Monday, August 27, 2012

Dead Heat

                                                                         Dead Heat

With the three-year-old class diminishing after just about every race, this years Travers Stakes did not have the usual hype surrounding it. But once again, the horses that loaded the gates put on quite a show and what a show it was as we witnessed the first ever dead-heat in the 143rd running of the historical "Midsummer Derby."

Alpha, the post time favorite at 2-1 stalked the leaders the entire race and heading into the far turn it looked like he was going to pass on the outside and cruise to victory. But when they were heading for home it was Golden Ticket who shot through along the rail and was the one to catch. I guess you can say Alpha caught him just barely as they both had to share the winners circle. You couldn't have asked for or scripted a better finish than what was provided to us this past Saturday.

Out on the West Coast Dullahan stepped up to the older competition in the Pacific Classic(G1) at Del Mar and showed he is a force to be reckoned with on the poly track. By upsetting the rest of the older field he is now 3 for 3 in his career on the synthetic surface and in doing so punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Classic (If that is where his connections point him). While he did not capture one of the Triple Crown races, if he were able to carry over his success on the Poly to the Dirt and take down the Classic, he certainly would be tough to deny an Eclipse Award.

Now this three-year-old class has Alpha, Dullahan and Paynter sitting atop the division but unfortunately each one has a cloud hanging over them. Can Alpha, who now has a grade one win on his resume despite running against less superior competition, be able to hold his own against the older competition? What about Dullahan, who is 0 for 6 when it comes to running on dirt. Will he even run in the Classic? Paynter was supposed to challenge Alpha in the Travers, but he is currently sidelined for who knows how long. November will be here before you know it, so I guess many of these questions will be answered sooner than later.

With Labor Day right around the corner, the races for the two-year-olds will be heating up over the next couple of weeks. Starting on Monday, September 3rd is the 7f Hopeful Stakes(G2) at Saratoga. Wednesday, September 5th is the 7f Del Mar Futurity(G1) at Del Mar. Saturday, September 8th is the 1 mile Arlington-Washington Futurity(G3) at Arlington Park. Keep an eye on these races over the next couple of weeks as you never know if the 2013 Derby winner may come from one of these.

*Had Alpha pegged to win the Travers as we thought he was in a class above the others. While he did win, Golden Ticket surprised many by having a share of the winners circle in another historic Travers Stakes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Travers Stakes/Midsummer Classic/Midsummer Derby

                                                                  Midsummer Classic

Summer at Saratoga is highlighted this weekend by the third oldest thoroughbred race in racing history. Dating all the way back to 1864, the Travers Stakes or "Midsummer Classic" as it is known, is a historic race for the three-year-olds going 1 1/4 mile. For many, this will be their last test before they step up to face the older competition. The only question this year is, are there any three-year-olds left to run?

I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Union Rags, Paynter and Hansen all at one point in their short careers were considered at the top of this class. Now, all have either been retired or are currently injured. At the start of 2012, this class looked locked and loaded across the board with talent. Unfortunately, that talent has vanished as this year's Travers Stakes is reduced to Alpha, the 12th place finisher in the Derby, being the highlight of the field this coming Saturday. 

Life is unpredictable and you never know what it has in store. Yes, this year's race is lacking the luster it normally has but you never know when one of these young three-year-olds will take off. Remember, many of these guys are still maturing and have not yet finished growing. For all we know, this race might be featuring a future Breeders' Cup Classic winner. They don't call this race the "Midsummer Derby" for nothing which is why you should still be interested in the 143rd running of this historic race. 

On another note, Dullahan has decided to head out West and try his luck against the older competition. He will be running in the Pacific Classic (A "Win and You're In" race for the BC Classic) at Del Mar this Sunday, where he returns to the synthetic surface for the first time since upsetting Hansen at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes. This horse is 2 for 2 on the poly and hopes to continue that trend after two disappointing finishes in a row on the dirt in the Belmont and Haskell. 

Travers Stakes(G1)
8/25 Saratoga 5:46 EST
Race #12

Alpha 5-2
Coming off a Grade 2 win in the Jim Dandy here at Saratoga last month. 2 for 2 at the Spa is impressive regardless of the competition. Could and should be in a class above the rest of these three-year-olds running this Saturday. 

Street Life 5-1
Son of the 2007 winner, Street Sense certainly doesn't hurt his chances here. Win at this track last month in the Curlin Stakes. Closer who will be coming on at the end should like the 1 1/4 mile distance especially if there is some pace to run at. 

Nonios 4-1
Coming off a second place finish to Paynter last month in the Haskell. Has hit the board in all six of his lifetime starts. Never run further than a 1 1/8 mile, so we will see if he can handle the extra furlong.

Liaison 8-1
Closer who could flirt with hitting the board going 1 1/4 mile. Has experience running against the best of this three-year-old class. 

Ex/Tri BX: 6,5,10,9