2017 Travers Stakes Contenders
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The Travers Stakes is one of the most historic races in the country and has been an annual feature at Saratoga for nearly as long as the track has been running. Known as the Midsummer Derby, this year's Travers has attracted a competitive field squaring off in a race that could help determine year-end championship honors.
Distance: 1 1/4 Miles
Last Year’s Winner: Arrogate
Track and Stakes Record: Arrogate (2016) 1:59.36
CLOUD COMPUTING (8-1) - PP1
CONFIRMED - Will hit the track for just the sixth time for trainer Chad Brown having looked decent so far. He posted a nice win in his first career start February 11, a respectable second with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure, over seven lengths clear of third in the G3 Gotham Stakes March 4 and a decent third in the G2 Wood Memorial Stakes April 8 - all results at Aqueduct.
Last time out was a slight step back - a fifth in the G2 Jim Dandy Stakes on this track July 29 which followed his incredible win in the G1 Preakness Stakes May 20. Cloud Computing hopes to replicate the form of two starts back when he leaves from the rail with Javier Castellano aboard.
Jockey: Javier Castellano | Trainer: Chad Brown
GIUSEPPE THE GREAT (20-1) - PP2
CONFIRMED - Mossarosa's Giuseppe the Great is primed for next Saturday's Grade 1 Travers, according to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. The Lookin At Lucky colt worked four furlongs in 48.80 seconds over the Oklahoma training track labeled as fast on Friday morning in between raindrops thanks to some luck and planning by Zito.
"I was lucky; I was going to wait until tomorrow," said Zito. "I scheduled the work today or tomorrow with the weather, and there was a deluge at 6:30 and then all of a sudden it stops."
Zito said Friday's breeze reinforced his confidence in Giuseppe the Great, who finished second-place in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29, to take the colt to the 148th Travers, a race he won in 2004 with Birdstone.
"It was great, he does everything," he said. "When they say `professional,' that's all he wants to do. He just does what he has to do, and that's why he's so consistent. There are plenty of non-believers. I'm a believer in him. I'm not even hoping for hope, I'm pretty confident in what I've got because he runs good all the time, he tries all the time, and I tell you he really passed the test last time."
The only off-the-board finish through seven starts came in the Grade 3 Dwyer when he faded late and settled for fourth. Previously, Giuseppe the Great ran a strong second to American Anthem in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes Day undercard.
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione | Trainer: Nick Zito
WEST COAST (4-1) - PP3
CONFIRMED - You can be sure this horse is going to be bet heavily with the memory of Arrogate's Travers demolition still fresh in everyone's mind. No one is comparing him to Baffert's big star, but his last two victories have been brilliant enough to suggest that this could be another star in the making.
West Coast has placed in all six career starts - four wins and two runner-up finishes. He enters on a nice three-race win streak - the G3 Los Alamitos Derby last time out July 15, the minor Easy Goer Stakes by an eye-opening 3 3/4 lengths after a troubled start at Belmont Park June 10 and an Allowance Optional Claiming at Santa Anita May 20. Before that was a respectable second in his only other graded stakes action to date - the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland April 15, a maiden score in March and a second in his debut. West Coast has been a factor in every race so far and hopes to be so again Saturday with Mike Smith in the saddle of the intriguing second betting choice from post 3.
Jockey: Mike Smith | Trainer: Bob Baffert
TAPWRIT (7-2) - PP4
CONFIRMED -Tapwrit has four wins and a second-place finish in eight career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. He debuted with a tenth and has been decent in six starts since - a maiden October 6 was followed by a nice win in his stakes debut- the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park December 10 and a quality second behind McCracken at 9-1 odds in the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes February 11.
Tapwrit posted a terrific win in the Tampa Bay Derby March 11 and was just average in his next two starts - a sixth in the Kentucky Derby followed fifth in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
Last time out however was a superb effort - a win in the G1 Belmont Stakes June 10 - one that has him on many's radar this week. Tapwrit looks to be over his mini-slump and tries to make it two straight G1 scores in a row from gate 4. Jose Ortiz rides the tepid morning line favorite.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz | Trainer: Todd Pletcher
GOOD SAMARITAN (5-1) - PP5
CONFIRMED - Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan turned in in his last breeze Sunday before his start in next Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers. The Harlan's Holiday colt flashed a strong 1:01.65 for five furlongs over the Oklahoma training track with regular exercise rider Juan Quintero aboard. The work, in tandem with Boule, a filly in Mott's care, pleased the Hall of Fame trainer.
