Friday, August 26, 2011

In Search of the Travers Stakes Winner: Provincial preference or public prognostication?

Experience over the Saratoga main track usually produces the winner of the “Midsummer Derby,” but the tote board will provide an edge in the Travers Stakes.

The winner of the G.I Travers Stakes over the last 20 years came out of one of four races. The local prep, the G.II Jim Dandy Stakes, nearly tripled the next-closest races with 11 winners (55%). The Travers winner completed the Saratoga sweep six times. Surprisingly, the G.II Swaps Stakes across the country at Hollywood Park produced four Travers Stakes winners, tying with the more prestigious G.I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, while the Belmont Stakes propelled only BIRDSTONE to the Travers winner’s circle. Below is a list of the winners over the last two decades and their finish position in the last race:

2010 AFLEET EXPRESS ($16.00) – 3rd Jim Dandy
2009 SUMMER BIRD ($7.80) – 2nd Haskell Invitational
2008 COLONEL JOHN ($10.40) – 3rd Swaps Stakes
2007 STREET SENSE ($2.70*) – 1st Jim Dandy
2006 BERNARDINI ($2.70*) – 1st Jim Dandy
2005 FLOWER ALLEY ($8.00) – 1st Jim Dandy
2004 BIRDSTONE ($11.60) – 1st Belmont Stakes
2003 TEN MOST WANTED ($7.50) – 2nd Swaps Stakes
2002 MEDAGLIA D’ORO ($3.50*) – 1st Jim Dandy
2001 POINT GIVEN ($3.30*) – 1st Haskell Invitational
2000 UNSHADED ($8.90) – 3rd Jim Dandy
1999 LEMON DROP KID ($9.30) – 2nd Jim Dandy
1998 CORONADO’S QUEST ($4.90) – 1st Jim Dandy
1997 DEPUTY COMMANDER ($7.50) – 2nd Swaps Stakes
1996 WILL’S WAY ($16.60) – 2nd Jim Dandy
1995 THUNDER GULCH ($3.50*) – 1st Swaps Stakes
1994 HOLY BULL ($3.60*) – 1st Haskell Invitational
1993 SEA HERO ($15.40) – 4th Jim Dandy
1992 THUNDER RUMBLE ($17.20) – 1st Jim Dandy
1991 CORPORATE REPORT ($16.60) – 2nd Haskell Invitational

The average winning non-favorite payoff was $11.20 while the median payoff was COLONEL JOHN at $10.40. There were 14 times over the last two decades that betting against the public choice was the winning decision. The highest priced winner was THUNDER RUMBLE at $17.20 in 1992 while ’98 hero CORONADO’S QUEST was the lowest-priced return at $4.90.

Blowout longshots, above 8-1, should only be viewed as contenders for the minor positions in vertical exotic wagers. Also, competitive experience in the top 3y.o. races is of paramount importance to Travers Stakes success, a compelling condition for those players searching for a price on top. The non-favorite winners didn’t necessarily win in their prior effort. In reality, 10 of the 14 “price” victors were 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in graded stakes and their average winning payoff generously rewarded their backers at $11.60. By contrast, the last-out winners doubling up in the Travers returned a slightly reduced average of $10.40.

The winning favorites were prohibitive, returning a paltry $3.20 or sent off at average odds of 3-5. The most notable statistic suggesting the Travers favorite was too strong to play against was off-odds at less than even-money. Those talented 3y.o.’s won 100% of the time, six-for-six! All of the odds-on choices also won their last starts reminding the public their “A” game should be expected. I’ve compiled the list of 14 beaten favorites followed by their off-odds and Travers Stakes finish position in ():

2010 TRAPPE SHOT 3.90-1 (9th)
2009 QUALITY ROAD 1.50-1 (3rd)
2008 PYRO 3.75-1 (3rd)
2005 ROMAN RULER 2.15-1 (3rd)
2004 LION HEART 2.60-1 (7th, last)
2003 PEACE RULES 2.30-1 (2ND)
2000 DIXIE UNION 2.55-1 (4th)
1999 MENIFEE 1.60-1 (3rd)
1998 VICTORY GALLOP 1.20-1 (2nd)
1997 AWESOME AGAIN 1.45-1 (3rd)
1996 SKIP AWAY 1.45-1 (3rd)
1993 KISSIN KRIS 2.60-1 (2nd)
1992 ALYDEED 1.70-1 (8th)
1991 STRIKE THE GOLD 1.70-1 (4th)

