2020 Travers Stakes Odds and Picks: Best Bets at Saratoga for Saturday, August 8
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There’s less than a month until the 2020 Kentucky Derby but Saturday is all about Saratoga and the Travers Stakes.
New to Horse Racing?
For those of you that might be new to horse racing, the wagering pools are pari-mutuel, which means that, unlike in sports betting, you aren’t trying to beat the house but rather the public at large. The key to long-term success in betting the ponies is being disciplined in identifying value in the pools.
Speed Ratings and Beyer Speed Figures
Speed ratings are relative performance indicators that allow us to compare performances across tracks where not all factors are even. Some tracks might be naturally faster like Gulfstream or Santa Anita, where the surfaces are harder, compared to a track like Belmont or Aqueduct, where the surfaces are generally a bit deeper.
They also account for the condition of the track as most horses will travel slower over softer ground. This means that simply comparing times is ineffective as they need some kind of leveling factor.
That’s what is built into speed ratings and they give a nice, although imperfect indicator of relative performance and ability.
A relative strength index for the field of a specific race. This gives you an idea of the level of the competition the horse was facing, as it can vary wildly from track to track even with the same win conditions.
How often do favorites win in horse racing?
Generally speaking, the favorite in horse racing wins at about a 35% rate but that number varies depending on the number of horses in the field. Armed with that knowledge you might want to just pick the favorites, frequently known as the chalk, but a closer look at the implied odds shows that you’d need average odds of 2-1 or better to break even on “win” bets.
So, in order to profit horseplayers must pick and choose the horses that they feel have a better chance to win than their implied odds, which is known as positive expected value (+EV). Expected value is not unique to horse racing and something that all bettors should get familiar with if they want to succeed.
12:38 p.m. ET
My top pick is No. 3 Shalako (2-1) for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. He’s coming in off a win right at this distance right here at Saratoga against similar company.
Rudy is 21% with a winner last time out and 24% second off the layoff. Shalako is a deep closer so he will need some pace to run into. It looks like the pace will come from No. 1 Lil Commissioner (7/5) and don’t be surprised if jockey Kendrick Carmouche sends No. 4 Hammerin Aamer (9/2).
Pick: No. 3 Shalako to win
1:15 p.m. ET
This was a tough race as no one jumped off the page at me. No. 9 Light in the Sky (6/5) is the morning-line favorite. She’s closed well in his last two starts finishing second both times. It appears she will get enough pace to run into, but closing at the 5 1/2 furlong distance is tough. Trainer Horacio DePaz is 35% with beaten favorites and 26% third off the layoff.
No. 3 Risky Mischief (4/1) for trainer Jeremiah Englehart will be making her first turf start. She’s flashed early foot in each of her dirt starts and is getting some class relief here. She has turf pedigree on both sides, but Englehart is only 9% dirt to turf.
That said, she has been training on the turf so they clearly think she can handle the surface.
The last horse that I took a look at was No. 12 Saratoga Love (7/2). Trainer Christophe Clement has been on an absolute tear at Saratoga. He’s winning at 31% during the meet and his main jockey, Joel Rosario, gets the call here.
While the Clement barn has been on fire, I don’t love this horse, but had to include her just based on the fact that she’s coming out of a red hot barn.
Picks: Use 3,9,12 in exotics
1:49 p.m. ET
No. 5 Hieroglyphics (7/5) is my top choice. He’s dropping in class after a disappointing effort last time out at Gulfstream. While it was a disheartening effort, he did have to try and navigate significant traffic.
He should be able to work out a better trip with a smaller field and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the reins.
Pick: No. 5 Hieroglyphics to win
2:26 p.m. ET
These two-year-old maiden special weight races are always difficult because you don’t have much to go off of. The two horses I like in here are No. 7 Mutasaabeq (1-1) and No. 5 Guana Cay (6-1).
Mutasaabeq was sold for $425K as a weanling in November of 2018. She’s been training really well in the mornings for trainer Todd Pletcher going a blazing 46⅖ out of the gate in her last work.
Guana Cay is one of three horses in this race who has experience. She is switching over to the dirt after trying the turf last time out. In that race she was the heavy favorite but finished third.
Trainer Wesley Ward has a nice touch with the young horses, winning at a 29% clip with 2-year-olds, and if she can improve, she’s on the board at a nice price.
Pick: Use 5, 7 in exotics
3:02 p.m. ET
Another 2-year-old maiden special weight race, this time on the turf. I’m taking a shot with No. 10 Fire at Will (10-1) for trainer Mike Maker.
