Please provide a valid email address.


From left to right: Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Verrazano and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice are slated to meet on Saturday in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

Although Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow is on the sidelines, with both Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice signed on, the 144th running of the $1 million Travers Stakes appears to be living up to its designation of “Mid-Summer Derby.” Seven others were entered in the race, led by Verrazano, who won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes last month by 9 3/4 lengths and who is a perfect 6-for-6 in his career on fast tracks. Although Orb could only manage a fourth-place finish in the Preakness and a third-place finish in the Belmont, a return to the top form shown this winter and spring when winning five races in a row would make him a contender. Palace Malice also redeemed himself off a poor effort in the Derby (12th) when winning the Belmont Stakes and Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes in succession. Will Take Charge and Moreno, second and third, respectively, in the Jim Dandy, could both run competitively in their second races of the season at Saratoga. Also with experience on the surface are Romansh and Transparent, who finished second and first, respectively, last month in the Curlin Stakes, with Transparent disqualified and placed fifth for interference with a quarter of a mile to run in the race. War Dancer just won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on turf and, although his only try on the main track was a fourth-place finish in February, he will attempt to transfer his stakes-winning form to this surface. Golden Soul rounds out the field. His biggest effort of the year was finishing second behind Orb in the Derby, but he enters the Travers with ninth- and seventh-place finishes in his last two starts. 

Transparent, one of two horses in the field owned by the Maktoum family’s Godolphin Racing, was very impressive last month winning the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. Angling out for room to run with a quarter-mile to go, Transparent accelerated significantly to draw off by two lengths at the end. Unfortunately, the horse didn't have sufficient clearance and caused another horse to drop back sharply, resulting in a disqualification to fifth behind the affected horse. Just the same, Transparent showed in winning that 1 1/8-mile race that the Travers distance of 1 ¼ miles should not be a problem. In April, Transparent won by nearly 10 3/4 lengths and earned a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure. Then, after four months off, he earned a 112 figure in the Curlin. As such, Transparent can post the upset win in this year's Travers with logical improvement in his second start off the layoff.


Romansh Inside

Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA

Palace Malice has run poorly just once in his last four races and with that poor effort easily explainable, he has a big shot to win his third graded stakes in a row in the Travers. The one poor effort came in the Derby, a race in which blinkers were tried. The blinkers resulted in him trying to run off early and go too fast for the distance of the race before tiring badly late in the Derby. Redeeming himself with a victory in the Belmont Stakes with a 105 Equibase Speed Figure, Palace Malice improved again to win the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga with a career-best 115 figure. Having beaten five other Travers entrants in those two races and with more improving to do, Palace Malice certainly should be a formidable foe in this race.

Romansh also is owned by Godolphin and, like his stablemate Transparent, was coming back from a few months off in last month's Curlin Stakes. Although unaffected by the incident earlier in the race and although Transparent rolled by him rather easily in the stretch run, Romansh found himself the beneficiary of the disqualification and earned his first stakes win. Having earned a 96 Equibase Speed Figure before the layoff and then a much stronger 110 figure in the Curlin, Romansh is another horse moving forward at the right time. Being a son of Bernardini out of a mare by 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin, Romansh should have no problem navigating the 1 ¼-mile trip that is the Travers and he could be a strong factor at the finish line.

Verrazano is undefeated on fast tracks, his only loss coming in the Derby on a sloppy surface. Like the other main contenders in this year's Travers, Verrazano is on a pattern of improving Equibase Speed Figures, having earned a career-best 112 Equibase Speed Figure last month when turning in a dominant performance in the Haskell Invitational. Verrazano probably will be in second place in the early stages of the Travers, behind pacesetter Moreno. He should inherit the lead in the stretch and, if he continues to move forward as he matures, a Travers victory would not be out of the question.

Will Take Charge closed well for second behind Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy, his first race without blinkers since his debut last summer. A much-improved effort with a 114 Equibase Speed Figure, Will Take Charge may be in line for another big share and if making wagers such as the exacta or trifecta he will be considered.

I'm mentioning Orb here rather than relegate him to the final paragraph with just his speed figure. Although he was my top choice to win the Derby, it doesn't appear he is as sharp or as fast as he was in the winter and spring. Orb earned a career-best 105 figure in the Derby but didn't run nearly as well in the Preakness (97) and Belmont (99). Still, with a recent best of 31 half-mile workouts at Saratoga coming into the Travers, Orb certainly could be a contender if able to rebound to his best form.

The rest of the Travers Stakes field (with best Equibase Speed Figure): Golden Soul (112), Moreno (110) and War Dancer (106).

My Selections:


Palace Malice



$1 million Travers Stakes

Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 12, 5:46 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles (dirt)








Javier Castellano

Tom Albertrani




Joel Rosario

Shug McGaughey




John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher



Golden Soul

Robby Albarado

Dallas Stewart



Will Take Charge

Luis Saez

D. Wayne Lukas




Jose Ortiz

Eric Guillot



War Dancer

Alan Garcia

Kenny McPeek



Palace Malice

Mike Smith

Todd Pletcher




Irad Ortiz Jr.

Kiaran McLaughlin


All carry 126 pounds.


Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Sponsors & Partners

  • FoxSports1
  • Autism Speaks
  • NBC Sports
  • Logo 6
  • Saratoga
  • Santa Anita
  • CBS Sports
  • Monmouth
  • Keeneland
  • Gulfstream Park
  • Del Mar
  • Belmont Park
  • Arlington Park
  • OwnerView