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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Travers Talk

- So no, the Travers hasn't created much buzz, and, judging from the fact that neither Wednesday nor Thursday's crowd cracked the 20,000 mark, I'm not expecting an overly huge attendance today. The talk of course has been about the effect of the Breeders Cup on the race, with Curlin and Any Given Saturday skipping it as unsuitable for their longer term goals. There's nothing new about the Breeders Cup turning races into preps; that very effect on Belmont's Fall Championship Series was apparent immediately upon the creation of the concept. The difference is that the effect is now extending earlier into the season. Used to be that it wasn't until after the summer that trainers would worry about prepping for the big day. Now, with the extra time between fewer races, the effect of the Breeders Cup actually radiated out to the spring, when Street Sense skipped the Belmont for the same reason that Curlin and Any Given Saturday will be absent today.

In a more perfect world where thoroughbreds were durable and able to run back often, instead of "win and you're in," we'd have "win or you're out!" If horses had to compete in races throughout the year and accumulate points in order to qualify for the Championships, then the whole season would build towards the Breeders Cup instead of being usurped by it. However, these ideas are obviously and unfortunately moot the way things are now, so the industry has to work with what they have. Which is not much right now.

So, we have a Travers without any rivalries, real implications, or drama. A mere showcase for the first Kentucky Derby winner to run at the Spa at age three since 1995 (a pretty astounding statistic). So when I sat down to write my stakes analysis of the race for the Saratoga Special, I figured that it shouldn't take me long to go through the race and crown Carl Nafzger's horse as the Travers champ. But I ended up picking Sightseeing instead. Do you think I'm nuts? I'm wondering myself.

But hell, it's easier to back an opinion merely with a non-existent reputation than with my money, so why not go out on a limb? Because I could look like a jerk? Nah, no one is gonna remember another loser by a public handicapper, a profession in which even the best are wrong most of the time.

What happened is that I watched the Jim Dandy, really paying close attention for the first time, just on Friday; I'd missed the race, as I did nearly everything else that happened on the East Coast when I was out at Del Mar. I assumed it was just a routine prep win for a horse that was looking ahead. But what I saw was Calvin Borel going to the whip on the Derby winner 13 times as he worked hard to put away CP West, a horse that, despite his improved form, I just don't think that much of. Perhaps this is meaningless; we know that Nafzger can point his horses for a big race, and that Street Sense rebounded from a disappointing (though odd) Blue Grass to win the roses three weeks hence. Or, just maybe, the horse has not regained his peak spring form.

Which race has Nafzger really been pointing him to anyway? If his comments defending his passing of the Belmont are to be taken as fact, it's the Classic. On the other hand, I think that Shug McGaughey has been pointing Sightseeing for this race since the spring, when he skipped the Derby following his fine run in the Wood. His Jim Dandy is a bit better than it looks on paper, as Edgar Prado had to alter course late before a final late burst that, according to the trainer, carried over very well to the gallop out. He's worked brilliantly since then, and Shug seems really hepped up. I think he'll love the added distance (note that Street Sense is the only horse in the field to have even attempted ten furlongs), and I for one wouldn't be shocked to see him passing Street Sense in the shadow of the wore. (Though I must admit that I feel as if I'm writing this to convince myself that that's really a possibility.)

In the King's Bishop, I picked First Defence, King of the Roxy, and Teuflesberg in the paper....but honestly, I have little clue in this puzzler. I've been hoping that Hard Spun would be bet down, but no one I've spoken to likes him. So maybe he'll be 7-2 and I'll end up playing him after all. First Defence is reported to be training extremely well, and might be able to control the pace from his outside post. King of the Roxy has won Grade 2's at 7 and 7 1/2 furlongs, and seems a definite possibility for the hot Team Valor, and the recovering Toddster. And Teuflesberg may just well be the best sprinter in this group. He followed up his win in the Woody Stephens with a second to Black Seventeen in the Carry Back. That race has been incredibly productive - every horse that has run back (that's all except the winner for a total of eight) has been either first or second. His second on the grass went to further demonstrate his ample versatility. Don't know if he's value at his 7-2 morning line, but he certainly figures to be tough.


John said...

Now Alan, rarely are your posts a waste of my time but really. . . Sightseeing?

It would seem that cool Adirondack air is starting to rot your brain or you're spending too much time in or near the Jim Dandy bar. And not one mention of a holy Beyers figure in the entire post.

