Always Dreaming Leads Loaded Field at Travers Stakes

David Schwab

Thursday, August 24, 2017 3:17 PM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 3:17 PM UTC

The highlight of the summer racing season at Saratoga Race Course for some of the top 3-year-old thoroughbreds in the nation takes place Saturday with the running of the 2017 Travers Stakes.

There is a full card of major graded stakes racing at Saratoga on Saturday with some major implications for a few of the races in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar Race Course in early November. Breaking down the projected field for this year’s Travers Stakes, I have come with a trio of colts that come together perfectly for a winning trifecta play.

2017 Travers Stakes

The Travers is a Grade 1 stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds. The total prize purse has been set at $1.25 million and it will be contested on the dirt track at Saratoga over a distance of 1¼ miles.

A field of 12 horses are listed as probable for Saturday’s main event at Saratoga, and this potential list of entries runs deep in talent in light of their performance in this year’s Triple Crown racing series. At the top of the list is Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming with a lofty 8.42 ranking by Horse Racing Nation. Trained by Todd Pletcher, this Kentucky-bred colt has been a mixed bag since that stirring victory at Churchill Downs with a disappointing eight-place run in the Preakness followed by a third-place run in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 at a distance of 1 1/8 miles.

Given that this race is the same distance as the Kentucky Derby, I like the sire of Bodemeister chances to reestablish himself as one of the top 3-year-olds in this year’s crop with another victory this Saturday.

My second choice in this year’s Travers would be trainer Joe Sharp’s Girvin. I had this colt as my show horse in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30, and he bested the field over a distance of 1 1/8 miles with McCraken and Practical Joke rounding out the top three. Girvin fell off my radar after falling to 13th in the Kentucky Derby, but a strong second-place run in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on June 24 proved that he should still be considered an elite thoroughbred.

The son of Tale of Ekati comes into this race with a HRN rating of 7.90 while being ranked No. 215, and I believe there is going to be some solid value in his eventual betting odds when it comes to finishing in the money on Saturday.

I decided to go with another Pletcher-trained entry to round out my Travers’ trifecta pick with Tapwrit penciled in as my third choice. He has not raced since winning this year’s Belmont Stakes on June 10 at an extended distance of 1½ miles so he should be more than ready to resume his season with a strong showing in this race. This Kentucky-bred colt has been a bit streaky all season long with an early win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby followed by runs outside the money in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes (5th) and the Kentucky Derby (6th).

With the second-highest HRN rating in the projected field at 8.32, the expectation level is running high. I personally think this pedigree of Tapit should be able to keep pace with the lead down the stretch given the shorter distance of this race despite the high level of competition he will face. 

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