08/23/2012 2:51PM

King: Three-deep play in Travers part of pick four ticket


If Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga were a movie, it would be a touted independent film: one lacking star power, but at least with some depth.

Injuries and other physical setbacks to many of the top 3-year-olds aside, which depleted the race of big names, the Travers is nevertheless an appealing contest that drew 11 runners. And if one can beat favorite Alpha, the race likely offers the potential for a win payoff that isn’t in the single digits.

But it’s the all-graded-stakes pick four on tap Saturday that has my attention, more so than simply a win play in the Travers.

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Beginning with race 9, the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, and continuing with the Grade 1 trio of the Test, King’s Bishop, and Travers – the wager offers the potential for horseplayers to shoot for a nice return, while handicapping some of the elite horses in training. And with a 50-cent minimum, it won’t require a huge bankroll to try to hit it.

It also has a $1 million guaranteed pool, for those that care about such a promotion – though that truly means little in terms of a bottom line for bettors, unless by chance they don’t hit their target and the track has to kick in money. Fat chance.

Here’s a look at the sequence, beginning with the first leg and culminating with the Travers, and the horses I will use in the wager.

◗ Race 9, Ballston Spa

This race drew the better female turf milers around after those with a little more staying power showed up in the Beverly D. last week at Arlington Park.

Selected on top is the late-running Zagora (No. 2), a three-time graded stakes winner this year and a mare who won the Diana at Saratoga in 2011 and finished third in the race this year. She is classy and has hot-riding Ramon Dominguez up, but might be a step slower than a year ago.

I will use two others: Tapitsfly (No. 6) and Hungry Island (No. 4), 2012 graded winners who both finished behind Zagora in this year’s Diana. Tapitsfly was fourth and Hungry Island fifth.

Come post time, Tapitsfly might be the best price of the group and become a single race value play – with the public jumping off her, believing speedy comebacker Summer Soiree might compromise her chances.

◗ Race 10, Test

Contested (No. 8), freshened after going off form when fifth in the Mother Goose, is the most likely winner if she runs as she did winning the Eight Belles and Acorn going one turn earlier in the year.

Aubby K (No. 2) and Book Review (No. 3) also hold value appeal in the pick four, especially since Contested will be singled by many.

They have solid credentials. Aubby K cuts back in distance after a third in the Acorn and a fourth in the Delaware Oaks. And the allowance-jumping Book Review has won two of her last three, with the one defeat over that stretch being a second to Questing – who has since blossomed into the top 3-year-old filly in the land.

◗ Race 11, King’s Bishop

Two horses: Trinniberg (No. 9) and Currency Swap (No. 3) stand above the rest. Trinniberg is the top money-earner in the field with a bankroll of more than $611,000 and Currency Swap is perfect in three starts at the Spa, a record that includes a victory over Trinniberg in the Grade 1 Hopeful last year.

Both enter the King’s Bishop after posting Beyers of 100 or higher in each of their last two races.

◗ Race 12, The Travers

Nonios (No. 10) is a tepid choice to win a competitive Travers, following a quality second in the Haskell in which he chased victorious Paynter throughout.

Had Paynter not gotten sick after the Haskell, he would have been a prohibitive Travers favorite.

Yet Nonios seemingly isn’t getting a lot of love off his runner-up finish to him. That’s wrong. This is a lightly raced, talented horse with a pedigree to relish the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Travers.

I will also include the one-two finishers from the Jim Dandy on my tickets – Alpha (No. 6) and Neck ‘n Neck (No. 8).

Alpha is the more accomplished of the two horses, while Neck ‘n Neck has run quickly on dry surfaces.

◗ The ticket

In numerical order, playing the horses outlined above, a 50-cent pick four of 2,4,6 with 2,3,8 with 3,9 with 6,8,10 costs $27.

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