- Verrazano has been installed as the 2-1 favorite in a field of nine for the Travers, the 12th race on a 14 race marathon at Saratoga on Saturday that begins at 11:35 AM. I'm going to go out on a limb without having done any research on the subject, and say that that's the most races ever on a NYRA card. As if to rub it in to those who dislike oversized cards and the quality of the races that are used to fill them, the 13th and 14th races are a 20K claiming turf sprint for non-winners of two lifetime, and a NY-bred maiden race. I'm kind of excited for them.
It would certainly not be a surprise should the Wood winner indeed go off as the public choice. He simply seems to be the fastest horse in the race, at least off his Haskell win. He earned a Beyer of 116, which kinda overwhelms this field; Palace Malice's 107 in the Jim Dandy is the closest second. [He also got a 116 on the TimeformUS figs; it's highly unusual for the two to be in line. Ours is a higher scale, so Beyer rated the race pretty significantly faster than we do; a comparable TFUS number would be around 130.] On BRIS, he got a 111, best last-out but tied for top career number with Orb's Derby.
So, if you're going by the figures, he's strictly the one to beat. There is the question of distance though, as well as the thought that he'll be facing much better horses than he has in his two eye-catching Monmouth efforts since he faltered at this mile and a quarter distance in the slop of the Derby. And, as the Toddster told Joe Drape, in a typical Pletcher quote (and talking about Palace Malice as well): “We’re concerned we’re trying to match lifetime-best performances in four weeks.” Yeah, we'll see, but I think Pletcher should stop worrying about that stuff and just send them out to run.
Orb drew the two post and was listed as the 4-1 third choice, behind Palace Malice (5-2). Somewhere, I read Shug expressing regret that he didn't draw further outside, perhaps thinking back to the Preakness, in which he was never able to escape the inside path - said to be a bad one at Pimlico that day - and never seemed comfortable regardless of any possible track bias. Now, I've been dissing Orb's chances to win on Saturday (and for the rest of the year). But, were he really to go off at 4-1, I'd be remiss to not have him on my tickets in some way, maybe even on top. I have to respectfully disagree here with NYRA's oddsmaker Eric Donovan; I do not at all believe he'll be 4-1. It's the Kentucky Derby winner on a big race day that draws a lot of casual betting money; he has a win and a good figure for that mile and a quarter race, and a lot of attention from the press, declaring him "back" after his respite at Fair Hill and his snappy work on Monday. I would not at all be shocked if he goes off the second choice; and wouldn't faint dead away even should he be the favorite.
- A very interesting day on the Saratoga toteboard on Wednesday. The first was a two-year old race in which all the starters were making their debut. Two of them who were each 6-1 in the morning line went off as the favorites, and second choice Court Dancer ($8.30) ran off for trainer George Weaver. With nine winners from 29 starters (31%), this barn is tied with Chad Brown and Jack Fisher for the second-best winning percentage amongst trainers with ten starters or more. Don't have to tell you who's first.
- In this Postcards from Saratoga column from Wednesday's edition of the Times, Drape shows what he can do when he is celebrating the sport instead of trying to tear it down.