Handicapping The Travers


Wide open.

That is the best way to describe the 2008 Travers. Twelve horses. None of them with credentials to suggest they deserve to be anything but "under consideration" for winning the Mid-Summer Derby. Pyro being installed as the tepid 7-2 morning line favorite underscores the uncertainty of the field.

It is both a bettors dream and nightmare at the same time. Great race to wager on, but very difficult to pluck the winner. Let's do our best to break it down.

Pyro - 7/2

Had every opportunity to run down Macho Again in the stretch of the Jim Dandy. Somehow he couldn't do it. Post 11 doesn't help and he is unproven at 12 furlongs. All that being said, he is close to regaining the form he showed before the Blue Grass. And he is the only three-time graded stakes winner in the field. Factor.

Harlem Rocker - 4/1

I think by post time he'll be the favorite. Proved he can go more than a mile in the Price of Wales. You can excuse his only loss in the Plate Trial as not liking Polytrack. Perfect 4-for-4 on dirt and ran a field best 106 Beyer in the Withers. Might just now be coming into his own after not running as a juvenile. Going to be tough to beat.

Mambo In Seattle 5/1

A little surprised he is the third choice. Love the breeding and seems to be getting better with every start, but who has he faced? He won a restricted stakes last month and a couple of allowance starts. Going to be hard for me to back him at this price.

Macho Again - 6-1

The last three Jim Dandy winners have gone on to take the Travers. Does that mean anything here? I guess, but he had a quick pace to run at last time and hasn't worked all that well leading up to this race. I'm looking elsewhere.

Da' Tara - 8-1

Got involved in suicidal pace duel with Mint Lane in the Jim Dandy. Zito was not happy. Wouldn't surprise me if Garcia let Tizbig have the lead here. Have to consider him because he is proven at the distance and his bullet work on Aug. 15. Respect.

Colonel John - 8-1

Until he proves he can win on anything other than synthetic, tough to back him. Didn't show that powerful finishing kick in the Swaps where he was third in a field of four. Harty says he is working like a monster, but I have major doubts.

Court Vision - 12-1

He is the wild card in here for me. I know I should stay away after he disappointed me in the Derby, but the Virginia Derby effort was impressive. Gio Ponti is a very good colt and Court Vision looked him in the eye. They could have gone with the easier Pa. Derby as planned, so it's a good sign those chose the Travers. Will the return to dirt benefit him? Tough call.

Cool Coal Man - 15-1

I can't see him being a factor. I've never been big on this colt. He won the Fountain of Youth and hasn't showed anything since. Pass.

Tres Borrachos - 15-1

Swaps was a nice win, but I'm not sold. It was on synthetic and was his home track. Maybe a chance to fill out bottom of exotics, but not main prize.

Tale of Ekati

I might be one of the few who still gives this colt a chance. He certainly doesn't blow you away with his stretch run, but I was impressed with his move in the Jim Dandy. Tagg is hinting that he might be ready for a big one. Loves the inside. Prado gets the mount again, will save all the ground and will be more patient this time. I know I'm nuts, but I give him a legitimate chance here.

Tizbig - 30-1

Could set the pace and lead them around for a mile, but that's all I can see. My "That Handicapping Show" co-host Evan Hammonds likes him to hit the board. Not me. We'll see.

Amped - 30-1

Zito's third starter. No thanks

The Pick: I like four horses here - Harlem Rocker, Pyro, Court Vision and Tale of Ekati. I'm going with Harlem Rocker on top, although I wouldn't play him in straight win bets because he'll likely be 7/2 or lower. To me, Harlem Rocker has the most upside. We've seen what they rest of these 3-year-olds can do, and it hasn't been all that impressive. Here is a colt that has huge upside. Pletcher has been very selective with him. If you'll remember, he thought about the Preakness and then decided to send him to Canada where he could have a little more time to develop. He seems ready now. He's working well, he's got the speed numbers, should be able to get 10 furlongs and has Coa, who knows Saratoga.

I expect Pyro to be in the mix and Court Vision to run a nice race. Tale of Ekati could disappoint like he has before, but I will include him anyway. I like the way Tagg is talking. I'll box all four in exactas and trifectas.

Good luck to all. Analysis of some of the Breeders' Cup Challenge races to come on Friday.

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