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Travers Stakes Quick Picks
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Travers Stakes Quick Picks

by Laurie RossAugust 27, 2021

The $1.25 million Travers Stakes is the highlight of the Saratoga meet. Monikered the “Midsummer Derby,” the 1 1/4 mile Grade 1 event attracts the leaders of the 3-year-old division.

Seven will line up in the 2021 Travers, including Essential Quality, the current leader of the division, plus Preakness Stakes runner-up Midnight Bourbon and the top two finishers of the Ohio Derby (G3).

The Travers is carded as race 12 of 13, with a post time of 6:12 PM EST.

#1 Midnight Bourbon (9-2)

Midnight Bourbon has finished in the money in eight of ten starts, including a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He avoided serious injury when clipping heels and losing his rider in the Haskell Stakes. The Steve Asmussen trainee is consistent but has only won twice. Additionally, Midnight Bourbon has lost ground in every start beyond 1 1/16 miles. Toss.

#2 Essential Quality (4-5)

Essential Quality’s perfect record is marred only by a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. However, after the Derby, the Brad Cox trainee scored victories in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and most recently the Jim Dandy (G2), Saratoga’s prep for the Travers.

Essential Quality has tactical speed, is proven over the track, and he has finished in front of every horse in the field at some point in their careers. Win contender.

#3 Keepmeinmind (6-1)

Like Midnight Bourbon, Keepmeinmind finishes consistently in the money. However, he owns only a maiden victory. Keepmeinmind was rank early in the Jim Dandy Stakes while racing at the back of the field, inside of Essential Quality.

The difference between the colts was evident when Essential Quality took the overland route, spinning five wide around the turn while Keepmeinmind cut the corner on the rail. The pair met up in a fight to the finish, with Essential Quality prevailing by a half-length in a thrilling finish.

The Robertino Diodoro trainee will be making up ground late in the Travers. It would be a huge upset should he win, yet an exotics placing is more likely. Exotics.

#4 Dynamic One (6-1)

Dynamic One put in a powerful stretch drive to win, going away by 1 3/4 lengths over Miles D in the 1 1/8 mile Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. The late-maturing Todd Pletcher trainee is bred to handle 1 1/4 miles, and he could improve in his second start off the layoff.

The one caveat is that he’s returning off the best race of his seven-race career, and he could regress. Dynamic One isn’t in the class of Essential Quality, but if he runs his race, Dynamic One is most likely to pull off the upset. Win contender.

#5 Miles D (12-1)

Making only the third start of his career, Miles D looked like a winner in the stretch of the Curlin Stakes until Dynamic One blew by him late. The Curlin Stakes was Miles D’s first taste of stakes action and his first start off a layoff. A son of Curlin, Miles D has improved in each start, and the Chad Brown trainee could have a say in the outcome of the Travers. Exotics.

#6 Masqueparade (8-1)

In the 1 1.8 mile Ohio Derby (G3), Masqueparade prevailed by a half-length over Travers rivals King Fury and Keepmeinmind. Masqueparade returned to duel on the pace in the Jim Dandy but couldn’t sustain his drive. He was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Keepmeinmind for the second-place spot.

Masqueparade’s speed figure regressed in the Jim Dandy from a lifetime best figure in the Ohio Derby. However, the Al Stall, Jr. trainee could rebound and hang around for an exotics spot. Exotics.

#7 King Fury (15-1)

King Fury is a hit-or-miss type. After winning the Lexington Stakes (G3) in April, he returned off the layoff to close furiously for third place in the Ohio Derby, earning a career-best Brisnet speed figure of 101.

Then, in an odd move, trainer Ken McPeek tried King Fury in his first turf start in the Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1), a 1 3/16 mile turf race, taking on a salty field of stakes-winning turf routers.

It ended badly for King Fury, and he finished second-to-last. In McPeek’s defense, his barn had been put into quarantine, so the Saratoga Derby may have been the only opportunity for King Fury to get a prep before the Travers. King Fury will close with a late kick in the Travers. Perhaps he can earn an exotics spot, but he doesn’t appear to be in the same class as some of the others. Toss.

Travers Stakes Analysis

Only three favorites won in the last ten editions of the Travers Stakes. The biggest Travers upset was in 2015, when Triple Crown hero American Pharoah got into a suicidal speed duel with Frosted and was passed late by 16-1 shot Keen Ice.

So, anything can happen in the Travers. Seemingly invincible “can’t lose” horses indeed lose when it counts at Saratoga. That being said, this is Essential Quality’s race to lose. He has tactical speed and wins even when things don’t go his way.

Midnight Bourbon and Masqueparade like to be forwardly placed and may press each other on the lead. Miles D may follow the pair, while Dynamic One, Keepmeinmind, and King Fury make their late charge from the back. Essential Quality can be placed anywhere in the field and still run his race.

  • #2 Essential Quality (4-5)
  • #4 Dynamic One (6-1)
  • #3 Keepmeinmind (6-1)
  • #5 Miles D (12-1)

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About The Author
Laurie Ross
Laurie is a handicapper, pedigree consultant, and published author. Her work has been featured on numerous prominent racing websites and she is a reoccurring guest on sports radio programs. She is also a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. Her yearly publications contain tremendous insight and value for bettors and horsemen. The Freshmen Sire Guide has received accolades from leading trainers and handicappers and her Triple Crown guides are a best-selling feature.