Of the beaten favorites, SKIP AWAY (steadied on rail backstretch) and VICTORY GALLOP probably don’t deserve to be on this side of the discussion considering their Travers misfortunes, notable traffic trouble and a wide trip/nose defeat, respectively. However, it’s entirely possible that enough “smart money” was bet against those very good 3y.o.’s because neither SKIP AWAY nor VICTORY GALLOP were as “unbeatable” as HOLY BULL, THUNDER GULCH, POINT GIVEN, MEDAGLIA D’ORO, BERNARDINI and STREET SENSE were due to race circumstances.

I think most people will agree that the post-time favorite in the 2011 Travers Stakes will be a tepid choice. The morning line is suggestive of the public’s thinking, with STAY THIRSTY tabbed as the 5-2 favorite. Without a clear division leader at this relatively late point in the year, and no repeat G.I winners, some experts are suggesting the result will catapult the winner to the top of the list. Is there a champion in this field? Or, will there be yet another novel G.I winner to further muddle the 3y.o. picture?

To summarize:
1. The G.II Jim Dandy has produced 11 of the last 20 Travers Stakes winners (55%).
2. A Jim Dandy winner returned to capture the Travers on six occasions.
3. The G.I Haskell Invitational and G.II Swaps Stakes tied for 2nd in Travers Stakes successes: 4 (20%).
4. The non-favorite won 70% of the time at an average $11.20 mutual.
5. No Travers winner the last two decades started at 8-1 or more.
6. Prohibitive favorites (3-5 or less) were a perfect six-for-six the last 20 years.

Good luck dissecting the Travers and the plentiful graded stakes action from coast to coast this weekend!


Marty said...

Setting up to be a great Race. Hope the rain holds off. Could be very messy there. I think my handicapping angle will be wet surface stats.

EquiSpace said...


Interesting post and excellent research data. I'm interested to see where you land. Over time, the Belmont winner has done well....just not in the past 20 years! Good luck.


Amateurcapper said...


Thanks for reading and checking in.

I looked at the weather last night, it looked like the heavy rain would hold off until Sunday...since you're there, is your feeling different?

Come back again...I'll check out your space as well!

Amateurcapper said...


Thanks as always for taking the time to read and comment.

The Belmont winner, or even horses w/ strong Belmont placings, have done well in the Travers...even better when there's been a July prep such as with HANSEL, LEMON DROP KID, TEN MOST WANTED, POINT GIVEN, MEDAGLIA D'ORO, BLUEGRASS CAT (2nd), and SUMMER BIRD.

It's obvious that stamina will be of paramount importance on the Saratoga main track if the meet's past dirt performances are any indication. The wet track potential throws a wrench into the analysis.

If it comes up sloppy/muddy, wouldn't RULER ON ICE look very appealing?

Good luck to you as well...enjoy all the graded stakes action and any other you and the Space team indulge in!

Frank said...

Good stuff, Rob. Gives me a whole new angle to misinterpret as I analyze the race!

Amateurcapper said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting...I'm glad I could be of service ;-)!

BTW, I'm still undecided about the Travers. One thing's certain, if STAY THIRSTY goes favored I'm all-in on a COIL/SHACLEFORD repeat...that is, unless the track is that case I'm all about RULER ON ICE.

You know, maybe I'll just key a price horse in the 2nd and 3rd slots...I loved MOONSHINE MULLIN's 2nd in the Jim Dandy. Emma-Jayne was loaded the whole way around but was caught behind horses until the head of the lane. I counted two moves they tried to make to get out, each time getting shut off. When STAY THIRSTY got into gear on the outside, MM and E-J had to wait for room...that was the difference between a stretch duel and distant 2nd.

He's a big son of ALBERT THE GREAT and going 1 1/4 miles he should be able to get into a comfortable stride and pick off the less fit/distance-challenged the final 1/8. He's my FIRST DUDE of this crop.

Enjoy the rest of the graded action!