Submitted by Hank Goldberg on Monday, August 20, 2018 at 5:48 PM
Even if you are a recreational bettor you have heard Saratoga referred to as the “Graveyard of Favorites.” The phrase itself, became an obligatory mantra after Onion pulled his monumental upset of Triple Crown Winner and subsequent legendary all-time champion Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Stakes.
While this “Graveyard of Favorites” is a bit hyperbolic, there are plenty of stories which will keep the phrase on the tongues of horse players well into the future.
In fact, Onion’s world-class Hall of Fame trainer in H Allen Jerkens, known affectionately as the Chief, was also called by many, the “Giant Killer” because of the many upsets he pulled off other than that of Onion.
Jerkens was always known for beating the public’s beloved and big favorites. He trained, for instance, Beau Purple, who not just once but three times beat Kelso, who was of course a five-time horse of the year. Jerkens was also known for one of his colorful comments about high profile stakes races, “the check for second place isn’t so bad either.”
(I COULD REMINISCE ABOUT SARATOGA UPSETS FOREVER, BUT LET ME GET TO THE POINT)
Even when many of the traditional Stakes races at Saratoga do not send the favorite to the graveyard, year in and year out there is one race every summer which has a long habit of doing so and that is this Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes, the Mid-Summer Derby, which is the highlight of the meet.
In 2007 favored Street Sense conquered the Travers Stakes. Yet since that edition, only two favorites have won the Travers. Stay Thirsty got it done in 2011 and Alpha was triumphant in 2012. But even in 2012 Alpha had to share top honors as he dead-heated with longshot Golden Ticket.
And as you can see below, by going back to 2012 and 2011, the last two winning favorite Travers Stakes, even when the favorite was involved we had the kind of results we always look forward to.
Listed below are the year of the Travers, the top 4 finishers in each edition, the win, exacta, trifecta and superfecta payoffs, the location of the final prep, the name of that prep, the distance of that prep and where the 3-year old finished in that final prep.
West Coast - $14.20 – Los Alamitos…Los Alamitos Derby…1 1/8 M…Won
Gunnevera - $357.50 – Gulfstream…Tangelo Stakes…1 1/16th M…Won
Irap - $2,245.00 – Indiana Grand…Indiana Derby…1 1/16th M…Won
Tapwrit - $14,329.00 – Belmont…Belmont Stakes…1 ½ M…Won
Arrogate - $25.40 – Del Mar…Allowance…1 1/16th M…Won
American Freedom – $134.50 - Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…2nd
Gun Runner - $2,028.00 – Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…5th
Gift Box - $20,912 – Saratoga…Curlin Stakes…2nd
Keen Ice - $34.00 – Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…2nd
American Pharoah - $66.00…Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Frosted - $180.00…Saratoga…Jim Dandy…1 1/8 M…2nd
Upstart - $1,159.00…Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…3rd
V.E. Day - $41.00 – Saratoga…Curlin Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Wicked Strong - $167.50 - Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Tonalist - $535.00 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…2nd
Kid Cruz - $3,049.00 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…3rd
Will Take Charge - $21.20 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…2nd
Morero - $313.00 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…3rd
Orb - $1,950.00 – Belmont…Belmont Stakes…1 ½ M…3rd
Palace Malice – Saratoga…Jim Dandy…1 1/8 M…Won
(Dead Heat For Win – Two Payoff Series)
Alpha - $4.10 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Golden Ticket – $135.50 - Churchill Downs…Kentucky Derby…1 ¼ M…2nd
Fast Falcon - $2,698.00 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…7th
Atigun - $20,673.00 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…6th
Golden Ticket - $26.80 - Churchill Downs…Kentucky Derby…1 ¼ M…2nd
Alpha - $230.00 - Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Fast Falcon - $5,275.00 - Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…7th
Atigun - $38,545.00 - Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…6th
Stay Thirsty - $6.80 – Saratoga…Jim Dandy Stakes…1 1/8 M…Won
Rattlesnake Bridge - $78.00 - Monmouth…Long Branch Stakes…1 1/16th…Won
JW Blue - $1,312.00 – Delaware Park…Barbaro Stakes…1 M 70 Yards…2nd
Ruler On Ice - $10,237.00 – Monmouth…Haskell Stakes…1 1/8 M…3rd
(NEW PLAYERS VS SEASONED VETS HAVE ALWAYS MADE THE TRAVERS INTRIGUING)
Now, those above breakdowns might be a lot of results and numbers to look at. But beyond the tantalizing payoff potentials you can expect, it is important to understand that this is the time of year…the second half of the 3-year old season…when new players begin to develop to compete against recycling (often into second wind performances) veterans of the Triple Crown wars.
One of the notes in the results listed above showed the final prep prior to finishing first to fourth in the Travers Stakes. But just as important to note is how from year to year the Triple Crown either impacted the Travers heavily or not at all.
Looking at the top 4 finishers from year to year shows us how inconsistent the Triple Crown runners have been when it comes to starting on the Derby prep trial, competing in one or more Triple Crown races and still being around for the Mid-Summer Derby.
As a handicapper I find this to be pertinent only in knowing how strongly the public will back those Triple Crown returnees regardless of their form this coming Saturday and how it measures up to my handicapping of the race.
Gunnevera – 7th Derby…5th Preakness
Tapwrit – Won Belmont Stakes
Gun Runner – 3rd Derby
Keen Ice – 6th Derby…3rd Belmont
American Pharoah – Won Triple Crown
Frosted – 4th Derby…2nd Belmont Stakes
Upstart – 18th Derby
Wicked Strong – 4th Derby…4th Belmont Stakes
Tonalist – Won Belmont Stakes
Kid Cruz – 8th Preakness
Will Take Charge – 8th Derby…7th Preakness…10th Belmont Stakes
Orb – Won Derby…4th Preakness…3rd Belmont Stakes
Palace Malice – 12th Derby…Won Belmont Stakes
Alpha – 12th Derby
Golden Ticket – 2nd Derby
Atigun – 3rd – Belmont Stakes
Stay Thirsty – 12th Derby…2nd Belmont Stakes
Ruler On Ice – Won Belmont Stakes
As the 2018 Travers field settles into shape how will participants from one or more Triple Crown races such as Gronkowski, Tenfold, Vino Rosso, Bravazo, Hofburg, Good Magic reboot and how will they fare vs sharp newcomers such as the filly Wonder Gadot who beat the boys twice in Group races in Canada, Turf and Remsen Stakes winner Catholic Boy, Matt Winn Stakes winner King Zachary and possibly Indiana Derby winner Axelrod.
After the way I crushed the Biggest Arlington Stakes Day of their Meet (The International Festival Of Racing On August 11)…cashed the Late Pick 4 for $17.521…you know I’ll be all over the Big Payoff Potential for this year’s Travers Stakes…where there is no definitive favorite.
It bears repeating that the Travers is the highlight of the Saratoga meet, and although I’ve picked the winner the past 5 years, (last year with West Coast at $14.20)…the real money is in the exotics in the Travers and of course the stacked undercard.
The Travers will be our Cash Cow…but you’ll get the additional six Graded Stakes races including all the exotics in each, the rolling Daily Doubles and Pick 3’s and concluding with my longshot picks in the Travers, wrapping up a $1,000,000 pick-4 and pick-6.
TRAVERS DAY SATURDAY MEANS
HIGHER ODDS AND BIGGER PAYOFFS,
THAT’S WHERE I START HAMMERING
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