Predicteform Travers Stakes Analysis


Wicked Strong (above winning the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in July) has a lot going for him in the Travers Stakes on Saturday. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

In-depth analysis of the Travers Stakes, including Pace Figures and Form Cycle Patterns of each starter. Please refer to the Legend or Pattern Guide for back-up definitions and patterns.

The $1.25-million, Grade 1 Travers Stakes, racing's mid-summer classic, is run at 1 ¼ miles and restricted to 3-year-olds. TV coverage starts at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network with the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes and the feature, the Travers, goes to post at approximately 5:45 p.m.

Get the Pace Figures and Past Performances for the Travers Stakes.

Commanding Curve (15-1)

One of two runners that have only won one race in the field, Commanding Curve has earned $572,434 lifetime. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby (earning $400,000), and outside of that race he has shown limited ability to compete at the Grade 1 level.

His Final Pace Figures have regressed since running a 78.4 in the Derby, most recently a 71.7 in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, where he was beaten soundly by three others in the Travers field.

The Play: Regressor – Can't see him being able to compete at this Grade 1 level. Owned by a popular syndicate group, his post time odds probably will be shorter than expected, which is also good if you take a stand against him.

Bayern (2-1)

After putting in a disappointing effort in the Preakness Stakes, Bayern has ripped off two monster victories against Grade 1 and Grade 2 company, both by more than seven lengths. His most recent win in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes was very impressive as he broke sharply and went wire to wire (meaning led from start to finish). He went off at odds of 5-1 in the Haskell, which means the betting public refused to believe he was that good, even though trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the Haskell like no other. Bayern is one of three runners in the race to have earned more than $1-million and is 6 for 7 in the top three in his career.

Turning to his Pace Figures, after running a series of mid-70 final figures he put in an 81.2 DTOP (Double Top Form Cycle Pattern, which means he ran the fastest lifetime final and 4f figure in the same race) on June 7 in the 7 furlong, Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes.

To come back and run an 81.8/70.8 in the Haskell while winning by seven lengths was impressive and shows a horse that is doing a better job of managing his energy while still running very high final figures. His dirt spread was also highest in his career at 11 points (final figure minus 4f figure), and note that Baffert sent Bayern back to Del Mar following the Haskell and has put three fast workouts in him with tight spacing (Aug. 7, Aug. 14 and Aug. 19) before shipping back to Saratoga.

The 81.8 and 81.2 final figures in his two most recent races are considered “paired up tops (PUT)”, meaning he ran two lifetime tops back to back, which is not necessarily a point from which a horse can move forward.

The Play: Fringe Contender – Expected to be the race favorite and the fastest out of the gate; the competition in here is tougher than the Haskell and with paired up tops the value needed is not going to be there as in his previous two wins.

Charge Now (15-1)

He has shown some promise as a late-developing 3-year-old and, if you discount his one race on June 28 (as the track was very sloppy), Charge Now has been no worse than second in his career.

His final figures are consistent (73-75), but against non-graded stakes competition. He would need an improvement of four points and a lifetime best to even hit the board.

The Play: Too Slow – Improving horse who has never competed against stakes competition, let alone Grade 1 horses.

V. E. Day (15-1)

He exits the same race (the Curlin Stakes) as Charge Now, but visually speaking his effort was more impressive. He broke a couple of lengths slow and trailed the field until the far turn, came the widest in the field and won while never really changing leads in the stretch until at the finish line (horse should race on the left lead on turns and switch to the right lead in the stretch). While not changing leads can be seen as a negative and something wrong with a horse, the sweeping, wide move and his momentum looked to be so strong that a lead change would have been near impossible.

From a Pace Figure perspective, he is on a strong Form Cycle Pattern. Notice the 72.2 REV on May 10 (Reversal Pattern is the first time a dirt runner has a higher final figure than 4f figure, indicating a maturing horse who has figured out how to manage his energy), followed by a 74.9/59.5 (lifetime top) and most recently a 73.0/60.7 NPT. The New Pace Top indicates a runner who ran his fastest 4f figure while keeping his final figure within a few points of his lifetime top. One of the better indicators of future success, V. E. Day's series of his last three races looks like he could be sitting on a lifetime top.

The Play: Longshot – At 15-1 morning line, lengthening of the race to 1 ¼ miles plus the addition of Saratoga's leading jockey, Javier Castellano, makes him worth a look for underneath in the exotics.

Viva Majorca (20-1)

The third runner to exit the Curlin Stakes, Viva Majorca finished fourth behind both Charge Now and V. E. Day. The Curlin was his first attempt in stakes company and in a race around two turns. Digging a little deeper (into breeding to make sure we don't miss anything), his dam had only one other runner who won only his maiden start.

His Pace Figures are on a steady decline – 77.7, 74.7, 73.7 to 72.2 last out.

The Play: Too Slow – Combining tailing off form with Grade 1 company make him a complete toss out.

