Magic Man’s Preview and Picks for the 2019 Travers Stakes

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It has been a while since the Magic Man has put together a picks column. But did you think I would sit this weekend out with the 150th Travers Stakes set be run on Saturday at Saratoga?

The Travers is the centerpiece of a monstrous card which has five other Grade 1 races. For those that are novices, the Travers is considered to be the mid-summer’s version of the Kentucky Derby. A full field of 12 horses will greet the starter in a field at first glance which looks very solid.

Although Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security along with top West Coast contender Game Winner.will not run in the Travers, this race for a bettor is the kind where you stand to make a nice score if you get the right combination.

Tacitus, the early morning line favorite at 5-2, has had some hard luck in his last two outings, and I would not blame you if you try to beat him. Other contenders include Tax, winner of the Jim Dandy in his last out over Tacitus, and Code of Honor, who won the Dwyer in emphatic fashion in his last race. Mucho Gusto won the Affirmed, and his trainer Bob Baffert is sending him here in lieu of Game Winner.

Here now is my horse by horse breakdown of the 150th Travers along with my selections.

RACE 11 Runhappy Travers S. (Grade I) POST TIME – 5:44 PM
PP (RACE 11)
Exacta, Trifecta (.50), Super (.10), Pick 3 Races (11-13), Double Wagers
Saratoga STAKES
Purse $1,250,000. For Three Year Olds. By subscription of $1,250 each which should accompany the nomination; $9,000 to pass the entry box and an additional $9,750 to start. For horses not originally nominated, a supplemental payment of $18,750 (along with the entry and starting fees) may be made at any time prior to the closing of entries. The purse for the Runhappy Travers shall be divided as follows: $670,000 to the owner of the winner, $230,000 to second, $125,000 to third, $85,000 to fourth, $50,000 to fifth, $35,000 to sixth, $30,000 to seventh and $25,000 to eighth. Weight 126 Lbs. Trophies will be presented to the winning owner, trainer and jockey. Closed August 10,2019 with 17 Nominations. One And One Fourth Miles.
P# PP Horse Virtual
Stable A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Owendale (KY)
[ ] 3/C L F Geroux
126 B H Cox
2 2 Code of Honor (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J R Velazquez
126 C R McGaughey III
3 3 Highest Honors (KY)
[ ] 3/C L L Saez
126 C C Brown
4 4 Laughing Fox (KY)
[ ] 3/C L R Santana, Jr.
126 S M Asmussen
5 5 Everfast (KY)
[ ] 3/C L M Chuan
126 D L Romans
6 6 Tacitus (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J L Ortiz
126 W I Mott
7 7 Mucho Gusto (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Talamo
126 B Baffert
8 8 Chess Chief (VA)
[ ] 3/C L M E Smith
126 D Stewart
9 9 Looking At Bikinis (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Castellano
126 C C Brown
10 10 Scars Are Cool (FL)
[ ] 3/C L T Gaffalione
126 S M Hough
11 11 Endorsed (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Rosario
126 K P McLaughlin
12 12 Tax (KY)
[ ] 3/G L I Ortiz, Jr.
126 D Gargan
Owners: 1 – Rupp Racing ; 2 – Farish, W.S. ; 3 – Farish, W.S. ; 4 – Lieblong, Alex and JoAnn ; 5 – Calumet Farm ; 6 – Juddmonte Farms, Inc. ; 7 -Petersen, Michael, Lund ; 8 – Estate of James J. Coleman, Jr. ; 9 – Long Lake Stable LLC, Madaket Stables LLC, Coleman, Thomas and Doheny Racing Stable ; 10 – Sagamore Farm LLC ; 11 – Godolphin, LLC ; 12 – R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Lynch, Hugh and Corms Racing Stable
Breeders: 1 – Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, LLC; 2 – W. S. Farish; 3 – W.S. Farish; 4 – Chester & Anne Prince; 5 – Extern Developments; 6 – Juddmonte Farms Inc.; 7 – Teneri Farm Inc. &Bernardo Alvarez Calderon; 8 – Morgan’s Ford Farm; 9 – Neil Jones; 10 – Hardacre Farm LLC; 11 – Godolphin; 12 – Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider
Pedigrees (Sire – Dam, by Dam Sire): 1 – Into Mischief – Aspen Light , by Bernardini ; 2 – Noble Mission (GB) – Reunited , by Dixie Union ; 3 – Tapit -Tap Your Feet , by Dixieland Band ; 4 – Union Rags – Saskawea , by Stormy Atlantic ; 5 – Take Charge Indy – Awesome Surprise , by Awesome Again ; 6 – Tapit – Close Hatches , by First Defence ; 7 – Mucho Macho Man – Itsagiantcauseway , by Giant’s Causeway ; 8 – Into Mischief – Un Blessed , byMineshaft ; 9 – Lookin At Lucky – Bikini Beauty , by Bernardini ; 10 – Malibu Moon – Ready Signal , by More Than Ready ; 11 – Medaglia d’Oro – Dance Card , by Tapit ; 12 – Arch – Toll , by Giant’s Causeway


1-Owendale-This guy comes off a stout win in his last out as he took down the Ohio Derby following up a good third place finish in the Preakness. His numbers have been fairly consistent thus far in his career. In order for him to win this he will have to hope for a fast pace which will make his closing kick more effective. The rail draw in my eyes does not hinder him as he will just break and sit a good trip. He to me is someone who can fill out your tri’s and super’s and also one I would use in any multi-race gimmicks.

