Your intrepid BTB reporter could not make it to real-life Saratoga this summer, so he will have to settle for a virtual trip, instead.
Welcome racing fans to Simulated Saratoga. It’s just like the real thing, except the horses are pixelated. Here we are standing in one of our favorite Saratoga spots, along the rail in the clubhouse where the horses walk onto the track. From here, we can get a nice, close look at the 14 runners in this year’s $3 million, Grade 1 Travelers Stakes.
Will we be under an umbrella? At this point, on Tuesday morning, we do not know. The Simulated Weatherman has thrown a real wrench into predictions for this year’s running of the Simulated Mid-Summer Derby. It’s 50-50. Half a chance of an off track for the race that is ranked in real-life 3yo racing behind only the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, and ahead of the Preakness.
With the weather up in the air, let’s wait until after entries are drawn to do our handicapping.
Let us proceed instead to a historical inspection of the Travelers. This year’s running may make Sim history in that we may be witnessing a new chapter in wear and tear. For the past decade or so, horses have been paying a huge price for winning the Bluegrass Derby. During coverage for the 2018 Bluegrass Derby, this writer noted the following:
“First and foremost, do you really want to win this thing? Even back in the days of very little wear and tear, Sim horses paid a price for contesting the Triple Crown. Only a handful of Bluegrass Derby champions have continued to be viable race horses. In the past eight years, the effect has become confoundingly pronounced. I mean, our Bluegrass Derby winners are falling all the way apart these days without exception. The good news is, you won the Bluegrass Derby. The bad news is, you won the Bluegrass Derby. These days, your champion is almost a sure thing to never run a lick again. I mean, they are not even winning allowance races.”
However, Mike noted that there would be a tweak to wear and tear, and are we witnessing evidence of that with GIANT’S KASH? Roxyken’s Bluegrass Derby winner came back last out to win the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell.
Let’s take a look at the most recent runnings of the Travelers and see if we can spot any trends.
2018: The change in the wear and tear may have started to show in last year’s Traveler’s winner. Stockswami’s GOLD WAR FRONT ($23.20) won last year’s Mid-Summer Derby after running second in the Bluegrass Derby. What’s more, Gold War Front remains a major player in the dirt route division, having won the Grade 1 Sand Castle Classic as a 4yo and running third last out in the Grade 1 Hit Me Handicap. Is the age of the iron horse returning to the Sim? Gold War Front has run in eight straight Grade 1 races and still has gas in the tank, holding his spot at No. 2 in a coveted division. Bluegrass Derby winner GODBLESS THIS MESS ran fourth in last year’s Travelers. Punter’s second-straight Derby champion went off form after the Travelers, but has run three good races lately on the turf, including a fast 116 speed figure last out while second in a listed. It was one of the greatest accomplishments ever by a Sim trainer to win two Derbies in a row, but bringing a down-and-out champion back to form is also impressive.
2017: In a head-to-head battle that recalled the greatest Travers in history, the 1962 race in which Jaipur outdueled Ridan, LSUMark’s BLAME MISCHIEF ($24.00) proved best in an all-out fight for the lead against Bluegrass Derby champion CARL’S SHAMELESS. The epic battle took an immediate and lasting toll on both combatants. Carl’s Shameless never hit the board in another stakes race, although his trainer, Punter, has patiently nursed him back to fast racing in allowance company. Punter won two Derbies in a row, so he knows all too well the price to be paid for winning it. Blame Mischief fell apart after winning the Travelers. Before winning it, he had won the Grade 1 Clerk of Scales Stakes.
2016: Pointblank’s MISSION INTHE RAIN ($15) sprouted wings on the backstretch and flew home to win, overcoming an impossible deficit of almost 18 lengths at the second call. In winning, Mission Inthe Rain completed the unusual double of winning both the New Yorker and the Travelers.
Pointblank’s bay son of Malibu Moon was one of those downtown closers for which the Sim is famous. He had one more big bullet left to fire after his Travelers victory. In the 2016 Breeders Bowl Classic, Mission Inthe Rain made a huge move only to be denied at the wire by MTK’s VOLUMINOUS. The finish was so close, and Mission Inthe Rain was closing so rapidly, that it was hard to tell who hit the wire first. Somehow, Voluminous had held on, by only about a third of a speed figure point. Bluegrass Derby winner PAPA’S GHOST TED was up the track in the 2016 Travelers.
