McLean’s Saratoga “Spot Plays” on Travers’ Day — Including All of the Stakes Events

It is here.

Travers’ Day — 2019.

The Mid-Summer Derby, and one of the greatest races in the world — squeezed in-between the Triple Crown showdowns and the Breeders’ Cup Championships.

The card also boasts some of the greatest races on the calendar and makes the day one of the best in the yearly calendar of Thoroughbred racing. There’s the G1 Forego, the G1 Ballerina, the G1 H. Allen Jerkens, the G2 Ballston Spa, the G1 Personal Ensign, and the G1 Sword Dancer all leading up to the G1 Travers.

Wow.

Fun.

Exciting.

Here’s our look and selections:

Race 5: G1 Forego … 3-1-6-4…This appears to be a showdown between Promises Fulfilled (1) and Mitole (3) in one of the best sprint events of the year; if not of a lifetime. Promises Fulfilled, a 4YO son of Shackleford and trained by Dale Romans, is a perfect 2-for-2 over this racetrack — and won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes a year ago. He is a speedball that leaves very little strategy at the starting gate. He breaks. He runs fast. And, he runs as far as he can as fast as he can. Jockey’s job? Just to hold on. In 5 career starts at today’s 7-furlong distance, Promises Fulfilled has 3 wins and 2 thirds. He will be tough to beat. Mitole (3), a 4YO son of Eskendereya and trained by Steve Asmussen, is another who will fire at the beginning. And, although he has only 1 third in one star t over this Saratoga dirt, he does have something very important. Two wins over Promises Fulfilled this year. Mitole distanced Promises Fulfilled in both the G1 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day and then whipped him again in the G1 Metropolitan Mile. Each time Mitole strolled off to easy wins in those. In the last out, though, Mitole was really no factor to Imperial Hint in the G1 Vanderbilt Stakles here on July 27. Lost by over 7 that day — while cutting back to 6 furlongs. At this distance, Mitole is a perfect 1-for-1. So, what to do? I don’t think long. I go strong. I bet Mitole (3) to win/place and then key the 3 over/under the all button. I single Mitole in my horizontal plays. I think he is one of the best horses in training. And, shows why today. In the Pick 3, I bet: 3/4-5-2-7-3/8-12-5-9 ($20 for $1 ticket).

Race 6: G1 Ballerina Stakes … 4-5-2-7-3…This is the 7-furlong equivalent for the gals, and while there may not be the headliners like the we will see in the Forego, this is a stellar event in its’ own right. Separationofpowers (4) figures to be the Post Time favorite for this one, and rightfully so. The 4YO daughter of Candy Ride rolls into this one off a powerful 43/4-length win in the G3 Bed o’ Roses Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7. Trained by Chad Brown, this filly has 4 wins and 2 thirds in 9 career starts and has 2 of those wins in 3 starts over this track. Speed oriented, she will go to the front, most likely, in a race full of speedy types. Battle seems set to ensue at the beginning. May the toughest one survive. Mia Mischief (5) is tough, and she is gritty. And, she is fast, too. The 4YO Into Mischief filly is my top selection in here, but 7 furlongs is an absolute stretch for her. No doubt. The last time she tried the distance, she did beat the very accomplished Marley’s Freedom in the G1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on KY Oaks Day. In 5 tries at the 7 furlongs, she has 2 wins and 2 seconds. Can stalk a bit, but not far behind. My choice. Come Dancing (2) is another speedball. She has a win here. Dawn the Destroyer (7) is a potential closer who may be able to pick up the pieces after what appears to be a potential fireball on the front. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key the 5 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas. I spread out here in the horizontal plays, but I def use the 4-5 in all the mixes. In the Pick 3: 4-5-2-7-3/8-1/9-4-3-7-2 ($50 for $1 ticket)…In the Empire 6: 4-5-2-7-3/8-1-2/9-4-3-7-2/4/6-7-4-8-1/6 ($150 for .20-cent ticket).

Race 7: G1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes … 8-1-2-5-9… Love this race, and how it stacks up. This will be a 7-furlong teaser and tester for the 3YOs. Shancelot (1) is the prohibitive 1-2 favorite in the ML, and is sure to be odds-on when they reach the starting gate. The 3YO son of Shanghai Bobby was an absolute blur when he ran off to a 12-length, record-setting victory in the G2 Amsterdam Stakes here on July 28. In 3 career starts, he has 3 career wins. The wins have been by a total of 18.5 lengths. He is a wind blast. But this is a race full of speedsters. And, the stretch out to 7 furlongs may be a tough call for this one. Especially considering that just to Shancelot’s outside is Call Paul (2). This 3YO son of Friesan Fire can move his hooves about as fast as the rail bird. And, he is 1-for-1 here, and has 2 wins in 3 starts at this distance. Throw out the last race over the grass. Terrible idea. But the Pennsylvania-bred can motor — as he proved in the G3 Swale Stakes earlier this year and his win in the G2 Saratoga Special here last year. Game on between the 2 inside horses. That may set it up perfectly for Rowayton (8), who can stalk and can close. The two times that he has missed the board, Rowayton has run over a muddy and a sloppy track. He will be cutting back to a sprint distance that he may prefer, as well. The 3YO son of Into Mischief has had two awful rides in a row, as well. Still, ran third to Code of Honor while routing two races ago. I’m hoping for a fast track. I’m hoping for a speed duel up front. I’m hoping on Rowayton. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the 8-1-2 in one exacta. I use the 8-1-2-5-9 in the horizontal plays. In the Pick 3, I go 8-1-2/9-4-3-7-2/4-1 ($30 for $1 ticket). In the Late Pick 5, I go 8-1-2/9-4-3-7-2/4-1/6-7-4/6 ($45 for .50-cent ticket).

