Saturday, August 27, 2016

My Man Sam Gets The Nod In The Travers

On the heels of calling the Haskell Invitational and Belmont Stakes winners, I'm making 20-to-1 My Man Sam the top selection in Saturday's $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

I was on the fence about using Creator again this time around, especially at a generous (and probably poorly calculated) 15-to-1 morning line, but side with a less-accomplished horse who has a world-class turf (but not dirt) trainer who is sending three horses to post in "the Midsummer Derby."

Chad Brown's other two runners, 12-to-1 Gift Box and 4-to-1 Connect, will gain greater attention from the racing experts, but for my money My Man Sam is an infinitely better value and has a legit chance of winning in a 13-horse field with several question marks in spite of Grade 1 stakes wins.

Here's my take on each of the runners (morning line odds in parenthesis), and similar to recent write-ups I will summarize I think horses in the field are capable of finishing.  I'll also list my plays.

#1, Arrogate (10-to-1) and #2 American Freedom (6-1): I list these as a package, since the two Baffert's trainees will run like a couple entry, as I see it.  I see a lot of parallels to Nyquist's bid in the Haskell Invitational, where from the rail he used his early gate speed to force the outside speed horses even wider into the first turn, which will burn most of them out at a mile and open the floodgates for horses with late kick to run on late, a la Ice Box in the 2015 Travers.

My gut tells me that Baffert views Arrogate as the better horse, and I think he's talented enough to finish second, and so he instructs American Freedom's jockey Rafael Bejarano to force the flow wide, which will give the lighter-raced Arrogate a clean rail run.  Arrogate is sort of the "hot" horse and perhaps a late developer, but I sense will succumb to the classier Travers field with second place being the ceiling.  At best, I both Bafferts are "underneath" plays.  Prognosis: 2nd, 3rd or 4th for Arrogate, 3rd or 4th for American Freedom.

#3, My Man Sam (20-to-1) is my top selection.  I will use him in win and place plays and wheel in the exacta, trifecta and superfecta.  The pedigree might suggest a one-turn horse, but this son of Trappe Shot is just beginning to mature.  Sam started well in the Kentucky Derby and made a decent middle move before running up on others' heels into the final turn and then flattening, then re-rallying (albeit far off the winners) in the stretch, but that was not a bad effort after the horse closed like a shot to finish second a month prior in the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland.

Granted it was an allowance race, but Sam then made a nice sweeping move into soft fractions on July 23 at Saratoga and was eventually headed in the stretch against older competition to finish second that day, but I thought it was a far more mature and experienced-looking performance that sets the stage well to track the speed in the Travers and close into sharp fractions.  Maybe he fails to get up in time, but of the three Chad Browns to me he has the best shot on Saturday afternoon.

#4, Governor Malibu (12-to-1): Best shot will be to beat Sam to the rail and track the speed, but I've seen enough here to think he's a cut below Grade 1.  Malibu, for my money, looks like a grinder who may hit the board but does not offer win upside.  He's the 5-to-1 second choice on the odds board at, which I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.  Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, but this is a case of wishful thinking for a lot of folks.  Prognosis: 3rd or 4th at best.

#5, Forever d'Oro (30-to-1):  On my ride to a Long Beach Island weekend on Friday I was shocked to hear Monmouth Park's world-class handicapper Brad Thomas make this one a potential play, but to me this one's a complete pass.  Trainer Dallas Stewart pops once in a while in spots like this, but there's nothing here to suggest this son of Medaglia d'Oro wants dirt or can hit the board.  PASS.

#6, Anaximandros (50-to-1):  A completely overmatched entry who from the gate can do nothing more but get in the way of the speed horses to his outside.  PASS.

#7, Exaggerator (3-to-1):  TVG is offering a 5-to-1 guarantee on win bets on this horse, but I fail to see the value.  I loved this horse in the Haskell, but this one's proving that he loves the wet going, so dry conditions leave a question mark for the Travers.  For my money he's the classiest of the bunch, and a mile-and-a-quarter is no concern, but I'm using him strictly "underneath" as he's only 2-of-8 lifetime on fast dirt tracks and I think that, eventually, a grueling 3-year-old campaign catches up with him in the stretch.  Prognosis: makes a big late charge but flattens in the stretch to finish 2nd, behind My May Sam; will use in every "underneath" combination.

#8, Destin (10-to-1):  Similar to Governor Malibu, in my opinion.  Consummate hard-knocker who will find himself near the lead but start to back up late.  I'm sticking to my story that trainer Todd Pletcher is a master at finding soft and winnable spots for his horses, as was the case with Destin's two stakes victories at Tampa Bay Downs this winter. Since then he's 0-for-3, including an easy run in the Belmont where he got nosed late by Creator.  The Jim Dandy was another unimpressive performance.  Prognosis: 3rd or 4th at best.

#9, Gift Box (12-to-1) and, #10, Connect (4-to-1): I'm pairing the two other Chad Brown trainees here, since I think neither will hit the board.  This is a huge step up in class for the top two runners in the $100,000 Curlin Stakes on July 29, where only 7 runners competed.  I'd put them in the race flow around Destin and expect both to flatten.  PASS.

#11, Majesto (30-to-1): SCRATCHED; will not run in the Travers.

#12, Creator (15-to-1):  The morning line is simply awful, and Creator is trading at 6-to-1 on Public Handicapper.  That's a bit too short for my liking, but I would not talk you off betting this one as a winner of the Travers.  I was this close to making him my top selection and am willing to toss his stale effort in the Jim Dandy on July 30, where I think his slight hesitation at the top of the stretch was a bit underplayed in the postscript to Laoban's shocking win.  I could see him rolling late in the stretch and will use him, similar to Exaggerator, "underneath".  Prognosis: Top 3 finisher.

#13, Laoban (15-to-1):  I view the Jim Dandy score as a bit of an aberration and project he'll be greatly compromised by the wide post position.  Until he proves he can stalk a pace, I think Jose Ortiz has no option but to gun for the early lead and hope he can dictate tempo again.  Prognosis: Leads for about three-quarters of a mile in 1:09-1:10 and wilts.  PASS.

#14, Gun Runner (10-to-1):  Distance should not be a problem, but I just think he got some great "trips" in his graded stakes wins earlier this year and is a cut below the top here.  I might have used him with an inner draw in the Travers but the 13 hole is a bear and I am reluctant to use.  PASS.


Possible winners: 3, 7, 12
Underneath horses: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 12
Pass: 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 (scratch), 13, 14


NJ Horseplayer's selections ($60 bankroll):

Race 8: $1 Pick 4 -- 6 over 1, 7, 8, 10, 11 over 6 over 3, 7, 12 = $15 total
(I will single Mohaymen in the Kings Bishop, as I think he's going to be a fabulous 1-turn horse at 7 furlongs to a mile distance, as well as Flintshire in Race 10).

Race 10: $2 daily double 6 (Flintshire) with 3, 12 = $4 total

Race 11:
$5 Win-Place: 3 (My Man Sam) = $10 total
$1 Exacta Key Box, 3 with 1, 7, 12 = $6 total
$1 Exacta Key Box 12 with 1, 3, 7 = $6 total
$0.50 Trifecta: 3, 12 over 1, 3, 7, 12 over 1, 2, 7, 8, 12 = $11 total
$0.10 Superfecta: 3, 12, over 3, 7, 12 over 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12 over 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12 = $8 total

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