08/23/2012 1:46PM

Weekend Warrior for Aug. 25: Neck ‘n Neck can stalk his way to Travers win

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NEW YORK – This is the weekend for our premier summer race meets. On Sunday, Del Mar presents its signature event, the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic. But on Saturday, Saratoga offers the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes, and for the 143rd time, I might add. The Travers, also known as the Midsummer Derby, is supported by a pair of Grade 1, $500,000 races for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs – the King’s Bishop, and the Test for fillies – as well as the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa Stakes on the turf. Saturday’s feature at Del Mar is the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Handicap.

Travers Stakes

The defection of Hansen on Wednesday because of a likely career-ending injury was a significant one, as he figured to be the race’s main speed. But there is a chance that even with the loss of Hansen the Travers pace will be more active than it was in the Jim Dandy, the main local Travers prep which was won in front-running fashion by the erstwhile closer and Travers favorite Alpha. Right after the Travers draw, the connections of Speightscity, who is certainly every bit the 30-1 he is on the line, announced to the world that he would be sent to the lead. I also suspect that Stealcase might be more prominent early, as he was in the Derby Trial four starts back. And considering the nice middle move he made when he was second last time out in the Haskell Invitational, Nonios might be a forward early factor, too.

A pace scenario different from the one he encountered in the Jim Dandy should not affect Alpha. While Alpha deserves credit for being versatile enough to capitalize on the situation in the Jim Dandy, he is still probably more effective coming from off the pace, the style he employed to win the Withers and Count Fleet, and finish a close second in the Wood Memorial. On the other hand, the Jim Dandy was Alpha’s biggest victory to date, and it came in the slop, a surface he is bred to relish and footing he will not get this time. That, combined with the fact that he won’t be much of a price, is reason enough to take a shot against him.

A different pace should help a couple of horses who were beaten in the Jim Dandy, namely, Neck ’n Neck and Atigun. Atigun, a good, if surprising third in the Belmont Stakes two starts back, finished sixth in the Jim Dandy in an effort that is best forgiven considering how pace-compromised he was. Atigun has worked lights out since, but he will have to come up with a career-best performance to win. Neck ’n Neck, second in the Jim Dandy, is my win pick.

Neck ’n Neck tried a stalking trip in the Jim Dandy, which just wasn’t going to work, what with the way that race unfolded. But Neck ’n Neck still performed very well, making a big run at Alpha in the stretch before winding up being beaten two lengths. Most importantly, Neck ’n Neck’s effort in the Jim Dandy confirmed the dramatic improvement he demonstrated in runaway triple-digit Beyer Figure romps in his prior two starts at Churchill Downs. And this time, a stalking trip might work nicely.

Nonios is not without a chance, either. Nonios has never run a bad race, and he was game finishing second in the Haskell to Paynter, who would have been Travers favorite had he not gotten sick. But in truth, someone had to finish second in the Haskell, and Nonios simply wasn’t in the same league with Paynter that day.

Del Mar Handicap

Dhaamer ran away with the Sunset and Round Table in his last two starts, and might certainly win again. But the field Dhaamer faces in Saturday’s 1 3/8-mile turf race has a lot more firepower in it than the ones he has crushed lately. And Interaction is certainly logical, too, off his second most recently in the Eddie Read to champion Acclamation. But though Interaction was successful at extended distances early in his career in his native Argentina, the horses he finished ahead of in the Read really didn’t do a lot of running.

I’m going with Worth Repeating. Worth Repeating ran a huge race last time out off the Michael Machowsky claim, finishing second in the Cougar II Handicap. He moved way too early in that 12-furlong race, and yet was overtaken only late by the high-class Richard’s Kid, who has an excellent chance to win Sunday’s Pacific Classic, and who had an absolutely perfect trip. Worth Repeating moves back to turf now, the surface on which he has done most of his winning. Notably, Worth Repeating was a good third in this race two years ago, beaten only a little more than a length by Champ Pegasus after having the lead in the stretch.

Ballston Spa Stakes

Zagora won the Grade 1 Diana on Saratoga turf last year, but the strong sense is she isn’t quite as good this year, although she still can win this race. Hungry Island was also a turf stakes winner at Saratoga last summer, winning the Lake Placid. But my read on Hungry Island is she really prefers cut in the ground, and she’s not going to get it this time. Summer Soiree was a Grade 1 stakes winner last year at 3, but she will be making her first start in nine months, and winning a race like this off a layoff that long is a tall order.

I like Tapitsfly, and not just for reasons of process of elimination. Tapitsfly ran huge when she wired the Grade 1 Just A Game two starts back, whipping subsequent Diana winner Winter Memories and Hungry Island. Tapitsfly tried another front-running gambit last time in the Diana, but failed while going a longer distance. This slightly shorter race is a better fit for her at this stage of her career. Moreover, while Tapitsfly is obviously capable of winning on the engine, she is also very effective when someone else can carry her early. She is perfectly capable of allowing the speedy Summer Soiree to make the pace here and then getting first jump on everyone else whenever she chooses.