Race 8: G2 Ballston Spa Stakes … 9-4-3-7-2… In my view, this is another Chad Brown invitational. How can you leave out any of the trainer’s contenders in this 11/16-mile contest over the turf? I can’t. Just can’t. I will go to the outside and focus much of my betting strategy on Mascha (9). This one certainly moves up a giant lick in class, after winning an allowance race against non-winners of 1-other in the last outing here on July 31. But…Look back three races ago, when the 4YO ran in France. She was beaten less than a length that day by Homerique. That’s a filly that has since come to the U.S., too, and has found her way into the barn of Chad Brown. She ran a huge one to be third to Sistercharlie (winner of the Beverly D. last time out). I go strong on 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under all the numbers listed. But I also will spread out here in the horizontals. Pick 3 ticket: 9-4-3-7-2/4-1/6-7-4-8-1 ($50 for $1 ticket). Pick 4 ticket: 9-4-3-7-2/4-1/6-7-8-4-1/6 ($25 for $1 ticket). 

Race 9: G1 Personal Ensign Stakes … 4-1-5-3… I think this is a 2-horse race. But what a 2-horse race this should be. Wow. The great Midnight Bisou (1), with the great Mike Smith in the saddle, figures to be the one to beat. She is 10-3-3 in 16 lifetime starts. She has won 5 Graded Stakes races in row. She is amazing, talented, gutty and great. But…She is also winless in two tries at Saratoga, and winless in three tries at this 11/8-mile distance. So, despite all the accolades, she may be vulnerable. Especially when you consider that she will face another filly great today in Elate (4). This talented 5YO daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has raced just 4 times this year. She has 2 wins, a second and a third. And, she has two impressive wins in row, as well. But…In three tries here, she has a win and 2 tough-beat seconds. In 5 times at the distance, she has 2 wins and 2 seconds. She has lost twice this year to Midnight Bisou. But both of those were at 11/16 miles. Both of those were early this year. And, both of those were at Oaklawn Park — where Midnight Bisou is certain best. I bet the 4 to win. I key the 4 over/under the “all button.” And, I will key the 4-1 horizontals. In the Pick 3: I go 4-1/6-7-4-8-1/6. In another Pick 3, I go 4/6-7-8/2-3-6-11-12. In another Pick 3, I go 4/6/”all.”

Race 10: G1 Sword Dancer Stakes … 6-7-4-8-1…This 11/2-mile endurance test will be contested over the inner turf course, and, once again, I go strong on Chad Brown and his motorcade of turf runners. Ya Primo (6) should be sitting on a big effort, considering that she made a nice run late to be second to Channel Cat (4) in the G2 Bowling Green here on July 27. That was Ya Primo’s first run in the U.S. and first race outside of Chile. She had trouble in the early going of that race, but fired solid and often in the late runs. First race since March. Has trained superbly since. My solid pick. Annals of Time (7) is another Chad Brown pupil, and comes into this one off an easy win over allowance company on July 24. When right? This one is really right. And, he looks right. As in right now. In two starts here, he has a win and a second. Back in 2016, had a win over the fast and durable Beach Patrol. Has talent. And, looks good right now. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed. In the horizontals, I go withe 6-7-8-4-1/6 in one double and 6/2-3-6-11-12 in another.

Race 11: G1 Travers Stakes:…6/3-2-11-12/1-7…I have made my opinion known here since early this week. I am bullish on Tacitus (6). Very bullish. Yes, he has found a way to lose way too many times. But, in truth, much of it has not been his fault. Went to his nose in the G2 Jim Dandy to begin, and still ran a rushing second. Went to the outhouse and concession stand in the G1 Belmont Stakes, yet, still was second to Sir Winston. Went to the near-rear of the Kentucky Derby, and at one time was 16th in the field. Still, closed to be a non-threatening 4th/3rd. Has time to correct all wrongs this year, though. A win today and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he could be a serious contender for a lot of major championships. I think he will get the win today. Has carried the weight. Has fought the fight. Has the ability. But…According to our research, thanks to my great friend Ed DeRosa over at Brisnet.com, the off-spring of Tapit have gone 62 for 566 when getting blinkers for the first time. That is a win percentage of .1095. Not impressive. Tacitus gets blinkers for the first time today. Hmmm. Still, I go. I bet the 6 to win/place and I key the 6 over/under the “all button.” I will key the 6 over/under the 3-2-11-12-1-7 in another exacta. I key the 6 over 3-2-11-12 over 3-2-11-12-1-7 in the trifecta. And, I key the 6 over the 3-2-11-12/3-2-11-12/3-2-11-12-1-7 in the superfecta. 

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

 

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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