Is Horse Racing Dead? Saratoga, Timonium Report Big Gains

Saturday’s all-star Travers card at Saratoga saw a near-record figure in terms of all-sources handle, second only to 2015 when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah appeared. This year’s handle rang in at $47,870,984, a five-percent increase over 2016 but less than the $49,668,754 wagered in 2015.

On-track attendance was announced at 47,725, a 1.9 percent decrease from 2016. On-track handle of $10,862,094 was one percent higher than last year.

2017 Travers Day
August 26, 2017
  • All-sources: $47,870,987
  • On-track: $10,862,095
  • Betting interests: 108
2016 Travers Day
August 27, 2016
  • All-sources: $45,596,367
  • On-track: $10,778,993
  • Betting interests: 124

Down at the short race meeting at the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, there were also some great financial results.  Timonium opened with strong results Friday and continued on to a record-setting day Saturday, August 26. Handle (wagering dollars) on opening day of the fair was up 56%.

“We had a great day and handled over $1 million, which I was told is a record for this fair meet,” said Bill Reightler, coordinator of racing operations. “On behalf of our board at the Maryland State Fair, we want to thank the sponsors of the Coalition Stakes–the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and Fasig-Tipton, Inc. Of course, a huge thank you goes to the connections all the stakes entrants, and all the trainers and owners that are participating at this race meeting, giving us full fields in all our races. It’s a fun place to race.”

 

2017 Travers Stakes Full-Card Analysis

with Wagering Strategies & Spot Plays by Rich Nilsen

Rich Nilsen handicapperRich Nilsen, founder of AGameofSkill.com and one of the top tournament players in the history of the NHC, offers up his full-card analysis for Saratoga on Saturday, August 26th.  Last summer Nilsen crushed the Travers Day card, selecting Haveyougoneaway who upset the G1 Ballerina at odds of 10-1!   But Nilsen wasn’t done.  He followed up that score up by giving out top selection ARROGATE, track-record winner of the G1 Travers Stakes who paid an amazing $25.40 to win for followers of the sheet.  Another top pick ran 2nd at odds of 17-1 in race 3 on that day, returning a huge place payoff.

The analysis provides selections for every race plus three best bet spot plays.  Each race includes Nilsen’s detailed pace scenario which explains how the race will set up.  Nilsen has a value play selection for the Travers’ Stakes and he offers up his recommended straight, exacta and trifecta wagers for the big race.

Put an expert on your side as you attack Saratoga on their biggest day of the year. Get all 13-races.  Only $1 per race.

2017 Travers’s Day: 

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The Travers Day card features over $1.6 Million in Guaranteed wagers. The $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 begins on Race 8.

2016 Travers’ Testimonials:

“Great job, Rich!” ~ Jeff S.

“Rich: nice job Travers Day! Thanks to Arrogate, you gave me a good day. How in the world did you land on him? I suspect you’re doing some kind of voodoo pace analysis. If you ever decide to give lessons or a seminar, let me know.” ~ Kelley S.

Founder of AGameofSkill.com, Nilsen is the winner of 6 major handicapping tournament and a 13-time qualifier to the multi million-dollar National Horseplayers Championship (NHC).  There are a lot of pretenders out there.  Get affordable, expert advice for this year’s amazing 13-race Travers card.

This sheet contains:

  • Top selections for all 13 races
  • Sophisticated Pace Scenario for all 13 races
  • Spot Plays (Best Bets) on the undercard w/ wagering strategies
  • In-depth Analysis of the Travers Stakes with Exacta & Trifecta strategies.

Get all 13 races on the Saratoga Saturday card.  Download now for only $13.97 to any device.

Girvin Goes for Haskell Travers Double

Source: NYRA

Brad Grady’s Girvin jogged a lap on the Oklahoma training track at about 6:00 a.m. Monday, two days after his final breeze for the Grade 1 Travers. Winner of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner last time out, he must prove he can handle the 10-furlong trip of the race in his second attempt. He was off the board after a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby over the same distance in May.

“The distance is always an unknown because his trip in the Derby wasn’t a fair testament,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “Based on his running style and how he finishes and has been training, I think he can handle it. He’ll definitely be running from the quarter-pole home and always tries. He’s a horse who really wants to win.”

