08/24/2007 9:55PM

Travers Eve



What am I doing sitting in front of the computer on that festive occasion known as Travers Eve? Being a responsible horseplayer, that's what. Let the amateurs wait in hour-long lines for dinner on the bustling sidewalks of Broadway and carouse till dawn amid the vomitoria of Caroline Street. The rest of us have 150 horses to scrutinize by 12:45 p.m., when the first race goes off and we start systematically transferring money from the pockets of the hungover tourists into our own. At least in theory.

After finishing the weekend columns -- Saturday's on why Street Sense is a single for me in the Travers and Sunday's on that excellent Hennegan Brothers documentary I mentioned here earlier in the week -- and playing the second half of Friday's card, I finally got through the entire Travers card for the first time. Wow. It's going to take two more passes between now and the Siro's seminar at 10:45 a.m. to feel properly prepared. The card is a beauty but also a skullbuster, with full and competitive fields all day long (other than the main event). So get to work already.

There's a $73k carryover that should attract something like $400k more in the pick six (races 7-12), but commenter Upstate Joe made an interesting point: Because there's a carryover, the takeout will be 25 percent rather than the 15 percent on non-carryover days. Joe is absolutely right, that does almost neutralize the "free" $73k on the front end. On the other hand, the fact of a carryover will probably attract more than it would have otherwise. (Here's the benchmark: Last year's Travers day pick six, with no carryover and also with a 2-5 shot in the Travers, drew $329k.) But let's not lose sleep over the higher takeout. There will be more than enough big-day money in the pool to counteract the takeout rate that counteracts the carryover. I think it looks tough enough that if you hit, you won't be complaining about the payoff.

I think everyone's key decision in both the pick six and the $1 million guaranteed all-stakes pick-four on races 7-10 is going to come in the King's Bishop: Do you think Hard Spun is a single, a strong lean, one of several you have to use, or a bet-against? My gut is saying "mild lean" at the moment. Much as I think he's been a bit overrated as a router, he could well be a world-class dirt miler. His opening mile in the Kentucky Derby might well have won the Met Mile against Corinthian. Still, I would have vastly preferred to see him get an outside draw instead of post 3 in a field of 11. Decisions, decisions.

As for Friday's fare:

*Race 3: The $80k Marriott Courtyard Stakes for older fillies at a mile and an eighth was a weird event even before the gates opened. Originally scheduled as the Heavenly Prize Stakes for fillies which had not won an open stakes this year, when it failed to fill the conditions were changed from "this year" to "since February 1." This allowed A True Pussycat, winner of an open overnight stakes at Aqueduct on precisely Jan. 31, to join the crew -- a crew that numbered only four by post time. In any case, Altesse ($3.80), runner-up to Lady Joanne in her four-horse prep for the Alabama, ran down second-choice A True Pussycat on the turn and scored by 2 1/4 lengths. It was another 7 1/4 back to Soul Search and Leo's Pegasus, both trained by Neil Howard. Hey, black type is black type.

Race 5: Mike Luzzi was beaten a nose aboard Forget the Judge in the very first race on Opening Day, and that was the closest he got to the winner's circle until now, 60 mounts later. His 4 1/2-week nightmare finally ended when George Weaver put him on well-meant $75k maiden-claiming firster Philharmonic, an 8 1/4-length winner at 7-1. Luzzi took no chances, driving to the wire despite his huge margin. Luzzi is a very capable veteran, a top-3 rider at Aqueduct and a top-10 rider at Belmont, but a victim of the influx of out-of-town riders during Saratoga. He was doing nothing wrong up here; it's just that his mounts were going to the likes of Dominguez, Bejarano and Leparoux, the visitors now rounding out the bottom of the top 10 here.

Race 6: Another statebred maiden turf sprint, another wacky winner: Autumn of My Years, beaten 52 1/2 lenths in his three prior starts, was today's surprise wire-to-wire winner, paying $75.50 and causing that carryover. I actually took a flyer on Autumn of My Years at 40-1 last time out because he's a full brother to a horse named Apollo Jones who once ran well in a turf sprint up here. (I know, it's a stretch.) When he chucked it after dueling for the lead that day, I signed the divorce papers -- one race too early.

Race 9: When I gave Allen Jerkens that award at the Turf Writers' banquet Monday night, I mentioned that he had won the Suburban Handicap last month with Political Force and that there would surely be more Grade 1 victories in his future. Only took four days. Miss Shop ($11.20), second to Ginger Punch in the Go For Wand back on Whitney Day, disliked the 10 furlongs of the G1 Personal Ensign less than her five rivals, lumbering past the favored Pletcher duo of Indian Vale and Unbridled Belle through a slow final quarter to win by three lengths in 2:03.48. I didn't play the race separately, being alive in pick-4's through the first three finishers, but wished I had when the intrarace payoffs were posted: a $37 exacta and $105.50 trifecta for the three favorites in a six-horse field where the other three could be eliminated with confidence -- Sugar Shake and Teammate weren't getting 10 furlongs without an outboard motor and Lila Paige was in way over her head. Sometimes there's value in these short fields, maybe because people are wheeling at a low cost.