Tonalist (3-1)

Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist has earned $1,077,000 in his 6-race career. And while the three horses previously mentioned (Charge Now, V. E. Day and Viva Majorca) have yet to make the step from stakes to top-level graded stakes, Tonalist has stamped his name as one of the top 3-year-olds in the country with three strong efforts in Grade 1 and 2 races.

Read about what we had to say on Tonalist going into the Belmont Stakes. Tonalist is one of those rare horses who, until his last start, had a Form Cycle Pattern each race of his life. The Jim Dandy was a short field of six with really two other competitors in Wicked Strong and Kid Cruz.

He raced well enough posting a 75.8/68.9 though it was regression of 1.5 points as compared with his two previous efforts. Visually speaking, he lacked that superb kick he showed previously and comes into this race off two average workouts with even spacing.

The Play: Regressor – One of three runners who has won at the Grade 1 level, he will take a fair amount of action on the tote board. That being said, the most recent tail-off and lack of kick seems to indicate a runner who could be on a slight form cycle regression, and at short odds the value is not there.

Wicked Strong (7-2)

The winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes, Wicked Strong beat both Tonalist and Kid Cruz less than a month ago. He is the only horse in the field with two Grade 1 stakes wins and has amassed $1,244,610, the highest purse earnings as well. He looked like a different horse in the Jim Dandy as trainer Jimmy Jerkens put blinkers on for the first time (blinders that go on the outside of each eye preventing the horse from looking around). The blinkers gave Wicked Strong an ability to be closer to the lead, something that he was lacking in his prior eight races. Another on a 2-breeze workout pattern, both of his workouts were solid, and going 6 furlongs (instead of 4 or 5 furlongs like the rest of the field) is an indication that there continues to be depth (distance) to the horse.

Turning to his Pace Figures, his last four Final Figures have been 80.3, 76.7, 76.6 and 76.8 most recently. The 80.3 which won the Wood Memorial (a major Kentucky Derby prep) was a huge lifetime top, so regression to 76.7 was not unexpected. What is unexpected are his last two efforts and the continuation of final figures around 77.

This consistency combined with his 71 4f should keep him close enough to front end in this 1 ¼-mile race.

The Play: Contender – Forward progress is more expected than regression, which put him as the top value at 3-1 odds or better.

Kid Cruz (12-1)

A distant third to Wicked Strong and Tonalist in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, Kid Cruz was mis-ridden as he was rushed to the lead, asked to settle, dropped to last and came on in the stretch. And while he has not yet been competitive in Grade 1 and 2 races, his New Pace Top (NPT) on 7/5/14 would have thought to been a good set up in the race.

He has shown moments of brilliance (which is when a dirt horse can separate from the competition) but has yet to step up against the top 3-year-olds, which continues to be disappointing. Yet another with two, spaced workouts after his most recent race, both workouts have been average.

Taking a deeper dive into his Pace Figures, he looks like he regressed to a 73.2 following a set of “paired up tops” (PUT). He should like the added distance as he tries 1 ¼ miles for the first time in his career, but he would need a lifetime top here to truly compete.

The Play: Fringe Contender – Still waiting for his breakout race; his odds by itself give him value.

Ulanbator (30-1)

He finished fifth by 10 lengths in the Jim Dandy and previously was beaten by Kid Cruz handily.

His Final Pace Figures are not only too slow but tailing off as seen by the 76, 74.3 to the most recent 71.3.

The Play: Too Slow – Another that is too slow and tailing off, a complete toss.

Mr Speaker (10-1)

By the looks of it, Mr Speaker is a grass specialist. He’s won two graded stakes on turf and a Grade 3 on the synthetic surface at Keeneland Race Course. He had the perfect spot to ship to Arlington to compete in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes but owner Phipps Stables, which exclusively uses Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, choose to stay at home and try the dirt for a payday worth twice as much. It’s interesting to note that he beat Adelaide in the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and Adelaide easily won the Secretariat.

He tired in his only race on dirt, though his dam, Salute, was a decent dirt runner who did try (with decent results) graded stakes competition.

His Final Pace Figures are a bit erratic, and though he did falter in his only race on dirt at Gulfstream on Jan. 25, his 4-furlong figure of 76.7 would put him close to the lead, especially as he draws outside and is the most likely way he will go down the road.

The Play: Too Slow – A tough horse to figure, the outside post and potential forward-placed running style could insure a bit quicker pace than expected, though he is not very likely to be around at the finish line.
$1,250,000 Travers Stakes
Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 12, 5:45 p.m. ET
1 1/4 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds
Television coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network





Morning Line


Commanding Curve

Shaun Bridgmohan

Dallas Stewart




Martin Garcia

Bob Baffert



Charge Now

Junior Alvarado

Bill Mott



V. E. Day

Javier Castellano

Jimmy Jerkens



Viva Majorca 

Julien Leparoux 

Ian Wilkes 




Joel Rosario

Christophe Clement



Wicked Strong

Rajiv Maragh

Jimmy Jerkens



Kid Cruz

Irad Ortiz Jr.

Linda Rice




Brian Hernandez Jr.

Ian Wilkes



Mr Speaker

Jose Lezcano

Shug McGaughey


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