He’s bred up and down for the turf and has been training well leading up to this spot. Maker is only 8% with horses making their debut on the turf, but he’s winning at 27% during the meet.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione is also having a nice meet and when Maker and Gaffalione team up, they are winning at a 27% clip.
Pick: No. 10 Fire at Will to win
3:42 p.m. ET
This is the first of five graded stakes races on the afternoon. There is a tremendous amount of pace in this 7-furlong sprint, which is why I landed on No. 6 Pink Sands (10-1).
If the pace is as hot as it appears on paper, this race has all the makings to fall apart late, leaving Pink Sands to pick up the pieces. While she didn’t run well in her last start, she was covered up the entire way and might have needed a race after a 6-month layoff.
No. 4 Bellafina (9/5) should be able to sit just off the pace in a stalking position. Three of her seven career victories came as a two-year-old and three others came early in her three-year-old season.
Since then she’s been competitive, but only able to get the job done once in her last eight starts. While she’s one that I’m including, I don’t love the price and the fact that she’s shipping in from the West Coast.
Pick: No. 6 Pink Sands to win; Use 4,6 in exotics and multi-race wagers
4:22 p.m. ET
There is a vulnerable favorite in No. 1 Imprimis (8/5). While he’s the classiest horse in the field, he hasn’t seen the winners circle in well over a year and is coming in off a 9-month layoff.
Another factor going against him is his post position. Jockey Jose Ortiz is going to have to send him from the rail and while Imprimis has speed, he hasn’t shown the ability to go gate to wire.
I landed on No. 7 Chewing Gum (9/2) for trainer Bill Mott. He closed well to finish third in his last start after brushing the gate. Jockey Joel Rosario has ridden him in his last three starts, closing well in all three, but only able to get up for one win.
Chewing Gum is taking a big step up in class from allowance company to graded stakes company. Joel is having a great meet winning at 26% and Chewing Gum’s outside should allow Joel to work out the exact trip he wants.
Pick: No. 7 Chewing Gum to win
5:02 p.m. ET
We have another vulnerable favorite in here with No. 1 Mrs. Sippy (6/5). She’s coming in off a disappointing 9th place effort in the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares Turf last November. While she’s shown she belongs in graded stakes company, 6/5 is way too short for me.
No. 2 Beau Belle (10-1) looks to be the lone speed in this race. If jockey Manny Franco can get an easy lead she could wire the field. In her last start, she almost did just that, but Franco lost the whip in late stretch and she finished third.
While she has never fared well against graded stakes company, she does have 2 wins and 1 second from 3 career starts at Saratoga. At the price, I’ll take a shot with her.
The other horse that I like is No. 5 Olympic Games (4-1) for trainer Christophe Clement. As I mentioned earlier, everything out of the Clement barn is live right now. Her last three starts she’s lost by a combined 3 lengths.
She has the highest speed figure last time out and jockey Irad Oritz Jr will be getting the mount again today.
Pick: Use 2,5 in exotics and multi-race wagers
At this distance, No. 5 Gamine (3/5) is going to be tough to beat. She won her last start, the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont by 18 lengths. No that’s not a typo, she won by 18 lengths.
It looks like she may face some early pressure from No. 6 Venetian Harbor (8/5), but Gamine looks to be just too tough in here.
Pick: Use No. 5 Gamine in multi-race wagers
Race 11: The Travers Stakes
6:14 p.m. ET
The feature race is the G1 Runhappy Travers Stakes. It’s also the last major prep race for the Kentucky Derby, which is 4 weeks from today.
Not only is he the best horse in the race and a New York bred, but Sackatoga Stable is based out of Saratoga. This has all the makings to be great story and No. 6 Tiz the Law (1-1) won’t disappoint. He broke his maiden here last summer and has gone on to win 4 of his 5 starts since, including the G1 Florida Derby and the G1 Belmont Stakes.
Pick: Use No. 6 in multi-race wagers
6:52 p.m. ET
Another tough maiden special weight race to end the day. I ended up on No. 9 Bankers Beast (9/2). She tried the turf last time out and finished in the middle of the pack. Her outside post position and having aggressive jockey Luis Saez aboard should bode well for her in here today. Saez will most likely look to get aggressive early and either take the lead or sit a stalking trip.
The other horse I looked at was No. 7 Tiny Magoo (8-1). She’s stepping up class from maiden claiming company, but she looks to have early speed and jockey Kendrick Carmouche is one of more aggressive jockeys, who isn’t afraid to send his horse and try to steal one on the front end.
She was well bet in her last start, which came off the turf, but she ran into some traffic and then was caught wide. If Carmouche can get her out quickly and cleanly, she stands a chance at a nice price.
Pick: Use 7,9 in exotics and multi-race wagers