"He went good," Mott said. "Went 1:01 and 2, broke off as you can see, a length behind his company, joined up and finished together, finished their last quarter in 24, galloped out well, and galloped out a good six furlongs, I was pleased with what I saw."
Good Samaritan will make only his second start on dirt after his first six career starts came on grass, and his strong performance in the Jim Dandy could prove tough to duplicate next Saturday.
"We've got to see it again. I guess he did it effectively enough the first time," said Mott. "He didn't look like he was struggling, so it would lead you to believe he could reproduce his last race, but it's a different group of horses. Maybe he'll have to be better to win. It's going to be a bigger field, and some new shooters in there. I don't know that I'd trade places with anybody today."
Good Samaritan has been competitive in every career start so far and hopes to be again Saturday with Joel Rosario in the reins of the third choice from post 5.
Jockey: Joel Rosario | Trainer: Bill Mott
GIRVIN (10-1) - PP6
CONFIRMED - Brad Grady's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational hero Girvin was on his toes Sunday morning, walking the shed row with marked enthusiasm, much to his hotwalker's chagrin. The nearly black colt exited his Saturday morning work - five furlongs in a bullet-of-11 59.98 seconds over the Oklahoma training track - in good order, according to trainer Joe Sharp.
Girvin, first or second in six of seven starts, will be Sharp's first Travers starter. The 32-year-old native of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, expressed confidence in his star pupil, whose only poor showing was a 13th-of-20 in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. That effort came after a rough trip over the wet going and on the heels, literally, of a quarter-crack that has since healed.
"You definitely take a deep breath after you've won a Grade 1 with a horse like we did in the Haskell, both for the horse and the barn, being our first Grade 1," said Sharp. "It's good to get that behind us on the big stage. I haven't really thought about a championship, but I think that if he wins another Grade 1 it definitely moves him to the top of the list as far as the 3-year-old division, especially with all the graded stakes wins he has."
In addition to the Haskell, Girvin won the Grade 2 Risen Star and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Racecourse. Always keeping good company, he defeated Grade 2 Amsterdam runner-up Excitations on their co-debut in December.
"He's always been very talented and I think our biggest concerns are behind us as far as anything physical," Sharp continued. "He's getting through every work perfectly and doing everything the way you want to see a horse do it coming up to a race like this. He's going in great and is a bit cocky and full of himself."
Girvin was an early contender on the Triple Crown trail and shoots for a second straight G1 victory Saturday from post 6. Robby Albarado has the mount.
Jockey: Robby Albarado | Trainer: Joe Sharp
ALWAYS DREAMING (6-1) - PP7
CONFIRMED - Always Dreaming, ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, breezed for the third time on the training tack since finishing third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29. Outplay, the winner of the Curlin July 28 at the Spa, was officially clocked in 49.99 seconds.
"We were just looking for a good, positive work," Pletcher said. "They both ran Jim Dandy weekend and breezed well last week, so we just wanted a good indication that they are maintaining form and doing well. I thought they both finished up extremely well and galloped out strongly; all the things you were hoping to see."
The set worked right before heavy rain fell, with Always Dreaming starting behind Outplay and closed strongly to catch his workmate at the wire.
"He started off about a length and a half behind. Johnny was able to bide his time and move up to him. I had him the last quarter in 23 and 2/5, finishing up strongly and galloping out well," Pletcher said.
Always Dreaming finished 5 ¼ lengths behind Jim Dandy-winner Good Samaritan last out going 1 1/8 miles. The Travers is contested at 1 ¼ miles. Pletcher said the main track could play faster for the Mid-Summer Derby.
"I would expect an improved performance because he's now had a mile and eighth race under his belt," Pletcher said. "Right now, if the track continues to play the way it is currently, it's definitely tighter than it was Jim Dandy weekend. I would say it's playing at least a second to a second and a half faster at a mile and an eighth than it did at that time. In retrospect, [with] the freshening we gave Always Dreaming between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, we were expecting the more traditional, livelier Saratoga track."
