A betting frenzy awaits nationwide gamblers with Saturday’s loaded thoroughbred horse-racing card at Saratoga Race Course.
Saratoga unveils a 13-race program to nationwide betters starting at 11:40 a.m. ET and commands center stage in the industry with purses of $4,482,500. No other track in the country has purses exceeding $1 million.
Here are our Travers Stakes odds and picks for the two biggest races: the $1.25 million Travers at 1 1-4 miles and the $750,000 Sword Dancer at 1 1-2 miles on turf.
They unfold back-to-back. The Sword Dancer has a 5:31 p.m. post and the Travers is 6:11 p.m.
Odds, Picks & Betting Overview for Saturday’s Travers Stakes
Here is the field for the Travers Stakes, including post positions, morning-line odds, jockeys, and trainers.
|🐎 Post Position||Trainer||Jockey||Morning Line Odds|
|PP. 1 Forte||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||7-5|
|PP. 2 Arcangelo||Jena Antonucci||Javier Castellano||5-2|
|PP. 3 Tapit Trice||Todd Pletcher||Jose Ortiz||12-1|
|PP. 4 Mage||Gustavo Delgado||Flavien Prat||4-1|
|PP. 5 National Treasure||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez||8-1|
|PP. 6 Disarm||Steve Asmussen||Joel Rosario||8-1|
|PP. 7 Scotland||Bill Mott||Junior Alvarado||12-1|
Travers Stakes Major Contenders
Practically the whole field. There are only seven horses and a good argument can be made for at least five of them.
Travers Stakes Betting Overview
All picks mentioned here are subject to looks-angle confirmation in the post parade 10 minutes before post time. The Travers field is so talented and competitive that any horse who is slightly off will not likely win.
There should be value in the win bets because parity keeps most betting odds afloat. The winners of all three Triple Crown races are in this field for the first time since 2017.
Mage (Kentucky Derby victor), National Treasure (Preakness), and Arcangelo (Belmont Stakes) will all get play.
Don’t spread too much in the exotics unless you figure on one or two longshots hitting the board. This is a small field of seven, you have major class and pace angles to consider and it’s hard to find just one scenario that looks logical.
Travers Stakes Picks
Here are some bets to consider for Saturday’s Travers.
Rationale: The only horse in this field to win at 1 1-4 miles, this exact distance.
Will need help from a speed duel between Scotland and National Treasure, as Saratoga has been speed-favoring in many big races this summer.
Mage just missed in the Haskell, run at 1 1-8 miles. Would have benefitted from the extra eighth of a mile he gets here. Could be an excellent price because of betting respect that will be given to favored Forte and Arcangelo.
I will be wary Saratoga’s speed-favoring tendency, however, and bet this one light.
Box: 4-1. (Mage, Forte).
Rationale: They finished first and second in the Florida Derby, this is their highly-awaited rematch. Forte runs well every time. Both of these horses figure.
Cost: $4 for every $2 box.
$1 Box: 1-2-4. (Mage, Forte, Arcangelo).
Cost: $6 for every $1 box.
Arcangelo merits enormous respect off the Belmont victory. Has to be in tickets as he improves every outing. Has been off a little more than two months, that could be the difference between him winning and merely hitting the board.
50-cent box: 1-2-4-5. (Mage, Forte, Arcangelo, National Treasure).
Rationale: Adds National Treasure to this mix, respecting the speed angle.
Good luck hitting this. There should be some good prices, especially underneath, as bettors wonder who will be Queen for a Day.
Take your favorite stalker or closer with National Treasure (5) and Scotland (7) in a $1 trifecta box in case the speed holds.
Sword Dancing Betting Overview
Intriguing mix of four graduates from the $250,000 Bowling Green, one from allowance company and two droppers who were way over their heads in their last race.
Oddsmakers flocked to the class-dropping Stone Age, making him the 6-5 early betting favorite off of a six-month layoff. He may not be ready to run his best and I don’t like the price.
Sword Dancing Major Contenders
Channel Maker (1)
It’s all about pace.
Able to steal the Bowling Green Stakes at 1 3-8 miles by getting away to a six-furlong fraction of 1:16.15. Prevailed at 15-1, holding off the hard-charging Vestappen, who finished second.
The moderate pace made all the difference. Especially considering that 1:16.15 came in a shorter race than the 1 1–2-mile Sword Dancer, when he was tucked in behind a pace of 1:113.99 for six furlongs.
The faster pace and longer race meant disaster in that one. He faded badly and finished 10th.
Look for him near the lead throughout most of the race. The question is whether the pace will be contentious. Bolshoi Ballet may have a lot to say about that.
Needs something to run at. Could not get up in time after Channel Maker got off to dawdling fractions in the Bowling Green. Finished well ahead of Channel Maker in the Elkorn.
Will be right there if the pace is hot, will have difficulty if it is not.
Has no Grade I victories, which may matter.
A look at Stone Age (7), the early Sword Dancer favorite.
Second in the Breeders’ Cup turf last November. Subsequently threw in a fifth and a 12th, followed by layoff. Being prepped for bigger races, this one gets him back in the flow.
Has not won in his last eight races.
Is he the same horse he was last year?
Longshots who might hit the board in the Sword Dancer.
Bolshoi Ballet (3)
Distant sixth after being subdued in a speed duel in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. That race was for more than $1.3 million, while the Bowling Green containing several of his opponents in this race has a purse of $250,000.
This is a major class drop. Anything less than a speed duel would keep him alive into the homestretch. If he’s in a duel, he could be compromised along with Channel Maker.
Pioneering Spirit (5)
Has won four straight in cheaper company. Loves the Saratoga turf and could be primed for a step up.
Was fourth in the Bowling Green and could be right there with a small improvement.
Soldier Rising (1)
Has been able to hit the board with these on occasion. Was seventh in the Bowling Green, however.
Sword Dancing Picks
I will make a stand that Stone Age needs one.
I will use Channel Maker (6) and Verstappen (2) prominently in tickets. If they are short-priced, it’s a light bet because they have vulnerabilities.
2 horse (Verstappen).
Rationale: Banking on Bolshoi Ballet softening up Channel Maker. One of two horses to have a victory at 1 1-2 miles. Channel Maker is the other.
Smaller Win Wager
6 horse (Channel Maker). In case his Bowling Green victory signals momentum.
Box: 6-2 (Verstappen, Channel Maker).
Rationale: They have taken turns beating each other. They could run together.
50-cent Box: 2-6-3-5 (Verstappen, Channel Maker, Bolshoi Ballet, Pioneering Spirit).
Rationale: Three fit horses and one who used to be exceptional.
$1 Box: 2-6-7 (Verstappen, Channel Maker, Stone Age).
Cost: $6 for every $1 trifecta box.
Rationale: In case Stone Age exceeds my expectations.
The angle of fading the favorite may or may not be for you. I will do it because there is little to lose. If I get the speed duel and Stone Age isn’t ready, I get a price. If that doesn’t happen and my horses don’t hit the board, what did I lose if the short-priced horse wins?