Travers Draw: Forte favored over Triple Crown race winners Mage, National Treasure, Arcangelo

Looking for the standout 3-year-old racehorse in the country? Check out Saturday’s 154th running of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, and you may get your answer.

For just the fourth time, the three winners of the Triple Crown races are running, along with top-rated 3-year-old Forte, winner of the Jim Dandy (G2), the traditional Travers prep.

Forte, the likely Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite scratched the morning of the race with a slight foot issue, was made the 7-5 favorite in a seven-horse on Tuesday (Aug. 22).

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage is 4-1, Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure is 8-1, and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Arcangelo is 5-2. If any of the four win, they would move to the top of the heap heading toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Nov. 4.

Forte, the 2-year-old champion, drew post 1 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., the Spa’s leading rider. Arcangelo, the second choice, leaves from post 2 under Javier Castellano, and National Treasure, with John Velazquez in the irons, has the No. 5 post.

The others in the field are Tapit Trice (12-1), Disarm (8-1), and Scotland (12-1).

“He was more focused, and he showed his gameness in the Jim Dandy,’’ Forte’s trainer Todd Pletcher, who also sends out Tapit Trice, said. “He’s a very seasoned horse. He’s experienced in all kinds of positions. He doesn’t mind the inside, similar to what he did in the Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”

Forte, owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, has earned nearly $3 million with seven victories and a second in nine starts. The son of Violence closed out his 2-year-old season with a win in the BC Juvenile (G1), then won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby (G1) prior to the Triple Crown races.

Arcangelo, trained by Jena Antonucci, is ready to go again following his Belmont score.

“I’m super thrilled (with the post). It’s a smaller field, so that’s completely fine,’ Antonucci said. “We’ve won from the two hole before (when he broke his maiden), so hopefully it will be a two-peat and he’ll win again from the two hole.”

Castellano, who also rode Mage to victory in the Derby, has been working Arcangelo in the mornings at the Spa, and Antonucci says: “He’s gained a lot of confidence working with him,’’ Antonucci said.”

National Treasure is trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. The 3-year-old ran sixth in the Belmont after giving Baffert’s a record eighth win in the Preakness. The colt ran with blinkers last time out, but not this time.

“He breezed him last time with the blinkers off. I don’t question what Bob does,’’ Jack Wolf of Starlight Stable, co-owners of National Treasure, said. “If he wants to take the blinkers off or put triple blinkers on, that’s fine with me.”

Gustavo Delgado, Jr., assistant trainer of Mage, said that since the Derby win “it’s been a blessing the whole way. But I don’t think it’s over yet. He’s more experienced now. He beat 19 horses in the Derby, now he has to beat six.”

The last time all three Triple Crown race winners competed in the Travers was 2017, when West Coast (6-1) topped Derby winner Always Dreaming, Preakness winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont winner Tapwrit.

The Travers is race 12 on the 13-race program, which includes four other Grade 1 stakes: the $600,000 Forego; the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial; the $500,000 Ballerina (a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Filly & Mare Sprint); and the $750,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (a “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the BC Turf.

The picks: 1 Forte, 2 Mage, 3 Tapit Trice

The field for the Travers Stakes, from the rail out with jockey, trainer, odds:

1. Forte (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd Pletcher), 7-5
2. Arcangelo (Javier Castellano, Jena Antonucci), 5-2
3. Tapit Trice (Jose Ortiz, Todd Pletcher), 12-1
4. Mage (Luis Saez, Gustavo Delgado), 4-1
5. National Treasure (John Velazquez, Bob Baffert), 8-1
6. Disarm (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen), 8-1
7. Scotland (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott) 12-1

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