Always Dreaming is 4-1-2 in eight career starts and has raced just once since finishing eighth in the Preakness on May 20.
"I think we're coming into the [Travers] with a fresh, fit horse who has given every indication that he's in good form," Pletcher said. "I think the time has agreed with him and we've gotten enough out of his training, hopefully ready to fire his best race."
Jockey: John Velazquez | Trainer: Todd Pletcher
LOOKIN AT LEE (30-1) - PP8
CONFIRMED - Steve Asmussen trained colt finished fifth in his debut but has looked OK in 12 starts since including all three legs of the Triple Crown. Last time out was a decent third in the G3 West Virginia Stakes at Mountaineer August 5 after a disappointing seventh in the G1 Belmont Stakes June 10, an OK fourth in the Preakness Stakes May 20, a good second in the G1 Kentucky Derby, a third in the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park April 15, a sixth in the G2 Rebel Stakes on that track March 18, another third in the G3 Southwest Stakes there February 20 and a fourth in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
In 13 lifetime starts, the deep-closing son of champion Lookin At Lucky has a mere pair of victories, but has finished fourth or better in five Grade 1 events, including the Preakness Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His last breeze on Monday, August 14, was an easy half-mile over the Oklahoma training track in 51.40 seconds. Lookin At Lee has placed in six of 10 graded stakes starts and aims for his first win in top company from gate 8. Ricardo Santana is scheduled to ride.
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. | Trainer: Steve Asmussen
McCRAKEN (12-1) - PP9
CONFIRMED - Ian Wilkes trained gelding has eight career starts with five impressive wins, a second and a third-place finish. Last time out was a second-place finish behind Girvin in the G1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park July 30 which followed a nice 2 1/4 length win as favorite in the G3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs June 17, an eighth thanks to a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby and a third in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
He won his first four starts including the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay February 11, by 1 1/4 lengths in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes November 26, by 3 3/4 lengths in the minor Street Sense Stakes October 30 and a maiden score at first asking October 2 - the last three at Churchill Downs. McCraken has been good so far in his career and hopes to build on a pair of nice efforts from post 9. Brian Joseph Hernandez will be in the reins from post 9.
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. | Trainer: Ian Wilkes
IRAP (8-1) - PP10
CONFIRMED -Doug O'Neill trained colt has three wins, three seconds and a third-place finish in his 11 career starts. He started his career with a third and a fourth respectively in a pair of MSW races and went on to a respectable runner-up finish in the G1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity December 10.
A multiple stakes-placed maiden when he sprung a major upset in the Grade 2 Blue Grass in April, the bay colt by Tiznow has grown into a different horse ahead of the "Mid-Summer Derby," said O'Neill, putting together back-to-back Grade 3 victories since finishing a troubled 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6.
"He's always been a really physically mature horse, even at a young age, but the last three months or so, he's just really matured a ton mentally," said O'Neill. "And he had some foot bruises here and there and that's really turned around too. Knock on wood, his feet are really good right now and he's coming around at the right time."
Irap put himself on the 3-year-old division radar with his three-quarter-length victory in the Blue Grass at odds of 31-1, his eighth lifetime start, where he beat fellow Travers contenders McCraken, second last time out in the Haskell, and Tapwrit, winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June.
Following his ill-fated trip in the Derby, the $300,000 2-year-old in training purchase posted a nose victory in the June 24 Ohio Derby over eventual Grade 1 Haskell winner Girvin and came back in the Indiana Derby on July 15 with a five-length win over next-out West Virginia Derby winner Colonelsdarktemper.
"He's been knocking heads with some good ones and if you can put your thumb over the [Kentucky] Derby, his form has been pretty consistent his whole career," said O'Neill. "There's tons of upside with a horse like him."
Irap arrives in career-best form and will have Mario Gutierrez guiding him from gate 10 Saturday.
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez | Trainer: Doug O'Neill
GUNNEVERA (20-1) - PP11
CONFIRMED - With a lifetime record of 5-2-1 from 12 starts and more than $1.2 million in earnings, Gunnevera will be making his first start at Saratoga since winning last year's Grade 2 Saratoga Special by a length as a 2-year-old.