[Complete coverage of racing at Saratoga: News, PPs, and video]

[Complete coverage of racing at Del Mar: News, PPs, and video]

Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
I've decided to be a sport and give you guys and gals the P4. I figure that at $96, most of you won't play it enough to dilute my price. 2,4 1,2,8,10 2,3,4,9 4,6,10 $96
J B More than 1 year ago
Except it's a $.50 bet. So unfortunately some of us poor folk can afford $48. I would recommend going a bit deeper in the travers anyway. You're gonna need Liason.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
TODAYS BEST BET by a long ways comes to you from DEL MAR ( Race 2 ) #8 STREET ROCKET ....................... I will bet JUST ENOUGH to ( WIN ) only - To where I may have ALL OF MY WAGERS COVERED ( On the House ) for the Travers ( When ) ( STREET ROCKET ) totally blows this field way . If not - then I maybe in a world of hurt ha ha haaaaaaaaaa ! NEVER WAGER WHAT YOU CAN NOT AFFORD TO LOSE - Thats a fact . Good Luck to you alllllllllllllllllllllllll
Tim More than 1 year ago
You are giving out an 8/5 faborite i. A maiden claimer race for a druggie trainer. Arrying 124 pounds. You love giving out chalk. What medication are you on?
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Travers : $200 Exacta ( 9 - 8 ) ......... $80 Trifecta ( 9 - 8 - 7 ) & ( 9 - 8 - 10 ) ............... $20 Superfecta ( 9 - 8 - 7 - 4 , 5 , 6 , 10 ) & ( 9 - 8 - 10 - 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 ) $20 Trifecta ( 9 - 8 - ALL ) $10 Superfecta ( 9 - 8 - ALL - ALL ) $ 2000 WIN #9 $4000 PLACE #9
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
If Liason wins the Tarvers, I'll give you double. Between you and Watchmaker, you have 2 nags. Neck "n Neck capitalized on two very sped favoring tracks in May and June and got perfect trips behind quitters. wow. No wonder i make money at this. Nonios or Alpha wins, with the nod to Nonios.
Tim More than 1 year ago
alpha cant win and rutherford is not a rea Horseman he is a fraud.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Who the heck is rytherford and what the heck does he have to do with how fast the horse can run? It is called HORSE RACING. Forget about the owners, trainers, jockeys, like the guy above who is getting Baffert!!! Baffert has a bad heart and could carry the horse anyway.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Take that $7420 and buy a used Nissan Altima to get you to work at McDonalds, you knucklehead. Antone who realiatically make a bet THAT big, has to be a professional gambler and a real pro, like me can see that there is no rhyme or reason in picking Liason to win this race. He is 7 lengths slower on his best day.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
To all of you Beloved Bob Baffert fans : If anyone has been paying close enough attention to Baffert reguarding the Travers : Baffert states that LIAISION will run huge today ! Nothing les than a 1 - 2 - 3 finish : yet more likely should complete one of the top two spots ! Wowwwwww now thats really laying it out there for the class of a man that Baffert is : and to many ! New York Daily News by Jerry Bossert and another Del Mar News report . I would go as far as saying AS WEAK as this field seems to be on paper : I would not dis-miss the words from one of our own racing greatest ! Bob Baffert has been winning everywhere - so this would not come to no surprise if LIAISON picks up a big pay-day in the Travers
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Baffert should ease up on the heart meds. The horse in in way over his head.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Say what you want, Mike Smith moves McPeeks' Colt up 6 lengths.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
How come when the jockey falls off, 99% of the time the horse hugs the rail and wins anyway? What exactly does Smith do? A little unrealistic, but you get my point, don't you? HOOOOOORRRRRRRRSE RACING. Remember who is on the bottom.
frostitute More than 1 year ago
alpha is not going to win this race. the distance will kill this horse.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
i actually liked this horse but with this headline in the racing form its the kiss of death.
avlamal More than 1 year ago
alpha trots ho,e here a really weak field here these horses here in the travers really are quite bad whereas alpha is really very good class always tells
cashinglikeaMFR More than 1 year ago
Check out the new handicapping website coast2coastcappers.com...free week trial begins monday for all!
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
I checked it out. Yesterdays bet at Del Mar was a LOOOOOOOSER (I guess if I actually sighed up, I would get my account credited) But I'm sure you charge for the pick, so that would make me a LOOOOOOOSER too! Todays pick :Saratoga Race 9 Exacta Box 2 Zagora and 6 Tapitsfly is going to be a loser also, as Tapisfly will face huge pressure on the front end the race will be a 2&4 exacta box. If you need e to work for you after you see the results of this race, call me or just reply to this email and I will talk money with you.
Jerry Cumberland More than 1 year ago
Atigun was full of run but inexusably hard held off Alpha's slow pace by Julien Leparoux in the Jim Dandy. Ken McPeek made some good moves dumping Leparoux for Smith and giving his horse a sharp work. He'll be closer to the pace Saturday and hard to handle in deep stretch.
myjockwon More than 1 year ago
not sure about Smith taking over isn't this the guy that blew the lead in three triple crown races an could not have ridden Hansen any worst going head an head with a 99-1 shot.i guess will see