By Richard Rosenblatt
Essential Quality is the strong 4-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 152nd edition of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
The Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2) winner will leave from post 2 under Luis Saez in a field of seven for the 1 ¼-mile race also known as the Mid-Summer Derby. Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox says his 3-year-old colt is ready to go.
“He seems to be a little more forward leading up to this race than he was in the Jim Dandy,” Cox said recently. “We’ve tried to sharpen him up the last few weeks and I feel like we have mentally. He’s ready to go.”
Midnight Bourbon is the second choice at 9-2 after drawing post six for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. Midnight Bourbon nearly stumbled to the ground in the Haskell Stakes when interfered with by Hot Rod Charlie. This is his first race since the July 17 Haskell.
Dynamic One and Keepmeinmind are both 6-1, with Masqueparade at 8-1, Miles D at 12-1, and King Fury at 15-1. The post-position draw was Wednesday.
While Saratoga is known as the “Graveyard of Champions,’’ the Travers has been kind to odds-on favorites. Consider: Easy Goer won the 1989 Travers at 2-5 that began a run of eight of nine odds-on favorites from 1989-2020 ending up in the Travers winner’s circle.
The only beaten odds-on favorite during that period was 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, upset by Keen Ice. Tiz the Law won the 2020 Travers at odds of 1-2.
If you’re looking for an upset in this one, two of the nation’s premier trainers, Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, have horses in the race.
Dynamic One, trained by Pletcher, comes into the Travers off a victory in the Curlin at the Spa on July 30. He will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Miles D, runner-up in the Curlin, is Brown’s entry. The lightly-raced maiden winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.16 on Aug. 21 and Brown is hoping the colt is ready for a breakout effort. Brown, who grew up in nearby Mechanicville, New York, is looking for his first Travers winner (he’s 0-for-11 in seven Travers).
Godolphin-owned Essential Quality, the leading 3-year-old and Horse of the Year contender, has won seven of eight, including three Grade 1’s – the Breeders’ Futurity, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the Belmont. His only hiccup was a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby(G1), a race in which he did not have one of the smoother rides in the field. The 2-year-old champion also is versatile – he can win on the lead, stalking the pace or coming from behind.
Among some of the great upsets at Saratoga are, of course, Upset beating Man o’ War in the 1919 Sanford; 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy surprising Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the 1930 Jim Dandy; Onion stunning Triple Crown winner Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney; and Keen Ice beating Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers.
|1||Midnight Bourbon||9-2||Ricardo Santa Ana Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|2||Essential Quality||4-5||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|3||Keepmeinmind||6-1||Joel Rosario||Robertino Diodoro|
|4||Dynamic One||6-1||Irad Ortiz Jr||Todd Pletcher|
|5||Miles D||12-1||Flavien Prat||Chad Brown|
|6||Masqueparade||8-1||Miguel Mena||Albert M.Stall Jr|
|7||King Fury||15-1||Jose Ortiz||Kenneth McPeek|
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.