Girvin will be teaming up again with Robby Albarado, who rode for the first time in the Haskell and employed a deep-closing tactic on the millionaire son of Tale of Ekati. In races prior, the nearly black colt displayed more tactical speed.

“I don’t really give instructions and I don’t think Robby anticipated being that far back either, but Robby knows the horse and he obviously rode him perfectly that day,” Sharp said. “He doesn’t have to be that far back and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is closer this time, but Robby will ride his race. He’s a versatile jockey who does his homework.”

“I don’t think the post is too important with Girvin,” Sharp said. “He has the ability to be wherever you need him to be and he’s a smart horse. Obviously, we don’t want to be stuck all the way on the outside, but also I think he could handle that. He’s a horse who gives you confidence.”

Great Horse Racing Videos – Record-breaking Travers Stakes

The Travers Stakes had been contested 146 previous times at the oldest racetrack in America, Saratoga Race Course.  But a fairly unknown runner from the Bob Baffert barn would make this a memorable renewal of the Grade 1 Travers Stakes.

I’m proud to say that I was wise enough to select Arrogate on this day, the last time anyone would get close to double digit odds on the amazing racehorse.

Arrogate ran his final two furlongs in an unbelievable 23.84 and set a track record for 10 furlongs at Saratoga by hitting the teletimer in 1.59:36.   “The fastest Travers ever … and a new track record!” ~ bellowed track announcer Larry Columus.

Left in Arrogate’s wake were talented runners Gun Runner, Creator, Exaggerator, American Freedom, and Destin.

 

 

Longshots Lookin At Lee, Fayeq Seek Travers Upset

Saratoga paddock copyright Agameofskill.comSource: NYRA

L and N Racing’s Lookin At Lee had his final breeze for Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers at approximately 6:00 a.m. Monday, negotiating a steady half-mile in 50.99 seconds over the Oklahoma training track with exercise rider Angel Garcia aboard.

The move was good for 54th of 75 at the distance. The Steve Asmussen-trained Grade 1 Kentucky Derby runner-up recorded the same drill in 51.59 one week ago and exits a third in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby on August 5.

“The work went well,” Asmussen said. “I didn’t get a time and it was pretty foggy, but he traveled well and Angel thought he went well. He came out of it good and we are very pleased with him.” 

It was a big morning for the Asmussen stable, with stable star and three-time Grade 1 winner Gun Runner worked just prior to Lookin At Lee, shooting a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40, the fastest of 11. Regular pilot Florent Geroux was in the saddle and will have the return call in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2.

“Gun Runner worked super,” Asmussen said. “It was more of the same with him. He’s on schedule for the Woodward.”

The Asmussen barn has gone 9-4-2-0 in the last week of racing.

After sending out the last of his workers over the Oklahoma turf course and without a horse entered on Monday’s program, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin spent a few minutes back at the barn searching the Internet for the meaning of Fayeq, Shadwell Stable’s improving 3-year-old that will make his stakes debut in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers.

It is a question McLaughlin has faced numerous times before with Shadwell horses such as Hall of Famer Invasor and other Grade 1 winners such as Lahudood, Jazil and Tamarkuz and, most recently, with multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen.

Other than discovering Fayeq is an Arabic boys’ name, McLaughlin’s search was unsuccessful.

“It does come up with the real good ones. We hope that we need to find out more about it,” McLaughlin said. “We just say Fay-ek.”

Fayeq continued his Travers preparations galloping 1 3/8 miles over Saratoga’s main track Monday under exercise rider Rob Massey. McLaughlin said the half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra will gallop each morning into the race.

“He’s doing very well. He’s ready to go,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a tough race, we know, but he’s just real happy and he’s training well, so we’re happy about that.”

Fayeq has won his last two starts, each under jockey Luis Saez, who will ride the Malibu Moon colt back in the Travers. Both his June 11 maiden victory and 3 ½-length allowance score July 26 at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles came against older horses; Grade 3 winner West Coast is the only other of 12 projected Travers starters to have faced his elders, taking an optional claiming event in May at Santa Anita.

Unraced at 2, Fayeq debuted with a third-place effort behind Timeline and Giuseppe the Great in a seven-furlong maiden special weight March 4 at Gulfstream Park. Timeline went on to win a pair of Grade 3 races while Giuseppe the Great graduated in his next start and was second in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Grade 2 Jim Dandy and will make his Grade 1 debut in the Travers.

