August 24, 2012—Let’s face it: The chances that the winner of today’s Travers will go on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic are—realistically, I don’t know—500-1?

But this is horse racing and anything can happen. And if that’s not a good enough reason to be interested in what happens in Saratoga’s pre-eminent horse racing event, it is these:

It’s still the Travers, and it’s a damn good betting race.

Initially, I thought that since Alpha was so impressive winning the Jim Dandy, that he is 2-for-2 over the Spa ground, and that there was all that promise he showed this winter and spring, I was ready to concede victory.

And reading Kiaran McLaughlin’s language, body and otherwise, and looking at those two maintenance breezes since his prep, and the fact he is partnered by Ramon Dominguez, about to win the Saratoga riding title, I was ready to concede victory until I dug a little further.

Given the race dynamics, post draw, and developmental patterns as indicated by the Equiform energy figures, Travers 143 is even more competitive than generally perceived.

We believe that any five of the 11 entrants can win it, with one or two others capable of being super-exotic fillers. Here are the Fab Five, with post positions and early line odds:

6-Alpha (5-2) won the G2 Jim Dandy impressively after setting soft pace on wet track July 28 and is a deserving favorite. He has maintained his form subsequently with two maintenance works since his prep.

The Bernardini colt is undefeated at the Spa and is bred to run up the side of a mountain if need be.

Ramon Dominguez is pushing all the right buttons and might take this race directly to his competition, riding him as if he’s on the best horse--which he just might be.

10-Nonios (4-1) paired up excellent figures in the Swaps and Haskell in his last two starts and has trained very well subsequently at Del Mar base, returning East once again for Hollendorfer who’s known to handle his charges aggressively.

His wide draw is mitigated somewhat by the fact it’s a long enough run to the first turn and his position actually could prove beneficial in that it gives Hall of Fame Johnny lots of options. Should he move forward off his last two runs, this dance is over.

8-Neck n’ Neck (9-2) surged to attack Alpha in the Jim Dandy soon after entering the straight but settled for place after the pace-aided leader re-broke in midstretch. This late developer has reached another level this summer and he trained very well since his prep.

Ian Wilkes will attempt to become the first trainer in 60 years to win the Whitney and Travers in the same season, he’s been training brilliantly since the Jim Dandy and figures to get first run on the late closers. Leandro Goncalves is a more than capable partner.

5-Street Life (5-1) showed an improved turn of foot while taking the Curlin with authoritative late run over a sloppy track July 27. There’s no question he has improved since adding blinkers and seemingly is maturing by the day.

Trainer Chad Brown is having a career meet, his distance runners keep coming at you, and he will benefit from day’s added distance--clearly bred for the assignment.

The whole key to a potential victory is the pace scenario which we believe will be stronger than generally perceived; if not hot then certainly contested. His late run style is suited by his partnering with Jose Lezcano.

9-Liaison (8-1) could prove the value of Travers 143 as the perception is that he’s one of those too little-too late types. But if you check his company lines, there might be a reason for that; he’s been meeting the heavy-heads of his division since he was a SoCal baby.

And he has held his own. His Derby finish was better than it looks on paper and he earned the field’s best Equiform energy figure when a wide-rally third in the Swaps. Reuniting with Rafael Bejarano, odds in the area of 8-1 to 10-1 is possible.

Check Saturday’s Feature Race Analysis for final selection and betting strategies.