Donato’s Saratoga selections for Saturday, Aug. 8

The Travers pick is not Tiz the Law

Who doesn’t like Tiz the Law (1-1)?

The Belmont winner is coming home for Saratoga’s signature race, the 151st running of the Travers Stakes, run at 1 1/4 miles over the dirt track. His ownership group, Sackatoga Stable, is based in downtown Saratoga. He won his maiden at first asking in the only sprint race of his career last August at Saratoga.

He is a three-time Grade I stakes-winner. He is the favorite going into Saturday. It would be wildly unpopular not to pick Tiz the Law to win the 2020 Travers.

My algorithm doesn’t like him in this race.

It likes Max Player, who finished third behind Tiz the Law in the Belmont, because of his great late pace, which has been an important factor in recent races like the Travers.

The algorithm looked at the most recent runnings of similar races at Saratoga, which for this distance, surface, and class, could only be the Travers and Alabama for the last seven meets. The most important pattern found was that the winners of these races tend to have the best late pace rating.

Four of the last seven Travers and three of the last seven Alabama stakes have been won by the horse with the best late speed, plus another second-place finish in the Travers and three more second-place finishes in the Alabama for the late speed leader. Those winners have tended to pay well, too.

The four winners who led the field in late pace included V. E. Day (20-1) in 2014, Arrogate (12-1) in 2016, West Coast (6-1) in 2017 and Code of Honor (4-1) in 2019. The off-favorite has had an average finish of 6.71 in the last seven runnings of the Travers, with a median finish of seventh.

Over 100,000 simulations run for the Travers, Max Player won 25% of them, followed by South Bend at 15%, Tiz the Law at 14% and Country Grammar (6-1) and Uncle Chuck (5-2) each at 13%.

Betting against Tiz the Law feels like betting the “Don’t Pass” line in craps. Over time, it may be the more sound bet, but it is much more fun to be part of the group cheering the local favorite. Maybe the best year to do so is when the stands are empty and you can make your unpopular bet from home.

The Grade I Test, a seven-furlong sprint on the dirt, has been the type of race that has had a closer relationship between the public opinion and the algorithm’s predictions. Over the last 40 races, the algorithm has correctly predicted 43% of seven furlong dirt stakes races at Saratoga, and of those it got right, the winner went off at an average of 2.81-1, suggesting a lower-paying outcome. The ratings and subsequent simulations bear out a similar prediction for Saturday. Gamine (3-5) finished first in 30% of the 100,000 simulations run for the Test. Venetian Harbor (8-5) won 24% of the simulations, followed by Mrs. Danvers (8-1) winning 17% and Wicked Whisper (20-1) winning 11%.

If you choose not to make a popular bet in the Travers, you can still be part of the crowd for the Test.

  • FIRST RACE: 6-The Angry Man, 2B-Gunman, 5-Compliant, 1-Glynn County.
  • SECOND RACE: 3-Shalako, 1A-Musical Heart, 1-Lil Commissioner, 5-American Lincoln.
  • THIRD RACE: 3-Risky Mischief, 9-Light In The Sky, 12-Saratoga Love, 13-Strongerthanuknow.
  • FOURTH RACE: 5-Hieroglyphics, 3-Field Of Courage, 10-Bootlegger, 2-Siding Spring.
  • FIFTH RACE: 5-Guana Cay, 7-Mutasaabeq, 3-Raise The Rent, 2-American Gentleman.
  • SIXTH RACE: 1-Secret Potion, 6-Mystical Man, 8-Incitatus, 10-Fire At Will.
  • SEVENTH RACE: 1-Serengeti Empress, 4-Bellafina, 6-Pink Sands, 5-Letruska.
  • EIGHTH RACE: 7-Chewing Gum, 6-Pulsate, 5-Pure Sensation, 3-Lonhtwist.
  • NINTH RACE: 4-My Sister Nat, 5-Olympic Games, 2-Beau Belle, 3-Quiet Dignity.
  • TENTH RACE: 5-Gamine, 6-Venetian Harbor, 3-Mrs. Danvers, 4-Wicked Whisper.
  • ELEVENTH RACE: 4-Max Player, 8-South Bend, 6-Tiz The Law, 2-Country Grammer.
  • TWELFTH RACE: 3-Blitchton Lady, 7-Tiny Magoo, 9-Bankers Beast, 2-Monificent.


Lookin for Trouble (second), Kemba (fourth), Archumybaby (seventh).

Record for meet: 43-for-172.

Categories: Sports

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