Friday, August 24, 2018

No Wonder, Gadot's Gonna Win the Travers

A lot of people -- well, 2 or 3 -- have asked who I think will win the Midsummer Derby, officially the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, so I'll treat this like the Haskell and break it down in hopes of helping you cash some winning tickets on Saturday.

It's going to be a filly, in my opinion, as Wonder Gadot is completely capable of beating the 10 male foes slated to got the mile-and-a-quarter at Saratoga. Post time is schedule for 5:44 p.m. ET. 

Since April, I've formed an opinion that, outside of Justify, the best three-year-old horses are the top two fillies -- Monomoy Girl, winner of four straight Grade 1 races, and Wonder Gadot, who's listed at a 5-to-1 morning line. 

NJ Horseplayer's 2018 Travers
Selection: Wonder Gadot
She's the third betting choice behind 2-to-1 favorite and 2018 Haskell winner Good Magic, and trainer Chad Brown's other entrant, Gronkowski, who ran a very game off-the-pace second behind Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes, after missing the earlier races with an injury. 

For the minimal amount of money I'll invest in the race, she's my selection to win the Travers and will be alone in the top spot of my trifecta and possible superfecta plays, as I see this as an otherwise formful outcome where the Chad Brown runners hit the board, and we'll hope to land a higher-priced horse in the 3rd and 4th spots to juice up the payouts.

Here's a small synopsis on each runner, followed by how I'll play the race.
  1. Trigger Warning, 30-to-1: Finished 3rd in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby in June and 2nd in the Indiana Derby a month later, but nowhere near the caliber of his foes. Pass.
  2. Wonder Gadot, 5-to-1: Too much is made of the filly vs. the boys thing here, as she walloped 15 males in the C$1 million Queens Plate at Woodbine (Toronto) and crushed the field last month in a nondescript stakes race at Fort Erie in Canada. She's 2 of her last 6 and about a length-and-a-half away from six straight wins, including a tough beat in the Kentucky Oaks where she was bumped in the lane and lost to Monomoy Girl. Earlier in her 3-year-old campaign, she lost to Eskimo Kisses, who won the Grade 1 Alabama last week at Saratoga in stylish fashion. My view is that she can run all day and is tactical, so jockey Irad Ortiz has a number of options, though ideally I'd like to see her somewhat forwardly placed to save ground at this distance. Using her as a strong single atop all wagers -- 2018 Travers winner.
  3. Gronkowski, 4-to-1: A serious late turn of foot in the Belmont Stakes, where he finished second to Justify in a race where closer-types typically don't do well, will attract a lot of bettors on Saturday, and I think he could go off closer to 3-to-1 or 7-to-2. Jose Ortiz was Gronk's rider in the Belmont, but shifts to the favorite Good Magic, giving Joel Rosario the chance to get on a potential threat who can make up ground late. I anticipate Gronk will hit the board and finish from 2nd to 4th
  4. Bravazo, 12-to-1: I was bullish about Bravazo in the Haskell Invitational in July and think he's an extremely competitive sort, but a cut below the possible winners. A solid "use" to finish 3rd or 4th, but that's the ceiling.
  5. Vino Rosso, 10-to-1: On paper, his third-place finish in the Jim Dandy on July 28 indicates he came on like gangbusters late, but in watching that race a few times I think he was too disinterested early, and the huge late surge was more a product of the other leaders wilting. I'll use him 3rd and 4th on my trifecta and superfecta tickets, but last out he was unable to beat a horse (Tenfold) who drifted out severely in the stretch yet somehow still won that race. He was way more experienced and fit than Gronkowski in the Belmont and was a cut below there, and seems to be here as well.
  6. Meistermind, 30-to-1: Pick your price here. Want 100-to-1? Sure, you can have it. Seems silly to me to enter a horse who only has a maiden win. I guess the owners at China Horse Club are here to say they were in the race, while lamenting that their stud, Justify, is retired from racing. Complete pass.
  7. King Zachary, 15-to-1: I suppose one could make a pedigree (Curlin) case here, and this one seems to relish distance, but I'm reserving use to 3rd and 4th on my tickets. He's going to be just off the early front-runners, and can step forward and perhaps hit the board.
  8. Mendelssohn, 12-to-1: To me, he's a complete toss. A $3 million horse with some gaudy wins in the UAE in early 2018, I didn't like his effort at all in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 7, and will avoid using him. Pass.
  9. Good Magic, 2-to-1: I was a little rough on him in my Haskell analysis and paid for it as a result, as he trounced the field. I think he'll be forwardly placed and in the mix toward the end, but will stick to my guns in proclaiming that the best two fillies are the best two three-year-old horses on the track, and so I'll use Good Magic 2nd through 4th.
  10. Tenfold, 8-to-1: I think his bad drift-out in the Jim Dandy will prove to be a sign of a still somewhat green horse, or one who simply wilted at a mile-and-one-eighth and may struggle with the added distance in the Travers. I'm in the latter camp, figuring he'll finish 4th at best.
  11. Catholic Boy, 8-to-1: This will be a "wise guy" horse for a lot of analysts on TV, having shown a lot of recent success in turf races, including the Grade 1 Belmont Derby in July. His front-end running style of late suggests jockey Javier Castellano could find himself out front for a good portion of the race, but for my money the dirt just isn't his surface. I'll pass.

Prospective Wagers

  • $1 Trifecta: 2 with 3, 9 with 3-6, 9 = $8
  • 10-Cent Superfecta: 2 with 3, 9 with 3-6, 9 with 3-8, 10 = $4
  • Would play Wonder Gadot as a win wager at anything above 4-to-1