A $16,000 yearling purchase, Gunnevera also had a 5 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot under his belt when he kicked off his 3-year-old season with a runner-up finish to Irish War Cry in the Grade 2 Holy Bull in February before posting a 5 ¾-length victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4. Gunnevera was third as the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby the following month before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness.
He's also had a good eye-opening win with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in the G2 Saratoga Special August 14. Gunnevera has won three graded stakes races so far and hopes to find his early-career form Saturday. Edgard Zayas has the mount from post 11.
Jockey: Edgard Zayas | Trainer: Antonio Sano
FAYEQ (30-1) - PP12
CONFIRMED - By Malibu Moon, Shadwell Stable's 3-year-old half-brother to Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra will take a big step up in the Travers after beating a talented group of 3-year-olds by 3 ½ lengths in a 1 1/8-mile allowance on July 26, despite a continued reluctance to switch leads in the race. That win was the second straight for Fayeq, who broke his maiden by 2 ¾ lengths in his third try on June 11 at Belmont Park.
"We just hope he switches leads, that's the biggest concern now when we're going into such a strong group," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "But, he's improving all the time and he's well-bred, beautiful horse. [Switching leads] haven't cost him, since he's won his last two, but he'll find more if we can get him to do it in the race."
Fayeq steps up in career-best form but is expected to be in over his head in this one. Luis Saez guides from the outside gate 12.
Jockey: Luis Saez | Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
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OTB Schedule - Friday, Feb 23
|Race Tracks||Time (EST)|
|Australia A||8:41 PM|
|Australia B||8:45 PM|
|Australia C||9:10 PM|
|Australia D||9:32 PM|
|Birmingham Eve||7:15 PM|
|Buffalo Raceway||5:00 PM|
|Cal Expo||9:10 PM|
|Charles Town||7:00 PM|
|Clonmel (IG)||2:49 PM|
|Curraheen (IG)||2:50 PM|
|Daytona Beach Eve||7:25 PM|
|Delta Downs||6:40 PM|
|Dundalk (IG)||4:30 PM|
|Dundalk (IRE)||12:36 PM|
|Exeter (UK)||9:09 AM|
|Fairview| (SAF)||5:40 AM|
|Fonner Park||3:02 PM|
|Fraser Downs||10:00 PM|
|Freehold Raceway||12:41 PM|
|Galway (IG)||2:53 PM|
|Golden Gate Fields||4:15 PM|
|Greyville (SAF)||10:52 AM|
|Gulfstream Tropical||12:41 PM|
|Kilkenny (IG)||3:01 PM|
|Laurel Park||12:37 PM|
|Limerick (IG)||2:48 PM|
|Lingfield (UK)||9:20 AM|
|Los Alamitos (QH)||10:00 PM|
|Mardi Gras Eve||7:30 PM|
|Mardi Gras Mat||5:00 PM|
|Meadowlands (H)||6:35 PM|
|Monticello Raceway||12:32 PM|
|Naples-Ft Myers Eve||7:00 PM|
|Naples-Ft Myers Mat||12:17 PM|
|Newbridge (IG)||3:00 PM|
|Palm Beach Eve||7:00 PM|
|Palm Beach Mat||1:06 PM|
|Penn National||6:00 PM|
|Sam Houston||8:00 PM|
|Sanford Eve||7:35 PM|
|Sanford Mat||1:35 PM|
|Santa Anita Park||4:00 PM|
|Sarasota Eve||7:30 PM|
|Sarasota Mat||12:32 PM|
|Seoul Korea||8:45 PM|
|Shelbourne Park (IG)||2:43 PM|
|Southland Twilight||6:01 PM|
|St Johns Eve||7:45 PM|
|Sunland Park||2:34 PM|
|Tampa Bay Downs||12:51 PM|
|Tralee (IG)||2:43 PM|
|Tri-State Eve||7:01 PM|
|Turfway Park||6:16 PM|
|Warwick (UK)||9:01 AM|
|Western Fair||6:56 PM|
|Wolverhampton (UK)||12:56 PM|
|Woodbine (H)||7:11 PM|
|Yonkers Raceway||6:51 PM|
|Youghal (IG)||2:50 PM|