08/21/2008 12:00AM

Mambo in Seattle's big fig was no fluke


NEW YORK - Saturday is Travers Day at Saratoga with this Grade 1, $1 million near-classic event heading a card that also includes the Grade 1 King's Bishop, the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch, and the Grade 3 Victory Ride.

Travers Stakes

When he won the restricted Henry Walton Stakes over the track four weeks ago, Mambo in Seattle ran faster than Macho Again did when he edged Pyro in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy one race later. In fact, Mambo in Seattle sports the highest last-out Beyer Figure in this Travers field, a 104. Many times, the best last-out Beyer doesn't mean a heck of a lot, because how a figure is earned is just as important as what the figure is. So, too, is how that number fits in the overall context of the horse's form. But this is a case where the best last-out Beyer is truly indicative of the best horse in the field, and I like Mambo in Seattle to win.

Mambo in Seattle's fast performance impressed me because of the circumstances. He was caught three wide around the first turn and again on the far turn as he launched his bid. You and I Forever, meanwhile, saved every inch of ground possible until he tipped wide into the stretch to tackle Mambo in Seattle. Yet despite the ground loss, and being headed in midstretch by You and I Forever, Mambo in Seattle fought back to gamely prevail, and leave the third-place finisher a long way up the track.

The Walton was Mambo in Seattle's third straight score, and the fact he has shown improvement Beyer-wise from win to win while still being a relatively lightly raced horse suggests he has room for further improvement. He will also get a contested pace to set up his late run.

Bernard Baruch Handicap

I will admit it's extremely tough for me to stop chasing a horse. Case in point: Shakis. I liked Shakis last time out in the Manhattan Handicap, and he showed nothing in that race, finishing ninth. But being stubborn, I'm going back to Shakis one more time.

I liked Shakis in the Manhattan because I felt he didn't have a chance to show his fine 2007 form, which included a strong win in this race, in his first two starts this year. Shakis made his 2008 bow in the Maker's Mark, but that was run over a Keeneland turf course on which he disappointed last fall in the Shadwell Turf Mile, and is a course he may not like. His second start this year came in the Dixie, in which he was the even-money favorite. But that was run over deep going that a lot of horses could not handle.

Shakis is 8 now, and it is entirely possible he isn't what he used to be. But I doubt trainer Kiaran McLaughlin would persevere with him if he was done dealing. Indeed, Shakis shows two strong workouts this month at Saratoga, he now returns to the scene of his best performance in this country, and he should be a square price. I can always sign the divorce papers after this race.

Del Mar Handicap

Spring House will be hard to beat in this race. He was a close fourth in the Eddie Read most recently, and while this year's Eddie Read wasn't a true Grade 1 race, Spring House now stretches out to an extended distance at which he is currently more proficient. But Spring House will be no price, and I will try and beat him with Tissy Fit.

Tissy Fit has improved dramatically since being claimed five starts ago, picking up minor awards in listed stakes in his last three outings. Tissy Fit now makes his first start back on turf since the claim, and turf has always been his preferred surface.