The feature on a big day of horse racing at Saratoga this Saturday is the Grade 1 Travers Stakes over 1m 2f (23:15). Belmont Stakes hero Tiz The Law preps for the Kentucky Derby in the three-year-olds only contest.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, this Constitution colt has won five of his six starts. Tiz The Law was an impressive course winner on his debut at a juvenile.
After winning here over an extended 6f, he made the step straight into Grade 1 company a winning one. That came in the 1m Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park where Tiz The Law again scored by four lengths.
Although beaten on his final juvenile start, he looked as good as ever on his return to action in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park. That put Tiz The Law spot on for a crack at the Florida Derby.
He turned that Triple Crown trial into a procession with Manuel Franco riding him four lengths clear of the re-opposing Shivaree. This year’s three-year-old program has been altered by global events.
The Travers Stakes usually takes place after the Triple Crown races have concluded, but this year it is a stepping stone to an unprecedented September Kentucky Derby.
Tiz The Law comes into the race off the back of a scintillating victory in the Belmont Stakes. Usually the last of the Triple Crown events, it was ran first.
As Tiz The Law led going well two furlongs from home and kept on strongly over the altered 1m 1f distance, the step up in trip holds no fears for him.
He destroyed a Triple Crown field scoring by 3 3/4 lengths. Although the Travers Stakes has been a graveyard for favorites, this is far from a normal year. Tiz The Law just can’t be opposed.
If the Kentucky Derby betting is any indicator, then Uncle Chuck should give the favorite most to think about.
Trained by Bob Baffert who has saddled two of the last four Travers Stakes winners, this Uncle Mo colt took the Los Alamitos Derby on his last outing.
That is a Grade 3, however, and this race demands much more. Although Uncle Chuck won by four ready lengths, he is not yet a proven elite performer like Tiz The Law.
His price in the futures betting on the Kentucky Derby, as here, is based on potential rather than form. What you can say about Uncle Chuck is in relative terms he’s unexposed compared to the market leader.
That puts him in the could be anything category. The profile of recent Travers Stakes winners suggests he may be a little on the inexperienced side for this test.
However, Baffert and connections of Uncle Chuck must think very highly of him to pitch him in at the highest level. This may simply be a fact-finding mission, though, with Churchill Downs the main target.
Although respected, Uncle Chuck doesn’t have the form in the book and impressive performances of Tiz The Law. He is still expected to give a good account of himself, however.
Chad Brown pitches the progressive Country Grammer, a course winner in Grade 3 company last time out, in at the deep end. Granted further improvement, though, the Tonalist could have a say in the finish.
After landing his sole juvenile start at Aqueduct, he was far from disgraced when fifth in the Fountain Of Youth in February. Country Grammer was then third at Belmont Park before landing the Peter Pan Stakes here.
He won by a cosy neck from the re-opposing Caracaro. The front two pulled over three lengths clear of the third home, Mystic Guide, who Country Grammer had previously finished behind.
That is evidence of him making progress. The Travers Stakes is tougher, but course form should be respected at Saratoga and it makes Country Grammer a player.
Speaking of players, Max Player was a keeping on third to Tiz The Law in the Belmont Stakes last time out. On that evidence, Linda Rice’s son of Honor Code will be suited by the extra furlong.
On that form, he has over five lengths to make up on the favorite. It seems a big ask, even though Max Player is another Grade 3 winner in this race.
That success came at Aqueduct in February where he got weight from the second and fourth horses home. Max Player meets Tiz The Law off the same terms, however, and does have something to find.
He is an obvious one to look at for the show on that form and the way he shaped, though. The Travers Stakes looks sure to provide Kentucky Derby clues for bettors.