Will a 12-1 Longshot Upset the Travers?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Saturday's running of the $1.25 million Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga is one for the ages. The Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness S. (G1), and Belmont S. (G1) winners are lining up against the reigning champion two-year-old male, with three other stakes winners (including a Grade 1 winner) mixed in for good measure.

Let's take a horse-by-horse look at the field:

#1 Forte: The champion two-year-old male of 2022 is arguably the horse to beat after battling his way out of a pocket to win Saratoga's Jim Dandy (G2), a pivotal prep for the Travers. Forte might have won by more than a nose if he'd gotten a clear run, which makes his flashy 106 Beyer Speed Figure all the more impressive. Forte defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mage in the Florida Derby (G1) earlier this year and ran second in the Belmont despite racing much wider than eventual winner Arcangelo, so any way you slice it Forte should be tough in the Travers. The only concern is drawing the rail; in a race without much pace on paper, Forte risks getting boxed in behind rivals.

#2 Arcangelo: The rapidly improving Arcangelo pulled out a perfect rail rally to win the Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths over Forte, a career-best performance that followed an unwaveringly tenacious triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan S. (G3). Arcangelo finished fast from behind a slow pace in the Peter Pan and looms as one of the main threats to Forte. There are a couple of concerns though: Arcangelo hasn't run in 11 weeks, and he received a better trip in the Belmont than Forte, who was coming off a 10-week break at the time.

#3 Tapit Trice: The stretch-running Blue Grass S. (G1) and Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner is adding blinkers after falling too far off the early pace when seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1), third in the Belmont, and fifth in the Haskell S. (G1). Tapit Trice has a strong stretch kick on his best day, but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain that kick if he gets more involved in the early pace.

#4 Mage: A fast pace may have benefited stretch-running Mage in the Kentucky Derby, but his victory over next-out Ohio Derby (G3) winner Two Phil's was hardly a fluke. Mage had previously finished second in the Florida Derby, and he followed up with a pace-compromised third in the Preakness and a solid second in the Haskell. It should be noted, however, that the Haskell has produced only one Travers winner since 2010, and the prospect of a modest pace at Saratoga won't necessarily play to Mage's strengths.

#5 National Treasure: There's no denying that National Treasure has talent; he placed in multiple Grade 1 races last year and led all the way to beat Mage in the Preakness. But National Treasure benefited from a perfect trip in the Preakness, setting remarkably slow fractions of :23.95, :48.92, and 1:13.49 before accelerating through the final seven-sixteenths of a mile. When he set a faster pace in the Belmont, National Treasure faded down the homestretch to finish sixth. He's facing a capable pace rival (Scotland) in the Travers, so National Treasure is unlikely to secure as easy a lead as in the Preakness.

#6 Disarm: The Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher is going to be a Travers longshot after coming home fourth in the Jim Dandy, but he was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Forte, and modest early fractions of :23.93, :48.10, and 1:12.30 didn't help his chances. Speed generally carried in the Jim Dandy, so Disarm (rallying from last place in a field of five) didn't get a favorable setup. He'd previously rallied to win the Matt Winn S. (G3) over next-out Indiana Derby (G3) winner Verifying, so Disarm has the credentials to vie for a top-four finish if he gets a little more pace to chase in the Travers.

#7 Scotland: The biggest wildcard in the Travers field is Scotland, the only horse without a graded stakes win under his belt. In fact, Scotland has yet to race in a graded stakes, having scored his signature victory when wiring the ungraded 1 1/8-mile Curlin S. at Saratoga last month. But Scotland was much the best that day, winning eased-up by 3 1/4 lengths over next-out Smarty Jones S. (G3) winner Il Miracolo and Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens, so there's a lot of promise and potential here. Interestingly, Scotland employed stretch-running tactics in his first two victories, so he's versatile in terms of running style. There's a good chance we'll see Scotland track National Treasure through a controlled pace in the early stages of the Travers, placing the chestnut gelding in the perfect position to vie for victory.


The Travers is a deep race with many viable win threats. Forte is the horse to beat, but he'll need to avoid a traffic-filled trip while breaking from the rail.

Scotland might be the least experienced of the Travers entrants, but he brings a promising profile to the table and figures to work out a favorable trip. His 12-1 morning line odds are enticing, so we'll take a shot backing Scotland to steal top honors in this talent-packed race.


1st: Scotland
2nd: Forte
3rd: Arcangelo

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Travers?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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