I am begnning to worry about you.

Anonymous said...

I too love Sightseeing. Wish trackus was used at SPA, think he ran way further than Street Sense in the Dandy. And yes, I was in the stands for that race and thought SS was all out to get by Zito. Did not have the look of a prep, whereas Sight was simply moved way outside to avoid trouble and finished strong mostly without urging, just like a horse should finish a good workout, which it was.

Shug has the luxury of pointing to certain races and did so with this animal. There is a long history of horse that skipped the Triple Crown and aimed at this race successfully, I expect it to continue today.

AND, this may be sacrilige to some, butother than his perfect trip win in the Derby, what exactly has SS done? Lost the Preakness by plenty to a nice horse, and lost he Belmont by a filly.

May actually not be as good as everyone thinks, and may be over the top.

Not throwing him off my tickets, but Sightseeing is VERY live today, and if CP West gets an easy mile he could still be battling late too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:22, SS lost the Preakness by a head, a far cry from "plenty." SS did not lose in the Belmont to a filly, that was Curlin, as SS did not run in the Belmont.

Ruben Bailey said...

PLEASE! T-Burg, King of the Roxy and 1st Defence in ANY order!! I've got all 3 in my BC fantasy league and we need some points!

JMW said...

Well, you weren't crazy -- Street Sense had to be urged strongly again to barely win -- you just had the wrong challenger. Grasshopper ran a helluva race. Hope you enjoyed the day out there. It was a great card. How good is La Traviata?? Lordy, lordy....

Anonymous said...

Lets see: No one you asked liked Hard Spun to win the King's Bishop...boy, thats a sophisticated bunch. Are they blind?

Perhaps Teuflesburg is the best sprinter in the bunch--lets forget how he was run off his feet in the Derby by Hard Spun by 8 furlongs...
and was buried at 8 panels by HS in the Lecomte.

King of the Roxy- Thats the ticket, man, he's better and faster than HS at 7 furlongs..NOT! Not even close.

Once again, Hard Spun soundly whips Teufs and KOR...the only horse mentioned who came to run was First Defence, boy he put in a game and gutsy effort. If I am Frankel I am tickled to death...the horse ran big...and EZ Warrior salvaged a distant third. Thats good for Baffert...since HS is likely for either the BC Classic or the BC Dirt Mile. Pino will be riding Diabolical in the BC Sprint.

Regardless, HS easily had the most speed in that sprint race today, despite being a route horse, and showing route form by relaxing at 6 furlongs...SS did what he had to do to win, but boy does he look beatable when he actually has to run up with the rest of the pack instead of loping behind large fields of horses...its takes much away from his late kick, does it not...?
No wonder several horsemen were saying HS could beat SS at 9 panels in a match race (1 on 1). Speed always wins a match race because late speed has to run with lone speed until there is no more late speed, only tired late speed as speed on the lead eases on home.

Alan Mann said...

>>Lets see: No one you asked liked Hard Spun to win the King's Bishop...boy, thats a sophisticated bunch. Are they blind?

Perhaps Teuflesburg is the best sprinter in the bunch--lets forget how he was run off his feet in the Derby by Hard Spun by 8 furlongs...
and was buried at 8 panels by HS in the Lecomte.

Well, I'm more than willing to eat crow on HS, but not without retorting that what he might have done to Teuflesberg in those two turn races - especially the Derby! - has nothing to do with who's a better sprinter. That was, however, proven yesterday, and rather definitively I must admit.

Anonymous said...

Bizarre ride on Teufle, why in the world was he taken so far back?

The rail seemed to get both HS and SS home. When the exact same thing happens in consecutive races, you have to consider that perhaps the rail was golden.

Neither of these horses are superstars. Very good and tough, yes, but R2R is the only 3yo superstar this year.

Anonymous said...

Alan, hopefully you will pick up the BC Series issue later this week or next, after the Travers post-mortems and the Spa Meet have passed for another year.
How do we get the Eclipse formula changed to reflect racetrack performance over the course of the entire season? Then we can add a new category called "Most Likely To Succeed In Bringing Exorbitant Stud Fees" for those owners who wish to stay in the barn and "stroll" down the yellow brick road to the BC Classic and breeding shed. Hell, they can even skip the BC Classic and avoid all risk of losing. Let's start raising the purses in the Handicap Division and cutting them back in the 3 YO Grade I's- why pay for something we're not getting? /S/Green Mtn Punter