Stay Lucky Picks: Saratoga Spotlight for Travers

Fans at Saratoga Race Course celebrate a winner during the 2019 summer meet. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Welcome to the 2019 Stay Lucky season with new presenting sponsor Breeders' Cup! We have several exciting new prizes plus a smoother, faster app for the new season!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve downloaded the app and are ready to start picking winners. If you have not yet downloaded Stay Lucky, what are you waiting for?

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This weekend’s Stay Lucky slate is highlighted by the $1.25-million, Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday. The Travers anchors a terrific card featuring multiple Grade 1 races and the "Mid-summer Derby" will be the featured race in a one-hour national broadcast on FOX from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Saturday, Aug. 24

Forego Stakes Presented by Encore Boston Harbor (1:48 p.m. ET): Mitole (#3) broke a lot of hearts on July 27 when he ran third as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. Saratoga can be a tricky main track and it seems some horses love it and others don’t. I’m not sure we can judge Mitole based on one race, but we do know Promises Fulfilled (#1) is 2-for-2 at Saratoga and 3-for-5 at this seven-eighths of a mile distance. I’ll jump back on the Mitole bandwagon but it’s not a layup.

Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (2:23 p.m. ET): Come Dancing (#2) looks like probable favorite to me, but she looks like she’ll face pressure up front early and her speed figures were just okay last summer on the main track at Saratoga. I like Special Relativity (#1), who is 4-for-4 at Saratoga, to post the upset.

H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes Presented by Runhappy (2:59 p.m. ET): I can’t envision Shancelot (#1) losing unless he really regresses off a monster race in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes July 28, when he won by 12 ½ lengths and flirted with a track record. The competition is decent, but Shancelot is significantly faster and looks like the lone speed.

Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes (3:35 p.m. ET): This was a fun nine-horse field to handicap. Chad Brown has three solid runners, probably the most intriguing of which is Mascha (#9) making her second start in the U.S. Indian Blessing (#5) is a classy European invader who has run third in her three starts in the U.S. Secret Message (#3) is a filly on the rise for trainer Graham Motion, who is quietly having a great Saratoga meet with eight winners and a 24% win percentage. But I landed on Scottish Jig (#7), a Juddmonte Farms homebred who I think will appreciate cutting back from 1 ½ miles to 1 1/16 miles. I think she’ll be on or near the lead early and in front near the top of the stretch.

Personal Ensign Stakes Presented by Lia Infiniti (4:12 p.m. ET): Midnight Bisou (#1) is 5-for-5 this year and has been building a formidable résumé for the Eclipse Award for champion older female. She has not, however, been at her best at Saratoga, with a second and a third in two starts there, while she is 10-for-14 at all other tracks. Elate (#4) is a multiple Grade 1 winner who seems to love Saratoga with a win and two seconds, both to Abel Tasman by a neck and a head, in three starts. She earned her career-best 119 Equibase Speed Figure in this race last year when she and Abel Tasman battled through the stretch in a thrilling race. Elate is the pick.

Sword Dancer Stakes (4:49 p.m. ET): Ya Primo (#6) came a half-length short of Channel Cat (#4) in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes July 27, but I think he has what it takes to turn the tables on his familiar rival here. Sadler’s Joy (#9) is always dangerous and capable of a big race if her gets some pace to set up his finishing ability, but there is not much speed in the race. I also like Annals of Time (#7) in his third start off a long layoff for Chad Brown, but he’s also a deep closer dependent on pace, so his stablemate Ya Primo is the choice.

Play the King Stakes (5:28 p.m. ET): This is a nice, little six-horse field. I like Curlin’s Honor (#6) to halt an eight-race winless stretch but not enough to make him a Stay Lucky play.

Runhappy Travers Stakes (5:44 p.m. ET): I think morning-line favorite Tacitus (#6) is vulnerable in this spot. Tax (#12) beat him in the Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets after Tacitus stumbled badly early, but I think it’s a mistake not to take Tax very seriously. He’s a 3-year-old on the rise and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t run a big one. I also loved Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve runner-up Code of Honor’s (#2) Travers prep, a 3 ¼-length win in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has been targeting this race since after the Derby, Code of Honor has a win on this main track, and I think he’s the most likely winner.

Sunday, Aug. 25

Seaway Stakes (4:57 p.m. ET): Summer Sunday (#2) is 7-for-7 lifetime at Woodbine and she unbeaten in six starts on the synthetic main track. The even-money favorite is tough to look past in this spot.

Mike’s Top Stay Lucky Play

(16 winners from 22 top plays in 2019)

1. Shancelot (H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes Presented by Runhappy)

2. Mitole (Forego Stakes Presented by Encore Boston Harbor)

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