“He came in to us late. They took their time with him. We received him October 11 so that’s why he wasn’t anywhere early on,” McLaughlin said. “Then we had a gate issue with him, but he’s doing really well and he’s come on a lot. It’s a tough spot but we’re here and we’re going to try.

“His first race finished third and he was in the 13 hole. He’s run against stakes horses, just not in stakes races,” he added. “It’s a big step up but he’s doing very well and we like him. We’re happy Luis Saez is riding him because he’s already won on him twice.”

McLaughlin isn’t concerned with what post position Fayeq gets at Tuesday evening’s draw in downtown Saratoga Springs. He broke from post 7 and 4 in each of his two victories, where he stalked the pace before pouncing at the top of the stretch to win by a combined 6 ¼ lengths.

“Post position doesn’t really matter going a mile and a quarter. It’s a long run into the first turn,” he said. “The only probably bad post is if you’re 12 or 13 or 14 and you have speed and there’s other speed, and you get hung out. There shouldn’t be any bad post for us. In this group we might be back a ways, mid-pack.”

Alpha gave McLaughlin his lone Travers win in an historic dead heat with Golden Ticket in 2012. Saez will be riding in the Travers for the third time, winning with eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge in 2013.

“It was different when we won it with Alpha. He had a lot more experience going into it,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a big step up so we’ll see. It’s a good race. There’s a lot of nice horses in it.”

KY Derby Winner Looking to Rebound in 2017 Travers Stakes

walking horse through Saratoga crowdSource: NYRA

Trainer Todd Pletcher saw three of his potential starters in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers breeze early Friday morning, with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming going four furlongs in 49.60 seconds on the Oklahoma training track in company with Outplay and Belmont Stakes-winner Tapwrit also working a half-mile on the same track in 50.24 seconds.

Always Dreaming, ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, breezed for the third time on the training tack since finishing third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 29. Outplay, the winner of the Curlin July 28 at the Spa, was officially clocked in 49.99 seconds.

“We were just looking for a good, positive work,” Pletcher said. “They both ran Jim Dandy weekend and breezed well last week, so we just wanted a good indication that they are maintaining form and doing well. I thought they both finished up extremely well and galloped out strongly; all the things you were hoping to see.”

The set worked right before heavy rain fell, with Always Dreaming starting behind Outplay and closed strongly to catch his workmate at the wire.

“He started off about a length and a half behind. Johnny was able to bide his time and move up to him. I had him the last quarter in 23 and 2/5, finishing up strongly and galloping out well,” Pletcher said.

Always Dreaming finished 5 ¼ lengths behind Jim Dandy-winner Good Samaritan last out going 1 1/8 miles. The Travers, presented by NYRA Bets, is contested at 1 ¼ miles. Pletcher said the main track could play faster for the Mid-Summer Derby.

“I would expect an improved performance because he’s now had a mile and eighth race under his belt,” Pletcher said. “Right now, if the track continues to play the way it is currently, it’s definitely tighter than it was Jim Dandy weekend. I would say it’s playing at least a second to a second and a half faster at a mile and an eighth than it did at that time. In retrospect, [with] the freshening we gave Always Dreaming between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, we were expecting the more traditional, livelier Saratoga track.”

Always Dreaming is 4-1-2 in eight career starts and has raced just once since finishing eighth in the Preakness on May 20.

“I think we’re coming into the [Travers] with a fresh, fit horse who has given every indication that he’s in good form,” Pletcher said. “I think the time has agreed with him and we’ve gotten enough out of his training, hopefully ready to fire his best race.”

Outplay, owned by Repole Stable, would be making his graded stakes debut after posting a 5 ¾-length score in the Curlin, which followed a third-place finish in his first stakes start in the Easy Goer on June 10 at Belmont Park.

“I’ll talk to Mr. [Mike] Repole and, first of all, determine if we’re going to run Outplay here or in the Pennsylvania Derby,” Pletcher said. “I think Outplay has really progressed. The Curlin was a big win for him; the way he did it was great and the way he’s training since then has been even better.”

Tapwrit worked in company with Lucy N Ethel, marking his fifth work at Saratoga since winning the Belmont by two lengths. The Tapit colt also was able to finish his set before the rain came in.

“I thought he looked good,” Pletcher said. “The track was playing fair, it wasn’t super fast but it was in good shape. We got lucky that we missed most of the rain and this track can handle moisture very well.”