2015: Kingranch’s BAYOU BULLET ($20.60) won an epic battle over Derby champion SWINGING BIG SHAFT, both horses giving their all in a very fast edition of the Travelers. The winner earned a 119 speed figure, and the runner-up a 118. Bayou Bullet is the only Travelers winner in the last four years that did not win a Grade 1 before winning the Travelers. He had won a Grade 2 before the Mid-Summer Derby, but not a Grade 1.
2014: Given’s RHAEGAR’S FURY ($27.80) was just getting started on a stellar career when he won his first Grade 1 race in the 2014 Travelers. He had won a Grade 2 before the Mid-Summer Derby, but not a Grade 1. From Simulated Saratoga, Rhaegar’s Fury went on to hit the board six more times in Grade 1 competition, competing successfully on the game’s highest stage in three straight seasons. If you ever want a lesson in how to keep a good horse going strong, take a look at the good older horses in Given’s barn. The 2014 Bluegrass Derby champion, MOUNTNOIR, struggled home last of 14.
2013: Zambaygo’s LEPE ($18.60) crushed the field in the Travelers six years ago, winning by three and a half lengths. Then, he went on to win the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup by four and a half lengths! Lepe was dominant in late summer and early fall of 2013. Before winning the Travelers, he had won a Grade 2 and just missed winning the Grade 1 Clerk of Scales. Bluegrass Derby winner GIMLET NEAT was 10th.
Prior to 2013, the Travelers was run at the now-defunct Upper New York track.
Spot any trends in the last six versions of the Travelers? I see two. First, no Bluegrass Derby winner has won the Travelers in the last six years. Only two of six have hit the board. Second, every winner of the Travelers in the past six years had at least won a Grade 2 before the race. Three of the six already had won a Grade 1 race before they won the Travelers.
With the knowledge that no Bluegrass Derby winner has won the Travelers in the past six years, I feel compelled to find the answer to the question: Has any Bluegrass Derby champion ever won the Travelers?
In 2012, Bluegrass Derby champion RAS EL HANOUT was 10th in the Travelers. In 2011, INDY STORM CAT skipped the Travelers. In 2010, LUCKY’S HOWIE skipped. In 2009, HOT AND SPICY ran sixth. In 2008, KISSIN STREETCRY ran second. In 2007, ATAUN ran eighth. In 2006, VIRTUOSO ran third. In 2005, ANTICOSTI skipped. In 2004, GRANHEE won with a gigantic speed figure of 121. In 2003, I SEEK U, the Sim’s only Triple Crown champion, became the Simulated version of Citation, the only real-life Triple Crown winner to complete the superfecta, when he won the Travelers. In 2002, TOWER STORM ran second. In 2001, BUDA WITH THE SLEW skipped. In 2000, DOWN THE JAZZ ran seventh. In 1999, PHARRUN PROSPECT ran 10th.
Our research reveals that the answer is two. Only two Bluegrass Derby champions have won the Travelers: I Seek U and Granhee. No Bluegrass Derby champ has won the Travelers in 15 years.
Now, let’s get to our handicapping. When 6 p.m. struck on Wednesday, we learned that the 50-50 off-track proposition had come up wet. The track for the 2019 Grade 1 Travelers will be a good surface. Wet-track ability has entered our handicapping calculations.
Bluegrass Derby runner-up INTO BEING NICE retains the top spot in the 3yo dirt route division despite the latest exploits of GIANT’S KASH. The two are very close in the standings. Into Being nice is only 20 points ahead of Giant’s Kash. So, the top spot in the 3yo division obviously is up for grabs on Saturday, as it very often is in the Travelers. Who will win? Into Being Nice, a bay son of Into Mischief out of the Grade 2-winning Street Cry mare U R NOT NICE, may be yet another piece of evidence of a possible new age of the iron horse. Most Breeders Bowl Juvenile champions have struggled mightily in their 3yo seasons. Not this one, says trainer 4Nighthawk, a veteran player representing All-Stars Racing. Into Being Nice won the Juvenile last year, and still has plenty of spring in his step as a 3yo, as evidenced by the fact that he’s still No. 1 in the division. The points he earned as a 2yo are helping him retain his lofty ranking, but the colt has continued to run very well after an EOY-winning 2yo season. Into Being Nice has a chance to win EOY awards in both his 2yo and 3yo season, a remarkable possibility. After breaking dead last of 20 in the Bluegrass Derby, jockey D. Givins was able to swing over to the rail from post 15, saving all the ground while falling behind by more than 15 lengths. When the rail opened turning for home, Into Being Nice shot through and surged in the lane to get second, without threatening Giant’s Kash, who was long gone. After another late run to be third in the New Yorker, 4Nighthawk has prepped his big colt for the Travelers with a third-place run last month in a Grade 3 in Sweden going the New Yorker distance of 12 furlongs. Now, the dead-end closer cuts back two furlongs and ships to Simulated Saratoga for the Travelers. He loses his regular North American rider, D. Givins, who has opted instead to ride THE GLAIVE. New rider R. Whisper will be looking to make a huge first impression in the Travelers, when Into Being Nice will step onto a track labeled good, the same kind of track he loved when he won the Breeders Bowl Juvenile. At the real-life Saratoga, an off track often proves very tiring, setting up races for the stamina horses. Might the same thing happen in the Sim on Saturday? Look for Into Being Nice to back straight out of the gate and make one run. He will retreat from post No. 5 and has not received much respect from the morning-line oddsmaker in New York. He goes to post as the co-fourth choice with two other runners at 9-1.
