The leading three-year-olds will fight it out in the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Travers Stakes to be run Saturday at Saratoga Race Course in New York. The ten-horse field includes the winners of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, Belmont, Haskell Invitational and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes. The race is dubbed the “Midsummer Derby” and is the highlight of the Saratoga meet.
Leading the field as the 5-2 morning line favorite is Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty. Stay Thirsty sat in the shadows of stable mate, Uncle Mo, through the early part of the year until Uncle Mo fell ill just before the Kentucky Derby. While Uncle Mo has spent the last three months trying to get back into form, Stay Thirsty has earned a Grade 2 win in the Jim Dandy Stakes and placed in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Stay Thirsty earned an Equibase speed figure of 106 for his win in the Jim Dandy over the Saratoga dirt and a 99 in the Belmont. Assuming he can continue to improve, he should finish within the top three, but this field is full of tough competition.
Stay Thirsty is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by jockey Javier Castellano. Castellano won last year’s Travers aboard Afleet Express and the 2006 Travers atop Stay Thirsty’s sire, Bernardini.
Coil is listed as the second choice on the morning line at 3-1. The Bob Baffert-trained runner won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park by a neck over Shackleford. He has three wins from four starts this year and has never finished worse than third in six career starts.
In the six listed works Coil has turned in since July 3, five of those were bullet works, meaning he worked faster than any other horse at the distance on the track that day. In his last work at Saratoga a few days ago, Coil covered four furlongs in a blistering :46.
Coil typically likes to run close to or on the lead, but after a troubled start in the Haskell, he stayed at the back of the pack before making a closing drive going into the stretch. His versatile running style should allow jockey Martin Garcia options as the Travers unfolds.
Coil also has a pedigree with a Travers history. Coil’s sire, Point Given, gave trainer Bob Baffert his last Travers Stakes win in 2001.
The third choice in the field, at a morning line of 9-2, is Dale Romans’ Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. Although the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Travers is not ideal for Shackleford, the colt has consistently proven to be a force to be reckoned with. The Travers will be the sixth straight Grade 1 race in which Shackleford has competed. From those sixth, his worst finish was fifth in the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes.
Shackleford has continually been discounted and underrated, but this horse has heart and always exhibits 100%. A win on Saturday would be the first Travers Stakes victory for trainer Dale Romans and jockey Jesus Castanon.
Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice is the fourth choice in the field at a morning line of 6-1. He finished third in the 1 1/8 mile Haskell Invitational, 2 ½ lengths behind Coil and Shackleford. He should appreciate the 1 ¼ distance in the Travers. He will likely sit just behind the leaders, along with Stay Thirsty, and may find himself in a good position to pounce on the leaders at the finish.
The remainder of the field includes Bowman’s Causeway, who’s done well lately at Woodbine in Canada; Rattlesnake Bridge, who’s coming off a nose victory in the Long Branch Stakes; Moonshine Mullin, who was beaten four lengths by Stay Thirsty in the Jim Dandy; Malibu Glow, who’s coming off a win in a $56,000 allowance race; Raison d’Etat, who has one win in four career starts and is making his first stakes appearance; and JW Blue, whose last victory was in a January allowance race.
The race is the 12th on Saratoga’s Saturday card. The scheduled post time is 5:45 p.m. and the race can be seen on NBC as part of its "Summer at Saratoga" series beginning at 5:00 p.m.
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