2-Code of Honor-Looked like for a few jumps that this guy was going to win the Kentucky Derby but he flattened out late on a tiring rail. He was given a brief freshening and responded with a very easy win in the Dwyer. I watched that particular race and couldn’t help but notice how filled out he looked. He has maintained a steady worktab coming into this race and even after saying all that I still have reservations about him. Watch the Kentucky Derby back and you see how I mentioned how he regressed late. I wonder if he can get this classic distance required in here. I may use him but I lack conviction regarding his potential here.

3-Highest Honors-It is asking a lot of this horse despite his last two victories to face these and win here. He comes in as mentioned off of consecutive wins and his last was in a restricted stake. He takes a big step up in class so despite some of the main contenders potential flaws, I still cannot see myself endorsing him for any part in here. I will toss him out of my exotics.

4-Laughing Fox-Closed a ton of ground two starts back to finish fourth in the Preakness. He also ran back in the Jim Dandy during which he had a rough trip but when he got clear late he made no impact. I just cannot envision a scenario in which he gets any part of this race. He looks to slow and his numbers are inferior to the main contenders in here. An easy toss out for me.

5-Everfast-Surprised a lot of people myself included with his second place finish in the Preakness but he has not followed up with anything good. A blanketed seventh place finish in the Belmont and a nondescript fourth in the Haskell where he was 11 lengths behind Maximum Security did not impress. This is another horse who will be nowhere near my tickets.

6-Tacitus-Hard luck second place finishes in the Belmont and Jim Dandy bring caution for those who like this horse. I was a supporter of his in both the Kentucky Derby, where he was a fast closing third, and his Belmont, where he was a terribly ridden second. In his last out he tried to rally on a dead rail and still managed to finish second in the Jim Dandy. I think with a clean trip he could be the best horse in this field. It stands to reason that he should win but why is he only 5-2? I would have liked a stronger morning line. His rider Jose Ortiz has absolutely been white-hot throughout this whole meet . I think he is one who will definitely be on my tickets but is he my choice to win? Ah read on my friends.

7-Mucho Gusto-Ran a strong 2nd to Maximum Security in the Haskell in his last out and has drilled very well for this race. He has shown a different dimension in his last few outings where he can sit and stalk. Bob Baffert who is his trainer could have sat this one out after his top contender Game Winner spiked a fever which took him out. Yet Baffert who is one the craftiest trainers saw fit to run this horse here and watch his Haskell back. He had a very rough trip that day and for me he can move forward off of that. I like the value at 6-1 and maybe just maybe he will be my top choice here?

8-Chess Chief-You see Dallas Stewart as the trainer for this horse and a solid second to Mr.Money in his last out at the West Virginia Derby. He also attracts Mike Smith who is arguably the best money rider going. It sets up for another exacta crash, doesn’t it? This is one of those that if you throw him out, he could ruin your exotics. I look at his form and feel like I should toss him and ultimately I will but it does not come without pause.

9-Looking at Bikini’s-His trainer Chad Brown has never won this prestigious race. He has a similar profile to Highest Honors so if I don’t like that one then it stands to reason that I should not use this guy either. I respect his connections but this is not a horse I will use anywhere on my exotics.

10-Scars Are Cool-He just broke his maiden in his last out and let’s be honest. Can you really make a case for him to from a maiden win to a Grade 1 win especially as difficult as this race appears to be? I for one will not even bother using him on any wagers.

11-Endorsed-He makes the all important third start off of the layoff but this race presents many obstacles. He on paper does not appear fast enough to compete, let alone win. And by extension, if he is not fast enough then he most certainly not good enough to contend here so with that said he is another to throw out.

12-Tax-This guy comes off a resilient victory in his last out in which he knocked off Tacitus to win the Jim Dandy. In hindsight, that day I thought he would win and backed him with a nice wager. To be fair, he ran on the better part of the track than Tacitus did but take nothing away from the winning effort. He is as honest as the day is long. His only bad race was in the Kentucky Derby which was run over a boggy track so I am more than willing to forgive his race that day. I believe that he has a reasonably good chance despite the wide draw here. He will be forwardly placed and if he happens to clear then he may just forget to stop. I will probably use him on all my wagers.

My Selections
1-Mucho Gusto-Going to take a flier on this guy as his form has really gotten good. I feel he can sit a garden trip and Baffert is too good of a trainer with these types.

2- Tax-Yes, he had an inherent advantage in defeating Tacitus in their last out and the post could be a hindrance but I feel the pace flow could play into his hands. An obvious use for me.

3-Tacitus-How do I even think of leaving him off the exotics, despite his last two troublesome trips? If everything is equal, he looks the most likely winner yet this group and the pace flow could hinder him.

4-Code of Honor-His Dwyer victory was visually impressive and he could repeat that here but in my synopsis I have doubts of whether he can get this distance. Still in all, this is one I will use for any gimmicks.

That’s my look at the 2019 Travers Stakes. It is the centerpiece of a magnificent card of races featuring a tantalizing duel in the Personal Ensign between Midnight Bisou and Elate. Mitole looks to rebound in the Forego but will have to deal with Promises Fulfilled. Shancelot, who crushed in his last with an outrageous Beyer of 121, will look to replicate that effort in the Allen Jerkens. Minit to Stardom, the Louisiana bred who surprised in her last out, looks for another upset as she runs in the Ballerina.The Sword Dancer and the Ballerina fill out a really fat stakes buffet.

This will be a great day of racing. Hopefully The Magic Man can fire off a big win in the Travers. May your winners be plentiful and your wallets be fat.

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George Pepis

Horse Racing Analyst

George Pepis provides racing analysis during each Fair Grounds racing season. He also shares commentary and selections for major stakes events and prep races around the country. In the past, George has hosted sports talk programming on WGSO 990am in New Orleans. He has served as both play-by-play and color analyst on Louisiana high school football radio and internet broadcasts.

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