Comedy Central lives! Former members of the now-defunct residency like me surely got a huge kick on the first Saturday in May when our former leader, Roxyken, won the Bluegrass Derby with GIANT’S KASH. Yes, astonishing but true. Roxyken, aka Kashbarn, the trainer of STUCK ON CARDS, arguably the worst horse in Sim history, is also the trainer of a Bluegrass Derby champion. What’s more, this is a new kind of Bluegrass Derby champion: One that does not drop dead on the first Sunday in May. No, Giant’s Kash, a brown son of Giant’s Causeway out of Ken’s Grade 1-winning War Front mare KASH O’WAR, showed in winning the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell last out that he had survived his Derby triumph. Can he do that one better and become only the third Bluegrass Derby champion in the history of the Sim to win the Travelers? The weatherman did not help. It was a 50-50 coin flip, and Roxy called heads. It came up tails, and a good track instead of a fast one. Giant’s Kash has run all of his good races on fast tracks, and the only time this year that he did not fire was in the Preakness, when the track came up sloppy. Giant’s Kash may react differently to a track labeled “good” as opposed to a sloppy track. Also, our BTB colleague Spinround is sitting here in the Simulated Saratoga Press Box and points out that the track condition may have been entirely unresponsible for Giant Kash getting beat in the Middle Jewel. She also points out that Giant’s Kash has a pedigree to appreciate the off going. We will not know until they run on Saturday whether the rain was a bad break for the Bluegrass Derby champ. The morning-line oddsmaker in New York is not worried, and has made Giant’s Kash a clear favorite at 9-2. The next shortest price in the race is 8-1. As far as Simulated odds go, this is a dominant position for Giant’s Kash. Only rarely do we see such a significant favorite in Grade 1 races. That much is another honor for Giant’s Kash, as is his status as the only horse in the field with that “5M” badge, signifying an earner of $5 million. Giant’s Kash has won eight of 10 career starts, piling up more than $6 million in career earnings. There’s another big pot on the line Saturday, a cool $3 million. The winner’s share would push Giant’s Kash career earnings over $7.5 million. Also, the 128 stakes points to the winner would push him to a dominant position in the division. The Travelers is a huge race for a huge horse, and Roxy’s fans at Comedy Central are hoping the good track does not bog him down. We look no further than the entries page to see his current superiority. His earnings are by far the most, and he’s the only horse in the field with that fire-engine red shade in the Capper Bar. Good luck Ken with a giant horse, indeed. There are a lot of Sim trainers rooting for Roxy and Giant’s Kash on Saturday. With victory, he very probably locks down the EOY award, having already won the Derby.
