SARATOGA SPRINGS — Twelve horses are set to run in the Grade I Travers Stakes on Saturday, no easy feat. But the real hard work was done before Tuesday night’s draw for Saratoga Race Course’s signature event, and by none other than Schroon Lake native Travis Stone.
He had to make the morning line for the “Mid-Summer Derby” — a line for a race involving a division in search of a clear-cut leader with a lot of horses who can make cases for themselves.
Stone had to make a line for a field that included the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, along with the winners of the Jim Dandy, Haskell and several other horses that it wouldn’t surprise too many if they won the race Saturday.
As if it wouldn’t be hard enough to consider just the horses’ merits, he finally had to make a hypothesis as to what the betting public will do with the field.
In the end, he made Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, who drew post 4, the morning-line favorite at 7-2. West Coast, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is the second choice at 4-1 from post 3.
Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (PP 7) and Preakness winner Cloud Computing (PP 1) are 6-1 and 8-1, respectively, while the surprise Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan (PP5) is 5-1, with Haskell Invitational winner Girvin (PP 6) 10-1.
Stone even had to consider the merits of Irap, who finished the Kentucky Derby a well-beaten 18th, but who rebounded with victories in the Grade III Ohio and Indiana derbies. Irap is 8-1 from post 10.
“It was very challenging, but one of the things that made it a little easier than last year is, I think, the pecking order in this crop is fairly well defined,” Stone said following the draw.
“The questions came in with Irap, who has a pretty big (speed) figure in his last start and is sort of on the up and up, versus horses coming out of the Haskell, a race that I thought was a lot of distance-challenged horses,” Stone added. “And I think the public’s going to gravitate away from that race a little bit, so I went toward Tapwrit, who’s a Belmont Stakes winner with a big figure last time out, over West Coast, who’s obviously the next best on paper. I won’t be surprised if they get flip-flopped on betting, but I felt Tapwrit was the favorite.”
Stone noted that West Coast’s brightest feather in his cap is a Grade III win last time out, but there’s his Hall of Fame trainer who’s won the Travers twice, including last year with Arrogate.
“The thing you worry about is Bob Baffert gets bet so much and he has so much success,” Stone said. “However, Tapwrit is a Grade I, Belmont Stakes winner. On figures, he’s a little bit faster, and I was, like, ‘you know, I’m going to go that direction’ because West Coast, coming out of a Grade III, still hasn’t hit that top level yet.”
As far as post positions, they aren’t getting the groans and concerned remarks they once did, and that was evident Tuesday from the trainers who drew the rail and the far outside.
“We wanted to be inside, and you can’t go any more inside than that, so we’re happy,” trainer Chad Brown said of Cloud Computing’s rail post. “We drew inside in the Preakness and it worked out. We’re going to save some ground in this race, and I love the draw.”
“I love the 12,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of Fayeq’s post. “He’s had issues at the gate, we’re going to be last in, not being in there long. Hopefully we wanted speed inside of us, they’re all inside of us. Hopefully it works out.”