08/28/2009 3:14PM

Fun with numbers


    A couple of races on Saratoga's Travers Day card are tailor-made for pace handicapping.  Unfortunately, one of them isn't the Travers Stakes itself, where much of the pace scenario will depend on a cat-and-mouse game of jockey intent. 

    The Ballerina Stakes, for example, is a relatively paceless race in which Indian Blessing should control the running if she hasn't regressed significantly in form.  When Bob Baffert decided to focus on sprints midway through her 2008 campaign, Indian Blessing ripped through victories in the Prioress, Test and Gallant Bloom in which she recorded half-mile Moss Pace Figures of 99, 95 and 97, respectively.  Although Informed Decision is going for her sixth win a row, her last two half-mile pacefigs on dirt were 92s.  If those numbers hold, Indian Blessing would hold a five- to six-length advantage over Informed Decision with three furlongs to run.  To paraphrase Damon Runyan, that might not be insurmountable, but it's the way to bet.

    And remember our turnback conversations?  See Big Drama in the King's Bishop.  In his runoff escapade in the West Virginia Derby, Big Drama reeled off a six-furlong pace figure of 97.  That matches the best final figure by favorite Munnings, who must also deal with a No. 1 post position that is often a disadvantage at 7 furlongs.  The King's Bishop is a sensational race in which Capt. Candyman Can also rates highly numbers-wise, but the turnback angle has long been one of my pets.

     In the Travers, Quality Road clearly has the pace numbers to outrun the others - even Our Edge - to the front.  But coming off a single 6 1/2 furlong sprint, you'd have to think he'll be ridden more conservatively than that.  And if he is, who knows what will develop early between Our Edge, Quality Road and Kensei. Quality Road could be good enough to win, anyway, but is it really worth even money or 6-5?