Pletcher has two career Travers wins to his credit, saddling Flower Ally in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011.

Salomon del Valle’s multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera wrapped up his major preparations for next weekend’s Travers with a five-furlong breeze at Gulfstream Park West for trainer Antonio Sano.

Gunnevera covered five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Edgard Zayas, the fastest of four at the distance. It was the first breeze for the 3-year-old Dialed In colt since making his successful comeback in the Tangelo, in which he geared down to win by five lengths with Zayas aboard on August 6.

“He was very relaxed, just an easy work,” said Sano. “He doesn’t need much, just maintenance. He’s ready. We only want to keep him happy.

“He’s really, really good and we’re very happy with him,” he added. “He looks the way he looked before he won the Fountain of Youth.”

In his only previous start at the Spa, Gunnevera won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old, eventually closing out his season with a win in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot.

At 3, the chestnut colt was an early contender on the Triple Crown trail, opening his sophomore campaign with a runner-up finish to Irish War Cry in the Grade 2 Holy Bull in February before posting a 5 ¾-length victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4. Gunnevera was third as the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby the following month before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness.

Gunnevera will van up from Florida on Friday evening and is expected to settle in at Saratoga on Sunday.

AGOS Horses to Watch – August 10, 2017

Saratoga Racecourse

7/29/17

Race #7 – Alw – 1 1/16 on the turf – Mom’s On Strike

#7 – Mom’s On Strike = Filly by First Dude and she came flying late last in the $200,000 Pebbles. They made a rider change from Rajiv Maragh to Luis Saez who is winning (16%) on the turf and making her first start in 9 months. She was dropping in class and saw every bit of the track this day getting caught 4 wide on the first turn and 5 wide on the final turn. She closed like a downbound train getting beat by a 1 3/4. She’ll get into gear and rebound greatly off this race.

Race #9 – G2 Bowling Green – 1 3/8 on the turf – Sadler’s Joy

#4 – Sadler’s Joy = Son of Kitten’s Joy was making his first start off the shelf in 49 days for Thom Albertrani. He was exiting the G1 Manhattan and looked to fit like a glove in this race. Javier Castellano was weaving in and out of traffic getting caught wide a few times. Once he shook free and started to roll he was inhaled by the top two down the lane. I’m tossing this one to “race-rust” and we’ll look for good things to come on the next outing.

Race #10 – G1 Jim Dandy – 1 1/8 – Pavel

#4 – Pavel = Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped in from California off an impressive 6 1/2f mdn win. This son of Creative Cause may be a good runner to follow as he had to show the connections he has the makings but he may need a little more time. From a maiden score to a G1 across the country may have been too much to ask. Keep your eyes peeled for him next time out as I think he’ll reward his backers coming soon.

Saratoga

7/30/17

Race #8 – A.O.C – 6f on the main – Duquesne Whistle

#3  Duquesne Whistle = Son of Posse from the Linda Rice barn had the services of hot rider Ricardo Santanna. He was making his third off the shelf (25%) and had a bullet work on 6/25 before his victory on 7/1/17 at Belmont. He looked like a good play at (12-1) and he lost his footing at the start and then had to be “snatched” up by the rider to keep off of another runner. Once he got moving he made a solid effort running 4th this day.

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AGOS Horses to Watch – August 7, 2017

Saratoga

7/22/17

Race #7 – AOC $62,500 – 5 1/2f on the turf – #10 – Vici

Vici = Irad Ortiz for Ben Colebrook as they brought a son of War Front to post. He made a flying move going 6f on the sod getting beat at the wire. They dropped him back to 5 1/2f on the weeds and he was 3/3 ITM going this distance. He came into the race with a bullet work at Keeneland and tipped off going four wide to get rolling. The four wide trip became 7 wide and was beaten by a head in a photo by his ultra talented brother Jose. This wasn’t the first Ortiz brother exacta, and it surely won’t be the last. But this guy will come guns blazing next out at the Spa.

Race #9 – The G3 Sanford – 6f on the main – #4 – Free Drop Billy

Free Drop Billy = Robby Albarado in the saddle for Dale Romans. This son of Union Rags was (15-1) on the morning line and was sent off (3-1). – He was an impressive winner at first asking at CD and had a blistering work over the deep Louisville track two works back in 1:00.03 1/32 for the day and distance. The public hammered him at the windows and so did Admiral Jimmy leaving the starting gate. Once he got rolling he went 4 wide chasing down the leader only to settle for the place spot. – Kentucky runners are doing well at Saratoga and you can’t keep Romans off your ticket if you want to cash it right after the race.

