WHO WILL MAKE THE TRAVERS GRADE?

While Maximum Security may be the leader in the clubhouse, his absence from the Travers, whatever happens in Bensalem PA next month, has left the championship door open.

Toward that end, here’s a look at the entire Travers field, assessing the chances of those who could step up and make things interesting, or some other who will ensure that chaos will continue to reign among the 3 year olds:

  1. OWENDALE: Has the earmarks of a second-season three-year-old that could make things interesting. After waking up to win the Lexington, he finished a good third in the Preakness and followed up a soft win in the Ohio Derby. Fresh, developing, owns good kick, but needs pace, which he just might get.
  2. CODE OF HONOR: Proven class. After winning the Fountain of Youth, he was a good third in pace-less Florida Derby then returned with a strong mid-move third in Kentucky Derby (later elevated to second). Made a strong grown-up impression winning the Dwyer, we loved both recent blowouts, and Shug a three-time Travers winner.
  3. HIGHEST HONORS: Very talented or he would not have won the Curlin in his third career start. The bad news is that lack of experience works against him here. He’s won on a dry track, is well drawn, loses Jose Ortiz, but picks up Saez. Will get better with age; we promise.
  4. LAUGHING FOX: One of four 30-1 chances–this one and his neighbor next door are the bombs we like best. He won the “Preakness Win-and-In” Oaklawn Invitational and made up ground much too late in Baltimore, finishing 5th of 13 but beaten less than four lengths. Loved recent Oklahoma blowout.
  5. EVERFAST: Battle tested for sure, exiting three straight Grade 1s. A fast-finish Preakness second, he was one-paced in the late going of the Belmont. Had little chance in the six-horse, speed-dominated Haskell but his late finish was useful conditioner. Dale Romans has done this before and brings 22-year-old rider Martin Chuan, who he’s dubbed the “King of South America.” What a story that would be!
  6. TACITUS: Officially runs out of excuses here. Everyone knows what happened in the Belmont and Jim Dandy, and while Bill Mott is not known as a “blinker guy” he is known as a Hall of Fame guy. Tacitus appeared focused in his most recent breeze, something his trainer said, too. Well drawn, he will be a tough customer with a clean break.
  7. MUCHO GUSTO: Bob Baffert loved how he bounced out of the Haskell and perhaps there’s no one better at going to Plan B than Bullet Bob. We see his big Haskell as the good news and bad news. He stepped up in a race that knocked out Maximum Security. Everything else being equal, sometimes the bounce doesn’t show until race day. A tricky read for us.
  8. CHESS CHIEF: I know, it’s Dallas Stewart. But Into Mischief colt is way up against it here, even with “Money Mike.”
  9. LOOKING AT BIKINIS: Another, like stablemate Highest Honors, lacking the experience we prefer in a 10-furlong Grade 1. But we like this one because he was compromised by a wet track and dead rail in the Curlin, his two-turn debut. Local boy Chad Brown looking for his first Travers; Javier Castellano looking for his seventh! Live price shot.
  10. SCARS ARE COOL: I think that really depends on who’s has them and where they’re located.
  11. ENDORSED: The horse with the best chance to win at double-digit odds. Relatively lightly raced but with the look of a horse that’s been pointed specifically. Broke his maiden over track on debut; exited the Champagne with issues, won his seasonal return in 1:08 3/5, and also had difficult Curlin trip. Fast track, outside helps, 1-for-1 beneath Joel Rosario.
  12. TAX: Will he finally get the respect his trainer has been carping about for months? No doubt, if he can pull this off. Gelding was good all winter and he put it all together to win Jim Dandy prep. Danny Gargan warned all he was going to the lead but that might be easier said than done. A wide trip is in the offing, a tough assignment vs. this group.

We’ve got it between Code of Honor and Tacitus for the win. Check back tomorrow morning for that and exotics too

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