One of the crucial prep races for the Breeders' Cup Classic runs today at Saratoga, as the Grade I Travers Stakes will pit a field of seven three-year-olds at 1 1/4-miles.
"The Midsummer Derby" showcases each of the three horses who won a Triple Crown race in 2023: Mage (Kentucky Derby), National Treasure (Preakness Stakes), and Arcangelo (Belmont Stakes), as well as Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite and Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes winner Forte.
But the Travers won't be Saturday's only race that could impact the Breeders Cup odds. Del Mar has the Grade II Pat O'Brien Stakes on the docket, which could prove to be a valuable tune-up for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Join us as we handicap both races below.
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Travers Stakes odds, prediction and best bet
- Race: Saratoga Race 12
- Post time: 6:11 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX
Odds as of August 24, 2023.
No. 4 Mage (4-1) could be ready to deliver his best effort since taking the Kentucky Derby in Saturday's Travers Stakes.
The son of Good Magic was last seen running second in the Grade I Haskell Stakes, a prestigious race in and of itself, but one that his connections viewed as a prep for their ultimate goal.
Some may see that runner-up effort as a bit disappointing, but the reality is that Mage wasn't even favored in that heat. Bob Baffert's Arabian Knight was, and Mage beat him to the line for second that day.
Geaux Rocket Ride worked out a beautiful trip under Mike Smith to win the Haskell, and may simply have been best that day. Mage would have had to be far superior to win with a four-wide trip under Javier Castellano, who made the difficult decision to jump off Mage in favor of Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo in the Travers.
Mage won't lose much in the saddle, and in fact, he might benefit from getting Flavien Prat aboard (Luis Saez was scheduled to ride but was injured in a spill on Wednesday).
No. 1 Forte (7-5, morning-line favorite) was all-out to win a relatively weak renewal of the Jim Dandy when last seen over a sloppy racetrack. He had an almost perfect ground-saving trip and benefitted from some aggressive tactics from jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who keeps the assignment for Todd Pletcher.
It's hard to knock a horse that's 7-for-9 lifetime with six graded stakes victories, but the price may be too short on him breaking from the rail with less potential to improve than Mage.
No. 2 Arcangelo (5-2) may still have plenty of upside in just his fifth career start, but the 1 1/2-mile Belmont may not be as truly predictive of a Travers prep as some other races. Still, the works are strong, and he was Castellano's choice. Arcangelo's Grade III Peter Pan win two-back indicates he'll be hard to pass in the lane.
Best bet: $5 exacta key box 4/1,2 ($20)
Pat O'Brien Stakes odds, prediction and best bet
- Race: Del Mar Race 10
- Post time: 9:31 p.m. ET
- TV: FanDuel TV
|2||Go Joe Won||50-1||+5,000||+5,000||+5,000|
|3||Hoist the Gold||12-1||+1,200||+1,200||+1,400|
|5||C Z Rocket||8-1||+800||+800||+900|
|7||Spirit of Makena||4-1||+400||+400||+187|
|10||Vivir Con Allegria||20-1||+2,000||+2,000||+4,000|
|11||Bye Bye Bobby||20-1||+2,000||+2,000||+3,300|
Odds as of August 24, 2023.
No. 4 Sir Atticus (5-1) is the horse with the most upside in the Pat O'Brien, as he makes just his fourth career start.
The four-year-old may have gotten an ideal stalking trip in his first try vs. winners, but he crushed that field of 12. The speed figures suggest he's ready for the class hike, and having trainer John Sherriffs and jockey Mike Smith on his side doesn't hurt.
No. 7 Spirit of Makena (4-1) was one of the main contenders in the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar last month, but a slow start combined with some awful luck running into a horse that was steadying out of the race on the far turn doomed him.
Bettors should probably disregard that last effort and focus on the form that saw him win four of his first five starts, including the Grade II Triple Bend and the Grade II San Carlos, both at seven furlongs.
No. 9 Anarchist (7-2, morning-line favorite) may have been a game second in the Bing Crosby when last seen, but he's making of habit of settling for minor awards. He has a staggering six runner-up efforts in seven starts in 2023, finishing behind Spirit of Makena in their last meeting on February 11.
At this price, he's tough to trust on top, but he's a win threat nonetheless.
Best bet: $10 win/place 4
Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Schedule
|February Stakes*||February 19||Tokyo Racecourse (Japan)||Lemon Pop|
|Kentucky Derby||May 6||Churchill Downs||Mage|
|Preakness Stakes||May 20||Pimlico||National Treasure|
|Belmont Stakes||June 10||Belmont Park||Arcangelo|
|Metropolitan Handicap||June 10||Belmont Park||Cody's Wish|
|Stephen Foster Stakes*||July 1||Ellis Park||West Will Power|
|Haskell Stakes*||July 22||Monmouth Park||Geaux Rocket Ride|
|Whitney Stakes*||August 5||Saratoga||White Abarrio|
|Juddmonte International Stakes (turf)*||August 23||York (UK)||Mostahdaf|
|Travers Stakes||August 26||Saratoga||TBD|
|Pacific Classic*||September 2||Del Mar||TBD|
|Jockey Club Gold Cup*||September 2||Saratoga||TBD|
|Pennsylvania Derby||September 23||Parx||TBD|
|Awesome Again Stakes*||September 30||Santa Anita Park||TBD|
|Lukas Classic||September 30||Churchill Downs||TBD|
*denotes "Win & You're In" race for Breeders' Cup Classic