Showing posts with label Travers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travers. Show all posts

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Who Came Out of the Travers Looking the Best? Rachel Alexandra.

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Were you expecting me to say "Summer Bird"? After Summer Bird's gutsy win in the Belmont and on Sunday's Travers we're finally starting to appreciate what a great horse he is. Any horse that wins those two races is bonafide monster.

A look at Summer Bird's past performances in the Daily Racing Form reveals that in his last race, The Haskell Invitational, Summer Bird earned a 106 Beyer, yet finished second, beaten 6 lengths. Who was it that beat Summer Bird by 6? Rachel Alexandra.

You could now do a 2-Degrees-of-Separation test with Rachel and nearly every three year old male that matters to indicate she has beaten either the horses themselves, or the horses that have beaten those horses. She's unreal.

Hey Zenyatta, come get a taste!

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Travers Assessment

(above photograph courtesy of T.R. Slyder)
By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter
(The horse in the picture is Quality Road as a young 'un)

The 140th Running of the Travers should be a doozey. The race that is often referred to as the Midsummer Derby features Quality Road- who was expected to be the favorite in the KY Derby before being sidelined with a hoof injury, Summer Bird- who won the Belmont, Charitable Man who went off at 9/2 in the Belmont before finishing 4th, and the near-overnight sensation Kensei.

I attacked this race from two angles, 1- the pace scenario, and 2- seeing if Quality Road was beatable. Of Quality Road's 5 starts, 4 have earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100+ and three of those, his three most recent, have earned Beyers of 110+. No other horse has ran higher than a 106 in a graded stakes race (Warriors Reward freaked in an Allowance race and ran a 113 in May). The elephant in the room with handicapping this race is to determine whether or not Quality Road simply lays over the field with talent and is too good to be beaten. If every other horse runs it's 100% best race- can Quality Road still beat them with a 90% effort?

Much of the pace scenario should be easy to predict- but the few parts of it that are difficult to predict are the most important. #5, Our Edge should go right to the lead with Warriors Reward and Quality Road either contesting the lead or sitting closely off it (by anywhere from .5 to 1.5 lengths off), followed by Kensei sitting another length or so behind them. Charitable Man ought to be near Kensei, my guess is that he'll be a half-length behind him, and Summer Bird and Hold Me Back both in the back, timing their final run. I anticipate Summer Bird starting off in last then slowly progressing gradually until he's about 3 lengths off the lead by the far turn.

Barring a stumbled start for one of the speedsters, its hard to see the race unfolding radically different than this. What will be difficult, yet important, to try to determine will be how close Quality Road is to the lead and how much energy, if any, he spends trying to be on the lead early. If he's able to sit patiently toward the inside, just a length or so off the lead, that ought to bode very well for Quality Road who wants to have both some gas in the tank and a slight lead on the closers when they turn for home. If he exerts a lot of energy vying for the lead, that will diminish the amount of stank in the tank, so to speak. This is also where QR's talent advantage comes into play- is he so talented that he can overcome a speed duel with Our Edge and run faster than he'd like to early on, and still have enough to hold off the late charging foes?

Kensei's position relative to Quality Road will also be important. Ideally for Kensei, he will sit patiently right off Quality Road and be in a position to run him down at the end. If, however Kensei and Quality Road "hook up" and engage in a speed duel early on, it will tire both of them out and improve the chances for Charitable Man and Summer Bird to run down their tired foes down the stretch. It's also possible that Charitable Man could be forwardly placed and duel with Quality Road, but I find that scenario less likely.

As the field turns for home I anticipate Quality Road to emerge as the leader and starting his late run before all others. Upon seeing Quality Road giving it the gas, then Charitable Man and Kensei will also be summoned to make their bid, where they'll run down a tiring Our Edge, and probably Warrior's Reward. Once all of our eyes focus on QR, CM and Kensei, we will notice that Summer Bird is not far behind.

Then what? This is when I think Quality Road is going to wow us. After pulling away from Our Edge I don't think he'll be caught. Even if one of the talented horses happened to stay with him or even catches him I don't think anticipate them having more grit and determination than Quality Road. Why do I say that?

In holding off the favored Dunkirk, Quality Road showed more tenacity in that race than any of these horses have. He also held off a higher-caliber horse than any of his Travers foes ever have.

I think the Travers' 1 1/4 will be a touch too far for Charitable Man and he'll be run down by Kensei and eventually Summer Bird, who will compete for 2nd place. I give the edge to Summer Bird here because I think he has more flexible with his timing and had will have a few options on Saturday. It also doesn't hurt that I saw his father win the 2004 Travers over a sloppy track.

To provide more context for this race- here is the 2009 Jim Dandy which was run over the same Saratoga surface earlier this month. It featured Kensei, Charitable Man and Warrior's Reward.

That race was an eighth of a mile shorter than the Travers will be, and you can see that Charitable Man wants no part in any added distance. Kensei showed us some talent, but seemed to just outlast tired foes, moreso than ripping the race away from a determined bunch.

Being that I think the top three will be Quality Road, Summer Bird and Kensei- I haven't really taken much of a stand as those are the three favorites (with QR being the favorite). So I feel obligated to throw in my longshot pick- Our Edge.

I think the winner of the race will have to run at least a 106 Beyer. Hold Me Back and Charitable Man have had chances to show us that they're capable of running a 106 and have been unable to. Warrior's Reward freaked in one race and ran a 113, which is the highest lifetime Beyer in this race, but I think that was a bit flukey with Calvin Borel giving him a dream trip along the rail while at the back of the pack at Churchill Downs, a la Mine That Bird. Since he'll be more forwardly placed this time around I just don't think that will happen again. So that leaves us with Our Edge at 15-1. He's been in only 5 races and his Beyer's keep going up in his 5 starts his Beyers are (48, 79, 91, 91, 100). In his last race while recording the 100 BSF, he won by 7 lengths so, you have to figure he wasn't giving it his all towards the end and could have run a 103 or 105 if need be, so he could be sitting on a big race here. His last two works are bulleted works over the Saratoga track, and he is also the only horse in the race who has won over a Sloppy track- which could become a factor as rain is in the forecast. You know he's going right to the lead and if Quality Road stumbles at the start or just throws in a poor effort, he could get loose on the lead and hold off the closers. At 15-1, there is a lot to like.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.