There is one more horse in the Travelers who can come out as No. 1 in the division if things go just his way. JMadm will represent the historic Del Penn National with CRY ME SOME GOLD, who currently sits at No. 4 in the 3yo dirt route division. This scratch-bred chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway (Street Cry X Strike the Gold) has 244 stakes points. If he were to win, the 128 points would bump his total to 372, or 10 more than the current total for the division leader, Into Being Nice. Giant’s Kash is second with 342. The third-place colt, WHAT EVER YA LIKE, was a flat seventh in the Eddie Haskell, and his trainer, the capable Tenpoint, has decided to pass on the Travelers. So, if Cry Me Some Gold wins on Saturday, and both Into Being Nice and Giant’s Kash miss the board, Jmadm’s colt would rise to No. 1 in the division. The only problem with that plan? Cry Me Some Gold is the one who looks most likely to miss the board. This colt has come up missing in both the Bluegrass Derby and the New Yorker. He was seventh in the Derby, and a dismal 10th in the New Yorker, 20 lengths up the track with a dismal speed figure of 88. No wonder the morning-line oddsmaker dismisses him as a 13-1 longshot. The Florida Derby champion is going to have to make a dramatic reversal of form if he is to contend in the 10-furlong Travelers. It’s the distance of the race which may pose a problem. Cry Me Some Gold was on a roll as long as he was racing at no more than nine furlongs. He was a hard-charging second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Ute, then won the Florida Derby, both races going a mile and an eighth. Then, he shipped to Simulated Louisville, bearing the look of a solid contender. It was not to be, and it got worse in the New Yorker. In two races, JMadm went from having a 3yo colt in razor sharp form to a trouble horse. He’s going to give him another shot at a huge Grade 1 going a mile and a quarter. If he fizzles again, we may see this horse rebound when he returns to more favorable distance. There is huge talent in the tank here, but the distance may not be what he wants on Saturday.
THE GLAIVE is currently ranked No. 6 in the division with 228 points and can get very near the top if things break his way on Saturday. If he wins, and both Into Being Nice and Giant’s Kash miss the board, he can vault to No. 2 in the division with 356 points. Can he do it? Theoc will represent the East-West Connection with this light gray son of Arrogate, out of a graded-placed Bernardini mare, MOSASAURUS. And yes, he may very well be able to do it. This deep closer was nipped at the wire last out by the narrowest of margins in the Grade 1 Clerk of Scales Stakes. He will renew his rivalry with the horse that beat him by only 0.03 lengths, VOYAGE OF CHARON. Those two raced in company throughout the Clerk of Scales, first near the back of the field, then together as two missiles closing fast in the lane. The Glaive held a narrow advantage as they flew together, and it’s hard to believe a colt who was flying so fast for the wire could have been passed. But somehow, in the last jump, he lost a photo finish. He will get a chance to avenge that defeat on Saturday, as both colts have traveled from Ontario to Saratoga. We do not know if they rode in the same van. They may not have preferred to do so, but they will be keeping a close eye on each other Saturday, and they load next to each other in gates No. 7 and 8. There are many more major players on the stage for the Mid-Summer Derby, but it will be very interesting on Saturday to keep an eye on the drama between The Glaive and Voyage of Charon. Will they race in company together again in the early stages? Will they both fire at the exact same time like they did in the Clerk of Scales? The Glaive is in magnificent form as a 3yo, despite his disappointing sixth-place run in the Bluegrass Derby. Prior to that, he had won three in a row, and he rebounded perfectly off the Derby with that huge run last out in the Clerk of Scales. The Glaive ran second in his only career off-track try, and the 10 furlongs should be well within his range with three quality runs at 9.5 furlongs. He will break from post No. 8 at 9-1.
Visitors to the Testbarn shedrow earlier this week were not surprised to see the trainer conducting one rain dance after another outside the stall of SCHUMERSHUTDOWN TB, your 2019 Middle Jewel champion. What a coup that victory was for Testbarn! If you take a look at this colt’s racing record prior to his victory in Simulated Baltimore, you quickly realize that he must have snuck into the starting gate at the very bottom of the qualifying order. So, that was huge break No. 1, just making the race. The horse had stakes points from a third-place run in the Grade 1 All Saints Derby Lock Prep, and another show in a Grade 2. He did not have a lot of points or standing in the division, but the entries broke his way, and he made the race. Then, the skies opened up. The track in Simulated Baltimore on May 18 was sloppy. The old-timers used to say, bet the gray horse in the mud. That was never more true than in this year’s running of the Middle Jewel. There was a gray horse on the lead in the stretch, getting caught by a pair of gray closers. It was a long way back to Giant’s Kash in fourth. Schumershutdown TB caught K’s GOLDEN BOY and shocked the Middle Jewel at 11-1. After a failed run in the New Yorker, Schumershutdown TB rebounded respectably last out when he kept close company to the two closers who ran first and second in the Grade 1 Clerk of Scales. Voyage of Charon and The Glaive were 1-2 in the race, but Schumershutdown TB does not have a huge amount of ground to make up on those two. He finished fourth, beaten only two lengths. He’s another one of the collection of deep closers at the top of the qualifying order for this year’s running of the Travelers. A handicapper’s instinct in this case should be to find a potent challenger on the front end. However, we will soon discover that there are two speedball types in this year’s Travelers who could serve as the perfect setup and foils for the late runners. Schumershutdown TB will break from post No. 2 and is the co-second choice at 8-1.
