. It feels like there is more in him. Perhaps this is the next Keen Ice. Live longshot.
5. Everfast, 30-1 (Take Charge Indy – Dale Romans/Martin Chuan – 13: 1-2-1): Too slow. He closed for fourth in the Haskell Invitational (G1), but only because King for a Day quit after Maximum Security interfered with him on the far turn. The runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes came in arguably the weakest of the three Triple Crown races. Toss.
6. Tacitus, 5-2 (Tapit – William Mott/Jose Ortiz – 7: 3-2-1): Everyone saw the trouble Tacitus endured in the Jim Dandy, including stumbling at the start and running on a dead rail. He also went wide in the Belmont Stakes and finished a strong second. When all bettors notice the same trip, the expected value is gone. With that said, this is a talented horse who can break through with a big number if he gets a clean run. Blinkers go on. Win contender.
7. Mucho Gusto, 6-1 (Mucho Macho Man – Bob Baffert/Joe Talamo– 8: 5-2-1): Many bettors will assume he cannot get 1 ¼ miles. From a pedigree standpoint, there is no reason a son of Mucho Macho Man out of a Giant’s Causeway mare cannot run this far. He faded to third earlier this year in the nine-furlong Sunland Derby (G3) earlier this year but came back from the Derby player showing he could relax and rate a bit. Last time, Mucho Gusto finished a strong second with a 127 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Haskell. Perhaps he only needed more seasoning. Win contender.
8. Chess Chief, 30-1 (Into Mischief – Dallas Stewart/Mike Smith – 10: 1-1-1): The Stewart entrant is not fast enough to win. But as this trainer has proven time and time again, he can land big longshots into the superfecta, adding life to the payoffs. In this one's recent start, he finished second in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at 35-1 to Mr. Money, who would be among the top choices here. Use underneath.
9. Looking At Bikinis, 10-1 (Lookin at Lucky – Chad Brown/Javier Castellano – 3: 2-0-1): The dead rail affected him in the Curlin Stakes, but he gives the impression nonetheless of a miler. This one displayed a quick turn of foot in both his maiden win at 6 ½ furlongs and optional claiming victory at one mile. While this colt owns the talent, he needs to prove himself at a longer distance before you can trust him in the Travers. Toss.
10. Scars Are Cool, 30-1 (Malibu Moon – Stanley Hough/Tyler Gaffalione– 3: 1-0-1): This Malibu Moon colt did well to break his maiden by four lengths at Saratoga at nine furlongs. Also, his turf router pedigree suggests 1 ¼ miles is not a problem. But it is questionable whether he owns enough seasoning to face this field off a maiden win. His career didn’t even begin until after the Kentucky Derby. Toss.
11. Endorsed, 15-1 (Medaglia D'Oro – Kiaran McLaughlin/Joel Rosario – 4: 2-1-0): Off the long layoff, this one returned to win an allowance sprint at Belmont. Then he stretched out in the nine-furlong Curlin Stakes, losing by 1 ½ lengths to Highest Honors. It is a bit disappointing he could not make it a closer race. Also, he only earned a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and it will take a step up to the 120s to win this. Toss.
12. Tax, 6-1 (Arch – Danny Gargan/Irad Ortiz – 8: 3-2-1): Tax is not the quickest horse in this division, but if no one wants the lead, he will set the pace. In this case, his tactical speed will help him tremendously, as the only other two speeds are Mucho Gusto and Looking at Bikinis. The class is there, too, as he won the Jim Dandy Stakes and finished a respectable fourth in the Belmont Stakes. Cross out the Kentucky Derby flop on a wet track. The pick.
Conclusion: With no true pacesetter in this race, the Travers favors any horse with mild speed. Tax fits the bill, and the distance question is not as concerning as it is with Mucho Gusto. But if Mucho Gusto's odds float up, bettors might want to take a chance on him instead.