Race 10: Trainer Rick Schosberg is quietly having an excellent Saratoga. Champchu won the finale for him, running Schosberg's record to 18: 4-8-3, meaning he's been 1-2-3 with 15 of his 18 starters. His only starter who has run wose than 5th was Champchu, who faded to 8th in his first start at the meet going 9 furlongs before cutting back here to a friendlier 6 1/2.

Okay, back to work. See you at Siro's.

Shane Covey More than 1 year ago
Steve, I'll challenge you to Sunday's Pick 6 at the Spa. You can wheel, part-wheel or even punt, but I'm just playing it straight for $2. race 6: 7)Lucky Copy race 7: 1)Galluscio Entry race 8: 2)Jesse's Justice race 9: 10)Blazing Dynamo race 10: 10)Blitzing race 11: 2)Jetastik
Steven Crist More than 1 year ago
EJX: Hey, I need a PC to use Formulator...though I'm told the new Web-based version next year will make it Mac-compatible. CTfromBT: I find myself using the p4 hedge as a kind of "insanity insurance" if I'm in decent position in the p6, i.e., what two horses that I didn't put on the same ticket are going to make me crazy if they both win, or what backup did I shave off at the last minute. One thing I didn't mention in earlier discussion is that there IS a p4 on 9-12 as well as 7-10 today, so you don't HAVE to start a p4 and p6 on the same race.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
...and speaking of Ramon Dominguez...a guy who I think is THE best kept secret among rising jocks in the country. Why does he only ride some meets in NY (Sar and Aqu Inner) and appear sparingly at Bel? This guy can hang his tack anywhere, but he chooses Pim and Del each summer. Your thoughts?
bochalls More than 1 year ago
King Of The Roxy is my choice to run sharply in the King's Bishop . The class is there, the cutback to 7f is IDEAL, the look-see trip looms,and he rarely runs a bad one (BC Juv and Preakness only). Time off since his last with three cool works, and he ran well at Sar in '06. Most of all,though, the value will be there...~8-1 plus...as Pletcher is on everyone's s**t list, but he's done well in graded affairs this meet. Ramon up only helps
dana More than 1 year ago
So glad to see your column on the First Saturday in May! I was lucky enough to catch it at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was really incredible and so well done. In addition to the mentioned theater release, I think this is the kind of documentary that NBC (or whoever carries the Derby...) could air prior to the Derby to help build up the excitement and explain to casual fans how those 20 horses actually get there (and perhaps engage them in the prep season for the following year). In the Q&A session of the screening, the Hennegan brothers were pretty upfront that one of their goals is to help create more fans for the sport they love. I think their film could do just that!
E/L More than 1 year ago
Saturday First Time Euros from www.eurohorse.co.uk Saratoga Race 5: LA PRESSE is an interesting first time Euro sporting some decent Group and Listed Company credentials at two. The winner of the Listed event, Blue Echo has run credibly but only sports one Listed placing from four starts since beating the subject while Indian Ink has a Group 1 win to her credit at Royal Ascot two months. The subject was fully expected to win her last start at two. The seven months off would be somewhat of a concern following her return in January, but the filly need only be 85% to make an impact at this level where she seems to fit quite nicely indeed. The big key is that value will be lacking and with the outside draw we may end up seeking a better price elsewhere unless she appeals in the parade. Saratoga Race 6: PESCATORIO comes to these shores following an extended layoff and a 0 for 6 career mark. Subject was clearly not a prominent member of the O’Brien yard back in Ireland and would seem to be every bit of the 20/1 morning price trying to sprint on dirt for a barn seeking it’s first win of the meeting, even with his American pedigree. Seems up against it and we would prefer to watch one first. Saratoga Race 7: LINDA’S LAD did not run too badly in his sole start this season facing the likes of Sixties Icon, the St. Leger winner of last year. The pace was certainly lack luster early on in that event and the subject was almost understandably outrun late while needing the race. Subject needs close inspection in the post parade as he did go down early in his last to avoid any potential excitement and has shown some previous pre-race unruly behavior. His form last season puts him quite close to these and a major equalizer would be wet ground for this son of Sadler’s Wells. This is a pretty tough event but would not rule out a placing, especially if the rains arrive. Next: Saratoga Pick-4
ctfrombt More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, I am also enjoying your blog. I also use the p4 as a hedge in p6 carryovers. You touched on hedges briefly in your book but I've wondered what your philosophy is. I approach the hedge as a way to get my capital back from my p6 bet, structuring it to try to get a free shot at a big score in the p6. Your thoughts?
wayne More than 1 year ago
I always thought Hard Spun, by Danzig, was turf meant. Should be pointed to BC Turf Mile.
gary More than 1 year ago
This blog has really been tremendous, informative and entertaining to boot. Any chance you'll keep it up after Saratoga? And to all you guys jumping on the La traviata bandwagon, knock it off. when everybody jumps on one bandwagon it's a sure sign the horse is going to run out. Look at ALL the speed in that race and make sure you have a back up plan.
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Steve, what's with that computer? Get with the 21st Century, man. Get a Mac, and use Firefox!