7/23/17

Race #7 – Claiming – 6f on the main – #6 – Nisha

Nisha = Irad Ortiz in the irons and was shooting for three-in-a-row. He stumbled badly at the start and recovered his action only to slam into Courtmewithcarats. After that little smash-up, he was pinched back and made a stout five wide move to be third. He’ll come back nicely and probably it will be on the Saratoga lawn.

Race #11 – Mdn Claiming – 1 mile on the turf – #11 – Prognostication

Prognostication = Jose Ortiz for Chad Brown and is a good stalker. Ortiz sensed average fractions and made a quick move and jumped into 2nd keeping an eye on the leader. He was a beaten chalk last out and was sent off the odds-on choice today as well. – He couldn’t have looked any better with the talented Ortiz aboard but got leg weary down the lane getting the show dough. Next out he’ll be a major player.

 

Belterra Park

7/23/17

Race #8 – Claiming – 6f on the main – #4 – Super Franchise

Super Franchise = Gabriel Lagunes for Webster Rosello (28%). He was dropping down from condition $10,000 to condition $7,500. – He hopped at the start and was off poorly. Lagunes had him in high gear and put together a late rally that really caught my eye as he finished a solid third.

7/29/17

Race #3 – Mdn Sp Wt – 1 1/16 on the turf – #6 – Grey Queen

#6 – Grey Queen = Shipping in from Indiana Grand for the Calumet Farm connections. Edgar Paucar was the rider and trainer Jose Fernandez is winning (20%) on the year. – This daughter of More Than Ready was blocked, shuffled back and still came flying very quickly to be a bridesmaid this day. – She gets her picture taken next out with a cleaner trip.

Race #4 – Starter Alw – 1 3/16 on the main – #4 – National Defense

#4 – National Defense = Solid gelding shooting for three-in-a-row. He was 6/8 ITM over the track and made a perfect stalking move under Euclyn Prentice Jr. – He made a ground saving move against the rail and tried to tip off for clear sailing. He was impeded and blocked and was forced to settle for 3rd until a DQ placed him 2nd. I spoke with the riders after he had a meeting with the stewards over this incident and the rider felt he had the best horse by far and lost much of his momentum after being forced to check up off heels. – He’ll be a tough guy next time to the races.

 

August 26 Travers Stakes Set for a Great Horse Race

walking horse through Saratoga crowdSource: NYRA

Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Girvin shipped in to Barn 77 on Saratoga’s Oklahoma backstretch Monday morning after his victory by a nose over McCraken on Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park. If all goes well in the next few weeks, the son of Tale of Ekati will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26, said trainer Joe Sharp.

“More than likely, we’ll run here,” Sharp said. “That is the way we are leaning, but we will also look at the Smarty Jones [at Parx, September 4] and the Pennsylvania Derby [September 23]. We always keep our options open.”

“He gives it his all every time, and he did that yesterday,” he added. “He never wins by a lot. He likes to engage other horses, he likes to be in a dogfight. It makes it fun to be around him. He is a very honest horse, he tries very, very hard. He continues to go above and beyond our expectations.”

The Louisiana Derby winner finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby before finishing as the runner-up to Irap in the Ohio Derby. The Travers would be Girvin’s eighth career start.

A Haskell rematch could be in the works in the Travers as Ian Wilkes, trainer of runner-up McCraken, who also returned to the Spa on Monday, has expressed his team’s intentions to point to the Mid-Summer Derby as well.

“Yeah, I am planning on it, the Travers,” Wilkes said. “As long as he trains well, because I’m not just going to run him just to run him. A final decision will be made in a few days after we get him back to the track.”

The son of Ghostzapper finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, but returned to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his previous start before the Haskell.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Saratoga Opening Day Sees Handle Increase – 2017

Horse Racing Fans at the Saratoga Clubhouse Rail

Fans at the Saratoga Clubhouse Rail

Opening day at Saratoga Race Course saw all-sources handle of $20,332,051, a 14.47% increase over last year’s opening day total.

Source: Saratoga Opening Day Sees Handle Increase