UPDATED: Travers Day Stakes picks: Enough of that graveyard stuff

Onion beats Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course. (NYRA video via YouTube)
Onion beats Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course. (NYRA video via YouTube)


American Pharoah seeks to become the second Triple Crown winner to win the Travers Stakes (Whirlaway in 1941) at the fabled graveyard of favorites. Cue the video of Secretariat’s loss to Onion. Yada, yada. Not today. Here are my stakes race picks for Travers Day at the Spa, a fantastic day of racing.

Race 6 | Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes | 1 1/8 miles 

1. Sheer Drama

2. Got Lucky

3. Stopchargingmaria

4. Untapable

Comment: Sheer Drama shortens in distance from her Delaware Handicap score, appears to be in top form and rarely puts in a dull effort. Got Lucky looks to be progressing and looms larger than her sophomore season where Stopchargingmaria beat her on this track in the Alabama Stakes. Stopchargingmaria wouldn’t surprise. Untapable could do it, but just haven’t seen the same spark this year as last when she was a world-beater.

Race 7 | Grade I Ballerina Stakes | 7 furlongs 

1. Dame Dorothy

2. Merry Meadow

3. Street Story

4. Unbridled Forever

Comment: Chef Bobby Flay’s Dame Dorothy enters on a two-race win streak and figures to make it three as she keeps top jockey Javier Castellano, who it seems has previously ridden half the field and might be getting his choice of mounts. Merry Meadow has hit the board in three lifetime Saratoga starts.

Race 8 | Grade I NYRA.com King’s Bishop Stakes | 7 furlongs 

1. Holy Boss

2. Watershed

3. Grand Bill

4. March

Comment: Holy Boss enters on a four-race win streak, including a win over the course in the Amsterdam Stakes, and looks primed to win again in his second race after a two-plus month respite. Watershed, despite a relative lack of experience, is capable of the upset coming from the stable of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin – who could win with the barn cat right now.

Race 9 | Grade I Forego Stakes | 7 furlongs 

1. The Big Beast

2. Tamarkuz

3. Private Zone

4. Race Day

Comment: The Big Beast had a tough-luck loss by a nose in a race where jockey John Velazquez lost the whip (you read that right). Any improvement in his second race off the layoff gets him to the winner’s circle. Expecting Tamarkuz to improve as well from the barn of McLaughlin (see comment for previous race).

Race 10 | Grade I Sword Dancer Stakes | 1 1/2 miles turf 

1. Flintshire

2. Messi

3. Twilight Eclipse

4. War Dancer

Comment: Flintshire, a runner-up to Arc de Triomphe queen Treve and a half length from a Breeders’ Cup Turf win last year, has a class edge. Messi is improving and represents the second half of an exacta that I’m eager to play.

Race 11 | Grade I Travers Stakes | 1 1/4 miles 

1. American Pharoah

2. Texas Red

3. Frosted

4. Upstart

Comment: American Pharoah shows no signs of regression. I’ve argued against trying to beat him all year because it’s futile. I see no reason to change that opinion here.

Race 12 | Grade II Ballston Spa Stakes | 1 1/16 miles turf 

1. Tepin

2. New Providence

3. Kitten’s Queen

4. Dacita

Comment: But for being beaten a dirty nose, Tepin would be entering on a four-race win streak. She seems likely to get back to the winner’s circle. New Providence could add some spice to exotics, but this is a tough heat and will be using several in the multi-race bets.

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