Travers Day is here, and the marathon 14-race card has me looking for a few longshots to play, particularly in the $1 million guaranteed Pick 4, which kicks off with the ninth race, which is the $500,000 Test (G1).
The marquee event of the afternoon is the anchor leg of the Pick 4, the $1 million Travers (G1) which will match up Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb, Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice and Haskell Invitational (G1) winner Verrazano.
The Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano is the 2-1 morning line favorite off his 9 ¾ length win in the Haskell where he earned a 116 Beyer Speed Figure, the top number for a three-year-old this year.
Back in March he looked like Pletcher’s best shot of winning the Kentucky Derby and was the early futures choice, but he lost a bit of luster after winning the Wood Memorial (G1) in slow time and was nearly 9-1 on Derby Day where he faded to finish a well beaten 14th.
Pletcher skipped the Preakness and Belmont and his last two wins seem to have him back at the top of his game. He would become the early leader for the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old with a win in the Travers.
However, Orb looks fresh and ready to go off a two month break at Fair Hill after his fourth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.
Palace Malice tuned up for the Travers with a good looking score in the Jim Dandy (G2), the route Pletcher used with Stay Thirsty in 2011 and Flower Alley in 2005, his two Travers winners.
Pletcher is looking to have a big day and he already is well on his way to a fourth consecutive training title at the Spa. He has won eight graded stakes and looks as if he has a good shot of adding to that tally this weekend.
Saturday’s 14-race card at Saratoga starts early with an 11:35am eastern post time. The stakes will be televised on “Summer at Saratoga” on NBC, the 90-minute telecast getting underway at 4:30pm eastern.
Here is a look at a longshot in each race of the Pick 4 that should be included. These are not necessarily my top picks, but runners that are likely to outrun their odds:
The Test (G1): I’m Mom’s Favorite (20-1) tracked the early pace while wide and tired in the stretch to finish a disappointing fifth last out at 5-2 in the Victory Ride (G3). She was coming off a game win in the Miss Preakness two back at Pimlico in her first stakes win. The runner up Filtering came back to beat Alw-2 optional claimers and then ran second in the West Virginia Secretary of State at Mountaineer Park while the third place finisher Lighthouse Bay came back to win the Jostle and Prioress (G1) in her next two starts. She drilled a bullet work over the main track here on Aug. 18 and face Tony Dutrow brings her back in this tough spot means she is doing well and is going to outrun her odds.
The Ballston Spa (G2): Miz Ida (8-1) looks like she is going to offer the best value among the major contenders in here if she goes off near her 8-1 morning line. Last out shed stalked the early pace, made a good move and battled with the winner in the stretch but hung late and had to settle for the runner up spot in the James Penney Memorial ‘Cap (G3) at Philly over yielding turf. The fourth place finisher Hessonite came back to win the New York bred On the Bus here on July 19. Our top pick has won seven of her dozen starts on turf including the Mint Julep (G3) at Churchill Downs two back and the Valley View (G3) last fall at Keeneland. She is capable with her best and should be a decent price.
The King’s Bishop (G1): Majestic Hussar (10-1) is coming off a sharp win last out against non-winners of three in life optional claimers off a 5 1/2 month layoff. Only our top pick earned a higher last out early pace figure and this guy should be right in the mix early here. When he beat Alw-1 optional claimers back in January at Gulfstream Park the runner up s Palace Malice. The colt should move forward second off the bench and is going to get overlooked in this spot.
The Travers (G1): Will Take Charge (10-1) has been driving me crazy all spring as I have backed him whenever he ran poorly and passed on him whenever he ran well like his win in the Rebel (G2) at 28-1 and his solid second in the Jim Dandy (G2) at generous odds of 17-1. I am going to use him in the bottom of my exotics. I just love his pedigree, out of the $2.4 million earner Take Charge Indy and a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy ($1.1 million).
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