08/27/2010 11:41AM

HandiGambling 200 (The Travers)

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This week's HandiGambling 200 exercise is Saturday's Travers Stakes from Saratoga, a Grade 1 for three-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on dirt. 

***PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST***

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

I'm doing this early so we don't have any scratches or changes to report.

Earlier in the week, Kiaran McLaughlin debated whether he'd run #2 TRAPPE SHOT in the King's Bishop at seven furlongs or the Travers at the demanding classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.  I'm hoping he made the right decision by entering him in the Midsummer Derby. 
Trappe Shot has always been handled conservatively by McLaughlin, and why not?  An $850,000 juvenile purchase, and half-brother to Grade 1 Personal Ensign (10 furlongs at Saratoga) winner Miss Shop, Trappe Shot always had the potential to be a top horse. 
After blowing away Florida-breds in a pair of sprint races earlier this year, Trappe Shot was being pointed to the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on April 24, but ankle issues kept Trappe Shot from competing in that one-turn mile.  Instead, McLaughlin took it easy, smoothly moving Trappe Shot from an entry-level allowance at seven furlongs (105 Beyer over the talented Tahitian Warrior) to listed stakes race at 1 1/16 miles (105 Beyer in two-turn debut in the Long Branch Stakes) to Grade 1 race at 1 1/8 miles (second behind division leader Lookin At Lucky in the Haskell Invitational).  Now, the natural progression continues to the Travers and 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga. 
Trappe Shot looked good winning the Long Branch.  Sure, it was only a four-horse field, but the Pulpit colt bobbled at the start before prompting several pacesetters from the inside.  He professionally scooted through along the rail after 5 1/2 furlongs and rambled home as best. 
In the Haskell, he again didn't break especially well and ended up tracking the pace while inside of the winner.  He was looped by Lookin At Lucky going into the turn, but to be honest, he wasn't going to win with a picture-perfect trip.  Lookin At Lucky was that good that afternoon.  Still, Trappe Shot angled three wide at the quarter-pole and kept to his business to finish second, outhustling Travers entrants First Dude, Ice Box, Afleet Again, and Super Saver to the wire. 
Assuming the field stays intact, Trappe Shot should work out a good pace-tracking, ground-saving trip behind horses like Miner's Reserve, First Dude, A Little Warm, and Super Saver. 
A lightly-raced colt, it's possible that Trappe Shot has a bit of upside.  If he improves off the Haskell, he's a dangerous Travers contender.

#1 MINER'S RESERVE couldn't fend off A Little Warm in his last two starts, but was very game in holding the place at 15-1 in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the local prep for the Travers at 1 1/8 miles.  He'll break from the inside post position and one has to assume that David Cohen will send him to the front.  The problem is that he should face some pressure and he has yet to win around two turns.  He's an underrated horse in good form, but the pace scenario may not play to his favor.

#3 ADMIRAL ALEX was an impressive debut winner going nine furlongs on August 31.  The fifth-place finisher of that heat, Jadal, returned to place in a maiden special weight on the turf with an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.  There's been a good amount of buzz on Admiral Alex, but he's going to have to be the real deal in order to win the Travers in only his second lifetime start.  I have no doubt that he's talented, but this is a tough spot.

#4 FIRST DUDE may be the best 'N2L' runner in the country.  Since winning his maiden going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park on January 30, First Dude was beaten a head by Fly Down in an entry-level allowance on February 21, finished third in the Blue Grass, second in the Preakness, third in the Belmont, and third in the Haskell.  Trainer Dale Romans will add blinkers to the gargantuan First Dude and perhaps that will help him keep a straighter course in the stretch.  First Dude is a talented colt, but if Miner's Reserve runs, he figures to be part of a pressured pace. 

#5 A LITTLE WARM has been in the exacta in his last seven races and put up some big numbers in beating Miner's Reserve in his last two races.  At the start of this year, it was questionable whether A Little Warm would be as effective going long as he was sprinting, but the Stormin Fever colt has answered all of his critics by successfully stretching his speed to nine furlongs.  He may work out a good trip in the Travers, stalking Miner's Reserve and First Dude from the outside before pouncing on the final turn.  Ten furlongs is always an issue, but A Little Warm seems to be good enough form to handle the extra eighth of a mile.

#6 ICE BOX would benefit from a hot and contentious pace.  The winner of the Florida Derby, and runner-up despite trouble in the Kentucky Derby, Ice Box reportedly displaced his palate during his poor showing as the betting favorite in the Belmont Stakes on June 5.  He never got involved in the Haskell, but is capable of improving in his second start of the form cycle.  Still, as a one-run closer, he needs pace and race luck.

#7 AFLEET EXPRESS, the winner of the Grade 3 Pegasus going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth, certainly wasn't disgraced when third in the Jim Dandy.  This son of Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex seems to have some upside and his good tactical speed should work to his advantage in the Travers.  He has an upset chance for Jimmy Jerkens.

#8 FLY DOWN won the Grade 2 Dwyer around one turn on May 8 despite flipping back to his wrong lead in the final furlong.  He was motoring at the end of the Belmont to finish second, but just didn't seem to get on track in the Jim Dandy.  Like stablemate Ice Box, Fly Down goes second off the layoff, would appreciate some pace to run at, and is expected to improve here.

#9 FRIEND OR FOE, is a huge New York-bred, standing about 17 hands tall.  After winning his first three starts, he was thrown to A Little Warm in the Jim Dandy, and wasn't beaten badly, losing by only three lengths in his first start around two turns.  He's still learning with only four starts on his record, but has upside.

#10 AFLEET AGAIN won the Withers when the pace completely fell apart, but has come up short in his three subsequent starts.  After midmoving in the Haskell, he backed up to finish fifth.  I'm expecting Cornelio Velasquez to take Afleet Again back to make one run in the Travers, but he must prove that he's good enough.

We know that #11 SUPER SAVER handles ten furlongs under ideal circumstances (mud, perfect trip), but he breaks from a tough outside post position and could be wide when the field passes the stands for the first time.  Super Saver tried to run with Lookin At Lucky on the final turn of the Haskell, but was rebuffed in short order by the Baffert runner.  It wouldn't be surprising if Super Saver runs better in his second start since the Preakness, and you have to upgrade him if the track is wet.

Here's how I'm playing HandiGambling 200.

$100 Win - Trappe Shot (#2)

Best of luck to all.

***

Some other quick and dirty selections for this weekend:

Personal Ensign:  Rachel Alexandra, Life At Ten, Miss Singhsix
Victory Ride:  Beyondallboundarys, Katy Now, Rapport
Ballerina:  Informed Decision, Qualia, Rightly So
Pat O'Brien:  Tropic Storm, Smiling Tiger, Crown of Thorns
Pacific Classic:  Richard's Kid, The Usual Q. T., Awesome Gem

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

Back next week with two weeks worth of Beyers, as well as your questions, comments, and pp requests.

Enjoy a great weekend of racing!

Dan

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