The historic Travers Stakes is always a much-anticipated highlight of the sterling Saratoga Race Course summer meet. But the 151rst running in 2020 on Saturday, Aug. 8, promises to be something extra.
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Travers Stakes 2020 Betting Preview
Usually prominent in the aftermath of the Triple Crown campaign, the $1 million Grade 1 fixture known as the Midsummer Derby this year lands smack dab in the middle of the series due to the reshuffling of the calendar caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will now serve as the final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 for several leading 3-year-olds in the field, including division leader Tiz the Law, the even money favorite on the morning line.
One of the oldest stakes races for 3-year-olds in the U.S., dating to Aug. 2, 1864, the Travers also will be an excellent stamina barometer, as it is the first major prep race this year run at the demanding 1 1/4 mile distance of the Derby.
No fans will be in the stands, but wagering on the race will be available at off-tracking betting facilities and through advance deposit wagering services in all U.S. states where pari-mutuel betting is legal.
The full field for the Travers, which will be broadcast be from 5-6:30 p.m. ET on FOX, with post time set for 5:44 p.m.
Travers Stakes Odds 2020
Post Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 First Line Orlando Noda David Cohen 30-1
2 Country Grammer Chad Brown Irad Ortiz Jr. 6-1
3 Uncle Chuck Bob Baffert Luis Saez 5-2
4 Max Player Linda Rice Joel Rosario 6-1
5 Shivaree Ralph Nicks Junior Alvarado 30-1
6 Tiz the Law Barclay Tagg Manny Franco 1-1
7 Caracaro Gustavo Delgado Javier Castellano 10-1
8 South Bend Bill Mott Jose Ortiz 15-1
Travers Stakes 2020 Predictions
The race will award 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby points, which means a first- or second-place finish will likely guarantee a spot in the starting gate in Louisville.
Tiz the Law figures to be the odds-on favorite when the gates are sprung, and deservedly so. He’s won five of six lifetime, including the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1) on June 20 in his most recent start.
From a betting standpoint, all wagers go through Tiz the Law, who has shown the ability to do what very good racehorses do: Break alertly, secure a stalking position behind the leaders and stay out of trouble.
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed in the Travers either, with second choice Uncle Chuck and/or long shot Shivaree the most likely pace setters, which gives Tiz the Law and jockey Manny Franco the perfect opportunity to tuck in close behind.
The only real negative for Tiz the Law is that he already has plenty of Kentucky Derby points to make the field and may not be fully cranked up for this. But given his owners and trainer are all longtime veterans of the New York racing circuit, I have to believe they are nearly as excited about the prospect of winning a Travers as they would be the Kentucky Derby.
Uncle Chuck, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, is the most likely upsetter in the field. The son of Uncle Mo, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, has only raced twice but has won both starts with ease, including the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby last out over stablemate Thousand Words.
With Baffert calling the shots and further improvement possible, it would not be a huge shock to see this one in the Travers winner’s circle.
Other horses with a good chance to hit the board are Country Grammer, winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes on opening day at Saratoga on July 16; Max Player, a decent third behind Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes in his comeback race after a 4 ½ month layoff; and South Bend, privately purchased after his runner-up effort to Dean Martini in the Ohio Derby and moved to the barn of another Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott.
The best chance bets in the field may be Shivaree, who ran a solid second to Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby (Gr. 1) before bombing in the Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. 1) at Keeneland, and Caracaro, a game second to Country Grammer in the Peter Pan in his first try against stakes competition.
With favored Tiz the Law and Uncle Chuck most likely to prevail, the Travers is not an easy race to profit from. I’ll try to eke out a few dollars by using Uncle Chuck on top in a trifecta over Tiz the Law, with the other five horses mentioned above — Country Grammer, Max Player, Shivaree, Caracaro and South Bend – in the third slot for a total investment of $5 for each $1 wagered.
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