08/20/2013 1:51PM

The Travers Favorite


We know with certainty who the betting favorite will be in one of this weekend’s mega events. Game On Dude is the best horse in America at this particular moment, and he will be a strong favorite in Sunday’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar, even though he is 0 for 2 in two previous starts on Del Mar’s Polytrack, starts that just happened to be in the last two editions of the Pacific Classic. Whether Game On Dude will win is a different matter. But he will be the favorite.

But the favorite for Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga? That is a much tougher call.

It’s obvious the favorite for the Travers will come from the trio of Verrazano, Palace Malice, and Orb. But which one will be the favorite is not at all obvious, even with only four days left until the race.

“It’s definitely not an easy call,” Eric Donovan, morning linemaker and analyst for the NYRA, said Tuesday afternoon. “You have three horses coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. You have one horse, Verrazano, who was brilliant all year in every race except the Derby. You have another horse in Palace Malice who has put it all together recently, winning the Belmont Stakes, and running a big race winning the Jim Dandy. And Orb is a fan favorite, or at least was before sub-par races in the Preakness and Belmont.”

Keeping in mind that Donovan reserves the right to adjust his thinking right up until he must release his line at the Travers draw Wednesday morning, he has a sense of what he will do with the big three.

“My gut feeling,” Donovan said, “is Verrazano the favorite, then Palace Malice, and then Orb. I have Orb at third in the line. I would have a hard time making him the favorite. Verrazano, to me, if you put your finger over his Derby, he looks like the best horse in the race. But you do have to weigh in distance. He looked in the Wood Memorial like a mile and a quarter might be a problem, but he looked in the Haskell like he should handle a mile and a quarter.”

Right now, Donovan is thinking of making the Travers favorite either 2-1 or 5-2, the second choice either 5-2 or 3-1, and the third choice either 7-2 or 4-1. “I would put some space between the second and third choice,” he said, adding, “Often, when I have horses as close together as they can be, like 2-1 and 5-2, it means I think it can go either way.”

I think Donovan is right on with Orb. I suspect his constituency has shrunk after disappointing efforts in the Preakness and Belmont, and the fact that he hasn’t had a traditional Travers prep won’t win him additional pari-mutuel support. But that makes Orb a nice play if you’re still a believer.

I do not envy Donovan having to peg a favorite between Verrazano and Palace Malice. Donovan’s points on Verrazano are well taken, but having won the Belmont and Jim Dandy, Palace Malice has no questions concerning distance, and has a big win over the track, something Verrazano does not have.

Very tough call.

