08/22/2014 2:56PM

Fornatale: Breaking down the Travers card

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William Shurman has one of the best résumés of any contest player out there. He’s qualified for the National Handicapping Championship 12 times and just won a $10,000 bonus for being one of the top five finishers in the first half of the 2014 NHC Tour. Today, he shares his thoughts on a handful of races on Saturday’s Travers card and explains how he will be approaching them from a contest perspective.

Saratoga 4: six furlongs, dirt, maiden special weight

Shurman: “This is a wide-open race, full of nicely bred 2-year-olds who could be anything. For maiden races, I use the Daily Racing Form and also a computer database program called HTR. Who knows which of these will be the real deal? But based on the data I use, I see a couple who could be intriguing at decent prices: #2 Ludicrous, #3 Bridget’s Big Luvy, and #5 Frosted.

“Like with almost all contest races, it’s hard to make a final decision until I see the prices and exactly where I am in the contest in question. If I were playing two entries, it’s very likely I’d play #3 on at least one of them. I look at these races as crapshoots, and I demand value.”

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Saratoga 7: seven furlongs, dirt, first-level allowance

Shurman: “I would never take a short price in a race like this. This is the type of race that can end a contest very quickly if a 20-1 comes in and you don’t have it. So, I’m going to mention a few of them and let the board and where I am in the contest guide me.

“#4 Predicate is in very good form and is 8-1 on the morning line. She’s only 1 for 13 overall but has five seconds, so she’s always there. She’s also an improving 3-year-old. Three-year-olds can have an advantage at this level at this time of year because they are still eligible for significant improvement.

“Other horses I don’t mind at prices are #5 Cora Mesa, #6 Eddy Gourmet, and #8 Madreditutticapi. There doesn’t appear to be much speed, but you can see from the running lines in the DRF that the #6 could well be on or near the lead.”

Saratoga 9: 1 1/16 miles, turf, Grade 2 Ballston Spa

Shurman: “This race looks to have five horses who are all of similar speed and quality: #2 Centre Court, #3 Abaco, #4 Strathnaver, #5 Dayatthespa, and #7 Filimbi. Whomever gets the best trip is going to win. But since we don’t know who is going to get the best trip, I’m going to go with the one who is the best value, and I’m guessing that will be #4 Strathnaver. If #7 Filimbi runs her last race, she’ll win, but I’m skeptical, especially at the likely price.”

Saratoga 11: seven furlongs, dirt, Grade 1 Ballerina

Shurman: “On the speed figures I use, #9 Geeky Gorgeous is as fast as any of these, and she’s 20-1 on the morning line. I’m not wild about the connections, but the price is probably going to be too good to pass up. #5 Willet is also in great form. I’ll keep an eye on her price as well.”

Saratoga 12: 1 1/4 miles, dirt, Grade 1 Travers

Shurman: “We might be looking at a short price here. If no one runs early with #2 Bayern, he’s going to be very tough to beat. That said, I think someone could very well run with him early, I just don’t know who that someone is. To me, #8 Kid Cruz could get a good setup if someone else goes with Bayern. And he could be in the ballpark on his best day. In the middle of a contest, I’m not interested in Bayern at 2-1, but if it’s the end of a contest and I just need $8, I’d play him. I’ll most likely be on Kid Cruz.”