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Post Time: Travers day stakes races highlight card

By Gene Kershner

In addition to the $1 million Travers Stakes on Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course, the New York Racing Association has carded some terrific graded stakes races that will precede the main event and will be televised nationally on NBC (Ch. 2, 4-6 p.m. EDT). While the Travers itself may be lacking in star power due to the injury-riddled 3-year-old division, the undercard has more than enough firepower to make it a great day to watch the races and look for the big score.

Keep an eye out on some of the races earlier in the day, more than one superstar has emerged out of a 2-year-old maiden special weight on Travers Day.

Let’s take a quick look at the three other graded stakes making up the guaranteed $1 million Pick-4 sequence that ends with the Travers.

Race 9: Grade 2 Ballston Spa – The logical horse in this race (and most likely overbet) is Zagora (5-2), who has meet leading rider Ramon Dominguez in the irons, a Grade 1 winner who captured last year’s Diana at the Spa.  The 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up has several other horses that are capable of stealing the race from Zagora. I fancy Tapitsfly (7-2), the 5-year-old mare who always shows up for the big races and has top turf jockey Javier Castellano aboard. The Tapit mare has never missed the board in seven outings at the 8-1/2 furlong distance. I’m finding it hard to not include Hungry Island (3-1) and Summer Soiree (9-2) on my multi-race play. How can you go wrong with the four top turf jockeys on your ticket (Dominguez, Castellano, Johnny V and Julien Leparoux)? I’m going four deep here.  If the track comes up wet, the MTO (main track only) entry of Acting Happy (2-1) is a must use.

Race 10: Grade 1 Test – This is where I’ll skinny down my ticket as two horses in here look to be far above the others. The 2-1 morning line favorite Contested shortens back up to 7-furlongs after trying the 8-1/2 furlong Mother Goose where she succumbed in the late going. Rafael Bejarano in to ride Liaison in the Travers gets his first mount on the Ghostzapper filly for trainer Bob Baffert. The other horse I’ll use in here is Book Review (5-2) for trainer and Mechanicville N.Y. native Chad Brown. She comes off two top performances but tries graded company for the first time. Her race two back was a one mile affair where she lost by 3 3/4-lengths to the Alabama winner Questing, who freaked in last week’s action.

Race 11: Grade 1 King’s Bishop – Typically my favorite race on the Travers day card. Last year’s edition was an exciting photo finish where Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champion Caleb’s Posse nipped Uncle Mo at the wire. This year’s 7-furlong affair looks to have another stellar field of thoroughbreds. The Pick-4 usually provides us with at least one upset winner and this is the race I’ll go five deep in to try and catch a price. I’ll use the two logical favorites, local product Currency Swap (5-2) for Saratoga-based trainer Terry Pompay and the speedy Trinniberg (7-2), the Grade 2 Woody Stephens winner. We’re willing to give Baffert’s Gun Boat (5-1) a pass after a poor effort in the Amsterdam, based on a solid workout on Aug. 19 and with his regular jockey Bejarano back in the saddle. The two long priced horses we’ll throw into the mix is Ever So Lucky (12-1) who has Johnny V aboard and is cutting back in distance and sports two bullet workouts within the last two weeks and Unbridled’s Note (10-1). The latter comes off a third place finish in the Amsterdam behind Currency Swap and Todd Pletcher’s Doctor Chit (5-1). We think that she is ready to move forward and could be an upset possibility in here. He rocked a huge workout on Aug 20 and looks fit to roll for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Race 12: Grade 1 Travers – The Post Time advance story on the Travers will be in the Saturday print edition and we’ll include our top two selections (Alpha and Nonios) to round out our Pick-4. Check out our thoughts in tomorrow’s News.

At a $0.50 increment, the ticket (4x2x5x2) will cost $40.

Good luck and let’s cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.


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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.