The Travers Stakes is one of those races where there is an onus to have A PICK.
When someone asks you, "Who is going to win the Grade 1, $1-million Travers Stakes on Saturday at historic Saratoga Race Course?" The convention is that you have a one-horse answer. I.e. hedging for value or pace or other bet types (e.g. "I'm playing an exacta with...") is not allowed. It's also frowned upon to say, "Decide for yourself by visiting the Brisnet.com special reports page where all Travers Stakes reports are all in one place" because no one likes a shill.
So here it is. My pick to win the Grade 1, $1-million Travers Stakes--a race for three-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles on dirt on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course is...
There are plenty of reasons not to like Orb: The Preakness was dreadful, and he flattened in the Belmont before an 11-week break into this. That'd be enough to pass at even money, but I'm hoping for 4-to-1 against a competitive group. His Kentucky Derby remains among the fastest race of the year, and while it'd be easy to assess that to track condition and pace (both factors, yes), neither of those things were in play when he romped in the Florida Derby over eventual Preakness runner-up Itsmyluckyday.
The other thing I like about Orb is his running style. He has the reputation as being a closer, but he's capable of making a strong move earlier in the race as needed--like in the Derby when he moved from 17th to 5th on the far turn.
Given Moreno's suicide mission to try to win the Travers gate to wire (granted, the only way he can win), Verrazano and Palace Malice will be breathing down his back. It'll be interesting to see which stablemate moves first, but I can't imagine Joel Rosario will want either to be far away when they all turn for home. Those who think Orb is a deep closer do so at the risk of not realizing he might be in front by the eighth pole.
Orb is one of four horses in the Travers who have run a 120+ E2 pace rating. This rating measures a horse's pace from the start of a race to the second call. Orb earned his 122 in the Kentucky Derby, which as a route means that figure represents his speed for the first six furlongs. Following that 122 Orb earned a late pace rating of 91, which is easily the highest LP figure of any of the 120+ horses. Verrazano posted a 126 in the Derby and came home with a 55. Will Take Charge did a 121-67 in the Derby, and Palace Malice went 129-57.
|Orb's Class Ratings, pace figures, & Speed Ratings|
Yes, a slower pace is expected here, which we certainly have seen can benefit Palace Malice at longer distances (he won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont with a 109-104-88 versus 127-129-57 for the Derby) and Verrazano at shorter distances (he's the only horse in the race to be above par at every point in call in a singular race, which he did in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell when earning pace ratings of 102-115-101), but the aforementioned presence of Moreno sets it up for the pop we saw from Orb in the Derby.
So that's my case for Orb on top, but I think the best wagering opportunity is in betting against a 2-3-8 exacta box. That is, playing against two of Orb, Verrazano, and Palace Malice, respectively, to finish out of the top two. So for me, if Verrazano or Palace Malice wins that's OK as long as either of the Godolphin pair (#1 Romansh or #9 Transparent) sneaks in underneath, and I'll also put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott style.
So 2, 3, 8 with 1, 9 and 1, 9 with 2, 3, 8 for $12 plus a $1 exacta box 1-9 for a little insanity insurance (plus my birthday is 1-9).
I'll pay attention to the odds board, though. Orb is a play for me at 4-to-1. Given the big day and casual crowd, I think there's a better chance I get the right price on one of the big three than the others, and I think Orb is the most likely to offer that fair price.
Ed DeRosa is director of marketing for Brisnet.com. Follow him on Twitter, and contributes to the TwinSpires.com blog.