Surefire 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year Justify is gone and there is no standout among the older horses. In fact, Las Vegas has established 3-year-old Good Magic as the early favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic. The good news is this makes races like the Travers and Saturday's Whitney terrific betting races. Thanks to vulnerable favorites, strong cases can be mounted for several contenders in each of these races.

The Kentucky Derby has “My Old Kentucky Home.” At Pimlico, they play “Maryland, My Maryland,” as the horses take the track for the Preakness. NYRA has segued from “The Sidewalks of New York” to Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at the Belmont.

The Travers doesn’t have a signature tune. Maybe this season the Spa could play the Stones’ singing, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.”

The most uninspiring Curlin-Jim Dandy-Haskell weekend in memory didn’t produce any crowd-magnets for the Midsummer Derby. If the five-horse Curlin and five-horse Jim Dandy didn’t convince NYRA that it’s insane to run these races on back-to-back days, I give up.

Fortunately, a lot of fans, perhaps the majority, prefer a great betting race to a race with a great horse. Coming out of the weekend, the Travers certainly figures to be a terrific wagering event. Seven or eight horses will take significant money.

The retirement of Justify and Good Magic’s take-no-prisoners romp over a moderate bunch in the Haskell establishes him as close to a star as the sophomore division has. The Wynn in Las Vegas has made him the early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and he’ll undoubtedly be a solid favorite in the Travers. But he’ll encounter a more intriguing group in upstate New York than he buried on the Jersey Shore.

Tenfold will have his backers coming off a somebody-had-to win victory in the Jim Dandy. I have no axe to grind with him. Roll down the page to my column last week and you’ll see I picked him to win. But someone on TVG made a point I wished I had in handicapping the race. He remarked he couldn’t recall a Grade 2 race consisting of horses none of whom had hit the board in their last start. That says it all.

Vino Rosso, who puts another nail in the coffin of the Wood Memorial’s hope of being restored as a Grade 1 every time he shows up, made his customary late move, which is good enough to convince some that he will benefit from another eighth of a mile on Aug. 25.

Hofburg, who has been the wise guy horse in each of his races going back to the Florida Derby, probably will be again after winning the Curlin on Friday. But the field in that five-horse restricted stakes makes the Jim Dandy look like the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

There will be a Cinderella, if not a Cinderella story. Wonder Gadot, a filly who demolished males in the first two legs of Canada’s Triple Crown, is coming south for the Midsummer Derby.

Regular readers know I am dismissive of the argument that fillies are inferior to colts. But I am not dismissive of the belief that Canadian-breds are inferior to their American brethren. Wonder Gadot will be well supported by the fillies in the party-hardy Travers Day crowd but this will only enhance the odds on horses with a real chance.

The most interesting new shooter is another horse seemingly stepping out of his element. Up and coming trainer Jonathan Thomas is giving strong consideration to starting Catholic Boy. Thomas could opt for the Saranac on grass on closing weekend, where, coming off his gutty triumphs over once thought to be invincible Analyze It, he would be about 1-5.

But why drop back to a Grade 3 when you can shoot for the stars with back-to-back scores in Grade 1’s on turf and dirt. Oh, and the purse is a million dollars more. It’s not as if Catholic Boy is a mystery horse on the main track. He took the Remsen last fall and ran a strong second to Jim Dandy runnerup Flameaway in the Sam. F. Davis. He was well beaten by Audible and Hofburg in the Florida Derby but his subsequent races are sufficient to encourage the notion that he is a horse who keeps getting better. Also, he will be the only runner in the field with a win at 10 furlongs, albeit on grass.

There’s plenty of time to make a final Travers pick but you can tell in which direction I’m leaning.

Whitney wide open

Saturday’s Whitney falls into the same category as the Travers. It’s a great betting race because it lacks a truly great horse.

But it’s a great day for the New York breeding program. When was the last time the two leading contenders in a storied Grade 1 were New York breds? My guess is never.

Having demolished his rivals in the Suburban, Diversify will almost certainly go favored. If he doesn’t, that role will probably fall to Mind Your Biscuits. What makes the race so delicious for players is both are vulnerable.

Diversify is most dominant when he can free-wheel on the lead, as he did in the Suburban. That isn’t likely to happen in the Whitney and Mind Your Biscuits is part of the reason. The best sprinter in North America, maybe the world, is making his two-turn, nine-furlongs debut. His natural speed should put him right on the pace, especially if Irad Ortiz tries to slow it down aboard Diversify. Whether Mind Your Biscuits will still be prominent when the serious running begins is the unknown.

He does have seconds in the Met Mile and Cigar Mile but both were one-turn races. Trainer Chad Summers exudes confidence that the extra turn and additional 220 yards is within his horse’s scope. “I’m as confident as I can be,” he said at the post position draw. “Everything he’s always shown me over his entire career is that he can do it. Until he can’t, I’m not going to think he can’t.”

But until he does, the question lingers.

Complicating matters is the surprise entry of speedy West Coast invader Dalmore. Colorful owner Ron Paolucci said any horse who wants the lead is going to have to bust it to get past his horse.”I’m giving Ricky Santana $1,500 for every quarter he’s in front.” It didn’t seem like he was kidding.

This could set things up for a closer. Todd Pletcher has Tapwrit looking to become the first winner of a 2017 Triple Crown race to win again and Good Samaritan, winner of last season’s Jim Dandy, returns to his preferred two turns after after a disappointing effort in the one-turn Met Mile. I wouldn't leave the latter off multiple-race tickets.

Then there’s Chad Brown’s Backyard Heaven, who looked like a budding monster in the spring, building a three-race winning streak, only to tire late in the Clark Handicap. Brown says Ken Ramsey’s horse is training splendidly since that uncharacteristic performance.

Backyard Heaven could wind up sitting in the middle of the pack and getting first run as the early leaders become spent and the big closers are just getting fired up.

Besides, you rarely go wrong backing a Chad horse at the Spa.

West Virginia Derby

Bob Baffert has come up with late developing 3-year-olds the past two seasons, colts who weren’t factors on the Triple Crown trail but became major players the second half of the season. Arrogate was sensational in 2016 and West Coast shipped to the East Coast to win the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby last summer, then hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus and Dubai World Cup.

All of this is likely to contribute to Once on Whiskey being over bet in Saturday’s West Virginia Derby. He has the credentials. He’s two-for-four with a second and a third and won the Los Alamitos Derby in his first stakes and first try around two turns.

The horse he caught late that afternoon, Draft Pick, also is shipping East and could easily turn the tables as the controlling speed. Something to keep in mind: Los Alamitos’ thoroughbred layout has one of the longest stretches in North America and Once on Whiskey got up by a head.

The value play is High North. He’s coming off a breakthrough win in the Iowa Derby and wasn’t disgraced earlier this year against the division heavyweights. The human connections, Brad Cox and Florent Geroux, are sizzling.

With all the money being thrown around last weekend, Cox, who is based this summer at the Spa, was prudent enough to resist the urge to jump into the deep end of the pool with High North. He could be rewarded Saturday.