Travers analysis: With Velazquez up, Nonios a solid threat

While this year’s Travers Stakes may lack a superstar, it is a fasc­inating collection of 11 good ho

While this year’s Travers Stakes may lack a superstar, it is a fasc­inating collection of 11 good horses trying to take the next step. That, in turn, makes it a great betting race.

There are at least six horses we think can win this, led by our top three: Nonios, Alpha and Street Life. And even the long shots aren’t impossible. Here is the entire field in order of preference:

The Top Three

Nonios: Trained by California-based Jerry Hollendorfer, who rarely ships horses to Saratoga, Nonios caught our attention when he was mugged coming out of the starting gate and still rallied strongly to finish second by 33⁄4 lengths to Paynter in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park. There was a

41⁄2-length back to the horse in third, Stealcase.

If Paynter was in today’s Travers, he’d probably be 3-5 or 4-5, so Nonios’ second-place finish to him is significant. So was the fact that the Haskell was Nonios’ first start on dirt, following a half-length victory in the Grade III Affirmed Handicap and close second in the Grade II Swaps Stakes on synthetic at Hollywood Park. His record from six starts is three victories, two seconds and one third.

Nonios has tactical speed, worked well for this and adds Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez, who is riding in career-best form since returning from his injury.

Alpha: His wire-to-wire, two-length victory on a sloppy track in the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes made him 2-for-2 at Saratoga. In fact, if you throw out his two terrible performances at Churchill Downs in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and this year’s Kentucky Derby, he sports a record of four wins and two seconds in six starts.

Having Ramon Dominguez, who is absolutely dominating the Sar­atoga jockey standings, is certainly a plus, as are two sharp works. The Jim Dandy was unusual because it was the first time Alpha raced on the lead. He doesn’t need it. He is the morning-line favorite and a deserving one, and is the horse to beat.

Street Life: He’s an intriguing horse who also won his last race, the Curlin Stakes, by 13⁄4 lengths here on a sloppy track. Following a sixth-place finish to Gemologist in the Wood, when he was soundly beaten by second-place finisher Alpha, trainer Chad Brown added blinkers. Street Life responded with a strong third in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes, a fourth in the Belmont Stakes and his victory in the Curlin, when he raced closer to the lead than he had in previous starts.

He, too, has worked well since, and he figures to be flying late.

Three Other Contenders

Neck ‘n Neck: He won an allowance race and a Grade III stakes in Kentucky before finishing a strong second in the Jim Dandy at 7-2. Since then, he’s put in three very sharp workouts.

Atigun: Following his brave third at 20-1 in the Belmont Stakes, Atigun showed little when he was sixth in the Jim Dandy. But that was on a sloppy track he’d never encountered previously. If you throw out that race and add in two bullet works, including four furlongs in :461⁄5, best of 60 horses at that distance last Sunday, and he makes sense, probably at generous odds.

Liaison: Rafael Bejarano flew in from California to ride this colt for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. While he’s finished close to several of these, including Nonios and Alpha, he’s 0-for-7 this year, and his career record on dirt is just 1-for-6. Still, Nonios beat him narrowly in the Affirmed and the Swaps, so maybe he can turn that around.

The Remaining Five

Five Sixteen: He rallied for second behind Street Life at 17-1 in the Curlin Stakes. In his prior start, he was fifth behind Atigun in the Belmont Stakes. Rosie Napravnik keeps the mount for Dominick Schettino, who’s quietly having a fine Saratoga meet, with five wins from 23 starts.

Stealcase: He’s been in the money four straight, including a distant third in the Haskell at 20-1 in his last start. The race before, he was a distant second to Neck ‘n Neck.

Speightscity: He won his dirt debut by 111⁄2 lengths right here at Saratoga last year. More recently, he was fifth by 10 lengths to Alpha in the Count Fleet and second by 31⁄4 lengths to Alpha in the Grade III Withers.

Golden Ticket: He was second by a head in his last start at Churchill Downs, but that was in a bottom-level allowance race. His works for this are dazzling.

Fast Falcon: He followed a maiden victory with seconds in the Easy Goer Stakes and the Grade III Dwyer before finishing seventh in the Jim Dandy. This one’s for Nick Zito fans.

Categories: -Sports

Leave a Reply