The 2019 Travers Stakes attracted a dozen 3-year-old colts and geldings who will travel 1 1/4-miles over Saratoga’s main track. Saratoga is known as the graveyard of favorites. This particularly holds true for the Travers Stakes (G1).
Post time for the Travers Stakes is set for 5:44 p.m. ET Saturday. The main track will be fast, and no rain is in the forecast.
The last time the favorite won the “Midsummer Derby” was in 2011, although Alpha, the 2012 favorite won in a dead-heat with a 33-1 longshot.
Betting Favorites and Long-Shots In The 2019 Travers Stakes
Speaking of longshots, the Travers can be a tough race to handicap, but the returns are huge, with double-digit payouts on the winner.
Let’s take a pro/con look at the betting favorites and logical long-shots of this race.
|Code Of Honor||+400|
|Looking At Bikinis||+1000|
|Scars Are Cool||+3000|
#6 TACITUS (5-2) (+450)
- Pros: Tacitus is battle-tested and always runs his race. The large gray colt had a terrible break in the Jim Dandy, going to his knees. He responded to finish a game second behind Tax. Tacitus is of the best in the 3-year-old division. He’ll wear blinkers for the first time to get him involved earlier in the race. Trainer Bill Mott is 11% with that angle.
- Cons: Battle tested is a nice way to put it. Tacitus is the horse that always has trouble.In his last four starts, he either stumbled, was bumped, rank or had a wide trip.
Tacitus may go to the post as the favorite. He can easily win with a clean trip, although he rarely gets one. Use on top and underneath.
#12 TAX (6-1) (+600)
- Pros: Tax has tactical speed. There’s no true pacesetter in the Travers, and that could set it up for the Danny Gargan trainee. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. could lull them to sleep on the front end, and Tax has no distance limitations.
- Cons: Tax has received a double-digit late pace speed figure only twice in his career. He’s also never strung two wins together.
The pace may be soft, and Tax can get the jump on Tacitus if that one has his usual poor trip. Use on top and underneath.
#7 MUCHO GUSTO (6-1) (+600)
- Pros: Earlier in the year, Mucho Gusto had one running style, go to the front and hang on. However, the Bob Baffert trainee showed a new dimension, relaxing behind the pace in his last two starts. This new running style resulted in a 2 1/4-length victory in the Affirmed (G3) and a second-place finish in the Haskell (G1).
- Cons: Despite a pedigree that says 1 1/4-miles should be no problem, Mucho Gusto has distance concerns. Mentally, he hasn’t proven that he can hold it together beyond 1 1/6-miles. He had every opportunity to win the Haskell but backed off the superior Maximum Security.
- The Play: Mucho Gusto is maturing in his new running style, and never count out Bob Baffert, he’s won two of the last three editions of the Travers.
#3 HIGHEST HONORS (10-1) (+1000)
- Pros: This later-maturing colt had raced only three times and has room to improve. He’s a neck away from being undefeated, his speed figures have improved in each start, and he’ll only get better. Plus, he’s conditioned by leading trainer Chad Brown.
- Cons: Highest Honors is taking a huge leap in class. The Curlin Stakes was a weaker race than the Jim Dandy. Questions surround how well this son of Tapit will handle 1 1/4-miles.
Highest Honors has tactical speed and is improving. We don’t normally see a Chad Brown horse at high odds in a stakes race. Longshot wildcard, anyone? Use on top and underneath.
#2 CODE OF HONOR (4-1) (+400)
- Pros: Code of Honor has finished out of the money only once in his career. He was a 3 1/4-length winner of the one mile Dwyer Stakes (G3) despite going five wide on the turn and the jockey losing his whip.
- Cons: There are distance concerns with Code of Honor. While he’s hit the board at 1 1/8-miles and farther, he has never won beyond 1 1/16-miles. His pedigree suggests that 1 1/4-miles is at the top of his distance range. Also, he’s never strung two wins together in his career.
He may be the second choice in the betting standards, but he has more negatives than positives at this point. I’ll take a stand and use underneath.
#1 OWENDALE (6-1) (+600)
- Pros: Since stepping into graded stakes company, Owendale has won twice and finished third.
- Cons: Both of Owendale’s victories were against weak Grade 3 fields. He was all out to win the Ohio Derby in his last start in a grinding once-paced style. He’ll have to deal with a soft or slow pace, not ideal. He also regresses slightly next out after a victory. Additionally, his pedigree suggests he’s up against it gong 1 1/4-miles in Grade 1 company.
Owendale is the Travers wise-guy. Is he a surprise long-shot winner, or an also-ran? He could be improving and coming in fresh off a lifetime-best late pace speed figure of 112. Use underneath.
#9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS (10-1) (+1000)
- Pros: Looking At Bikinis set an unhurried pace in the Curlin Stakes over a muddy track, but the dead rail position took its toll. He’s lightly raced and has room to improve.
- Cons: Looking At Bikinis faded to third, 6 1/2-lengths behind Highest Honors. His speed figures are some of the lowest in the field. Every Travers winner since 2010 has won or placed in their previous start.
- Looking At Bikinis could grab the lead and set a soft pace as he did in the Curlin Stakes. The difference is that the track will be fast.
It would be a huge surprise if he won, but he could certainly hold on for a piece. Use Underneath.
#10 SCARS ARE COOL (30-1) (+3000)
- Pros: Scars Are Cool is improving rapidly and has a victory at 1 1/8-miles at Saratoga. He won his last race by four lengths, despite the jock dropping his whip.
- Cons: That impressive four-length victory was against maidens. He’s making a huge leap in class.
Scars Are Cool is rapidly improving. He doesn’t have the experience of the rest of the field, but he’s worth a look to light up the exotics. Use underneath.
#8 CHESS CHIEF (30-1) (+3000)
- Pros: Chess Chief finished second in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at 35-1 in his last start. Dallas Stewart is noted for lighting up the tote with overlooked longshots. “Money” Mike Smith could have his choice of mounts but picks up Chess Chief.
- Cons: Chess Chief’s sole career win was against maidens, and he’s finished in the money only three times in his career.
- The Play: Even though he’s finished off the board in most starts, in Chess Chief’s last three outings, he’s gained ground and his late pace speed figures have improved.
He’s the kind of horse that comes flying around the turn to pass tired horses, usually over a speed favoring track. If you’re feeling lucky, toss him in for wildcard lower exotics, you might be surprised.
#11 ENDORSED (15-1) (+150)
- Pros: Endorsed is lightly raced and finished a clear second behind Highest Honors in the Curlin Stakes.
- Cons: Endorsed moved in tandem with Highest Honors down the stretch of the Curlin Stakes and Endorsed didn’t have to go as wide on the turn. He backed down from Highest Honors.
#4 LAUGHING FOX (30-1) (+3000)
- Pros: The one-run closer has high late-pace speed figures.
- Cons: The last horse to finish worse than third in their previous start was back in 1993.
The Play: Toss.
#5 EVERFAST (30-1) (+3000)
- Pros: He’s Grade 1-placed.
- Cons: He was a distant fourth in his last start. He has one victory from 13 starts.
The Play: Toss.
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