2015 Travers Stakes Preview: Should American Pharoah be on upset alert?

Today at 4:46 PM CST on NBC, American Pharoah gets a chance to extend his 8 race winning streak in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/4 mile race has a $1.6 million dollar purse and will be a good gauge for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as it is run at the same 1 1/4 mile distance. Below are post positions, jockey/trainer and morning line odds:

1. Upstart – Ortiz Jr./Violette – 15-1
2. American Pharoah – Espinoza/Baffert – 1-5
3. Mid Ocean – Franco/Weaver – 50-1
4. Texas Red – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8-1
5. Frammento – Ortiz/Zito – 30-1
6. Frosted – Rosario/McLaughlin – 6-1
7. Keen Ice – Castellano/Romans – 12-1
8. Tale of Verve – Stevens/Stewart – 30-1
9. King of New York – Leparoux/McPeek – 50-1
10. Smart Transition – Velazquez/Shirreffs – 20-1

Saratoga has a history of producing upsets and many felt Bob Baffert should skip the Travers and run American Pharoah in the Woodward Stakes next weekend. As a result, a few members of the horse racing media (Kevin Cox, Mike Watchmaker and Michelle Yu) are calling for an upset today and predicting Texas Red as the race winner. My opinion? It is not going to happen. American Pharoah will prevail again.

Texas Red was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury back in February. As a 2-year-old, he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race (shown below) the ability as a closer that would make him a serious threat in a 1 1/4 mile race like the Kentucky Derby and especially with fast opening fractions. But he has had to slowly work his way back from injury and I just don’t think his workout times and two previous post-injury races (Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes) have given me any cause for upset alarm today.

Texas Red beat Frosted in the Jim Dandy Stakes (video click HERE) but this was a 1 1/8 mile race and like Frosted’s long strides to edge out Texas Red in a 1 1/4 mile race.

My predicted finishing order (I think the Saratoga track handicapper has got this one right): 1) American Pharoah, 2) Frosted, 3) Texas Red, 4) Keen Ice, 5) Upstart, 6) Smart Transition, 7) Tale of Verve, 8) Frammento, 9) King of New York, 10) Mid Ocean


Belmont Stakes Preview & Triple Crown Anticipation

The final leg of the Triple Crown will be the Belmont Stakes this Saturday June 6th. Post time will be 5:50PM CST and the race will be aired on NBC. Below are the post positions and morning line odds.

1 Mubtaahij – 10-1  Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve – 15-1  Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky – 12-1  Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento – 30-1  Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah – 3-5  Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted – 5-1  Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice – 20-1  Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality – 6-1  Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher

Who do I like to win? Although history is not on American Pharoah’s side, his chances are better than one would think. Even though the last 13 Triple Crown contenders failed to win the Belmont Stakes, 11 out of 30 horses who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and competed in the Belmont Stakes, won the race to complete the Triple Crown. That is a percentage of 36.7%. The average finish of all 30 horses was 2.43, so that is essentially 2nd or 3rd finish.

The only horse in this field that I feel is capable of beating American Pharoah is Frosted but I think American Pharoah will prevail. But never count out a Todd Pletcher horse and Materiality is his best horse for this race.

At 3/5 odds for American Pharoah, a $2 bet will only pay $3.20. I expect the live odds to be about 3/5 or 4/5 at post time. I think a 5-6 straight Exacta would be a good bet for this race.

As far as Trifecta betting, 5-6-ALL. That is 5 over 6 over 1,2,3,4,7 & 8. This $10 Trifecta will cost $60. For Superfecta betting, I would do a Superfecta wheel keying American Pharoah to win with the field and hope that some high odds horses finish in the money.

Another bet to consider if you want to hedge your bets and potentially get a huge payout if the unexpected occurs, is placing a 10-Cent Superfecta using the entire field. A 10-Cent bet using the 8 horse field would cost $168. You are guaranteed to get some of that money back and you could get real lucky like in 2002 when the Belmont Stakes paid out $145,334 for a $2 bet. If this was applied as a 10-Cent bet it would pay back $7,266.