lzayas2 More than 1 year ago
Who cares who the favorite will be....the favorite will not win unless they bet War Dancer down to favoritism by post time. Best pedigree for the distance in the field, already won at the distance!. McPeek could have won any of the those big races at Arlington last week with this horse, including the Million...but where does he chooses to place this horse instead?? Enough said!
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
A few facys about horse players here>>>> 1) WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY? Meaning, Verrazano will be the favorite. 2) Most lose and have no understanding of pace. If you push Verrazanno to anything faster than 1:12, he WILL FOLD UP. 3) Her will get pushed.
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
Who says he's gonna be on lead? If he's in front in 24 second splits he's gone won't fold up if he's a 10 furlong horse. Think he'll run mid pack not on front end.we will find out soon enough,should be a very good race.
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
Thinking Verrazano next curlin. No 2yo races, swallowed up in derby the rest is history. Should be chalk Saturday.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Quick note: Two unfair comparisons there with Verrazano and Curlin. First - Verrazano ran in the slop for the first time, so it's possible that did him in as much as anything. Second - Saying Curlin finished 3rd (albeit a distant 3rd), so it's not really fair to say he was swallowed up.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
David? Still thinking the next Curlin??
RayC More than 1 year ago
Mean while why you talk about orb verazano palace there Will take charge MY MONEY IS ON HIM COMING INTO THE PICTURE BIG TIME JUST WATCH AND SEE
Rob Tolliver More than 1 year ago
Totally disagree that it's a tough call. Verrazano will be favored and there's no question in my mind.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Rob, I agree there's no doubt in my mind that Verrazano will be the favorite in this race. He has arguably the most impressive looking win of the year and it was in his last race. People tend to focus on the last out and that will win him easy favoritism. Add to that it that most horse players are completely clueless about pedigree and pace scenario and Verrazano will be swallowing up the sucker money. He's a beautiful horse and SHOULD be favored in almost any 9F contest, but give him an honest pace at 10F's and I believe he will fold like a house of cards in the wind. His bad post draw screams that he will either have to take an uncharacteristicly circuitous root to the outside should of likely pacesetter Moreno or he'll be fired out of the gate to the lead (which he certainly has the speed to make). Either way, this horse's pedigree says he needs an absolutely perfect setup to make 10F's and this Travers doesn't look like it will provide him with that.
Dave More than 1 year ago
I know who the favorite should be and if he isn't I will be all over him to ensure he goes off the favorite. Enough said!
Bob More than 1 year ago
How come no one mentions Transparent a closer type who can come with Orb and get by a tiring Vz. & PM.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
It is a very tough call to make. Orb probably has the most to prove and trying the win a race like the Travers off a prolonged rest is a very tall order. Palace Malice has the least to prove since his form has taken off and he does have a very nice win at the Spa in the Jim Dandy. Verrazano is a bit of a puzzle since he is undeniably talented and his race at the shore was awesome, but does he really want to go that far? I mean More Than Ready wanted no part of a distance of ground, but it doesn't mean this horse can't win. He just may be the best horse. Run the race and find out.
Perl More than 1 year ago
VZ needs help from his damside. Watch a replay of the 2000 Kentucky Derby. MTR stops and I mean does he ever STOP in the final 150 yards.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
You know, a lot of horses - regardless of pedigree - seem to be able to win at distances of a mile and an eighth or less. But that additional eighth of a mile at a mile and a quarter really calls for pedigree and that's what Verrazano is up against.
michael More than 1 year ago
That is why it is called the "classic" distance Bill....That last 1/8th separates the pretenders from the real thing...nice point and well taken.
Perl More than 1 year ago
My initial thought was that Malice will be favored, but it totally could be VZ off the 116 Beyer and the huge win. I know there's a camp of punters who don't believe VZ will get 10 panels, while PM and Orb have already won at 12 and 10f respectively. PM probably has the fewest knocks -- he is on form and has a sparkling win on the track (bsf is way understated, this was a power performance). In my eyes, that SHOULD make him the wagering favorite, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if VZ gets the nod. Orb is definitely third choice -- this is a horse whose big win in the Derby was in the mud and since then was rather dull in the other two TC races. Even if you excuse him as a tired horse, there are still some questions -- plus how often does a closer win the Travers. Concern and Repent were close. I know Unshaded pulled it off, but that was an off year. I'm thinking VZ goes off at something like 3-2. PM is like 9-5 and Orb drifts up into the 7-2 range. Not sure if the math works well enough so that other horses like the Lukas beast get bet in the 8 or 10-1 range, but that's how I see it at this time, but I wouldn't be surprised to see PM go favored over VZ. Will be interesting to see it. Bottom line, both Pletchers are between 3-2 and 2-1 and Orb is 3rd choice.
Albert More than 1 year ago
It's not my intention to bore you Mike, but Game on Dude is a ground saving rail hugger who has beaten up on a bunch of tomato cans for years. I've said it before, so forgive me. His numbers are ok, but he ran into a group of faster horses in last year's Breeders Cup and they smoked HIM. He got re-torqued and is coming to this years BC in the same fashion as last year's. Maybe he'll get lucky and the others won't show up. If they do, they will beat him again because they are faster. As for the favorite in the Travers, who really cares? Give me the winner and I'll love you. After the full season of 3yo races so far this year, Orb still enters this race with the best numbers. That doesn't mean he will run his best number Saturday but if he does, the others have no chance.