Speaking of quality closers, here we are with our ESR mate Cadet and his very lightly raced VOYAGE OF CHARON. Our friend Robby sure was excited, as we could tell from the ALL CAPS entrance, the day Voyage of Charon won the Grade 1 Clerk of Scales Stakes. “A MONSTER!,” he cried, and I may be paraphrasing, but he was fired up. He had a horse that could win the Travelers! He linked Voyage of Charon, and collectively, the chat room went “Wow.” Cadet’s bay son of Pioneerof the Nile, out of the Grade 1-winning Medaglia D’Oro mare GRIM BATOL, came out the winner in a race for the ages last out, in the aforementioned Grade 1 Clerk of Scales. That was as mad a dash for the wire as I’ve seen in a Sim race, and am very much looking forward to the rematch with The Glaive. The mare, Grim Batol, got a stakes winner in her second foal, named GENERAL UMBRISS, by Tiznow. However, she really hit the jackpot with Voyage of Charon, who has risen into serious contention in the Grade 1 Travelers in only his sixth career start. With so many talented deep closers in the field, and two rabbits to set them up, it very well could be another mad dash to the wire in the Travelers, but with more than two contestants this time. There is no reason to think that either The Glaive or Voyage of Charon will fail to fire again. If so, we are in for a racing treat. We know from his enthusiastic visits to chat that Robby loves this horse. Will he handle the off track? That remains to be seen. Voyage of Charon has never had a voyage over anything but a fast track. The distance should be handy, as he’s raced great at 9.5 furlongs. Voyage of Charon is a hot, radidly improving colt who goes to post No. 7 at 11-1.
Can a former claimer really be a serious contender to win the Grade 1 Travelers? Oakridge and the Universal Racing Club say so. They are excited about the chances of EMPIRE STRIKES NOW, a scratch-bred bay son of Empire Maker (Tiznow X Smart Strike). This horse stands out as unusual in the Travelers field from simple inspection of the entries page. First, he’s the only former claimer in the race. Oakridge picked him up for $60,000 in his fifth start for his original (and now sad) owner. Second, he’s the only horse in the Travelers whose best ranking comes in a division other than the dirt route division. Empire Strikes Now, runner-up in the 12-furlong New Yorker, is No. 3 in the dirt long division. If all you knew about this horse was that he’s a claimer running in the wrong division, you may not give him consideration. However, a quick glance at his past performances and you know this is a horse worthy of respect. He established his Grade 1 class with that impressive run while second in the New Yorker. In that race, Empire Strikes Now broke forwardly in company with two others, took over from those two and opened a big lead turning for home. The winner, SERIOUS RUNNING, went by on the outside and the wire saved the place money for Empire Strikes Now, who held off the deep closing Into Being Nice. There we have another handicapping feather in this horse’s cap: He’s defeated the top qualifier. Another piece in his puzzle is the pace, which could work out in his favor. Veteran jockey F. Allen is going to have to play his cards just right to win this hand. He would have an easier play without the presence of speedballs SEATTLE ON ICE and BLIZZACK. What Allen will likely have to do is find a way to sit behind those two in the early going, get by without using much horse, and leave something in the tank to withstand the attack of the deep closers that is bound to come. Pace handicappers may give serious consideration to Empire Strikes Now, who appears to catch a garden trip from post No. 4 at 11-1.
No matter the distance, SEATTLE STORM GATE still has some proving to do at the Grade 1 class rung. Stockswami’s scratch-bred light gray son of Arrogate (Storm Cat X Seattle Slew) has competed successfully at the Grade 2 level, but in three times, has come up wanting at this Grade 1 class. Can he do something different on Saturday? This will be his first try at Grade 1 going the distance. Seattle Storm Gate has missed the board in tries at 8.5 furlongs, nine and 12. He was badly beaten in the New Yorker last out. That was more than two months ago, so he’s a fresh horse for the Travelers. This is another one of our dead-end closers in this race. Normally, a trainer of a deep closer like this would be happy to see two speedballs entered against him, but this horse is going to have a lot of classy company at the back salivating over the same opportunity. Not all of them are going to get a clear run. When you are picking out which closer you like best, you probably are going to side with one that has the chops at the class and distance. Several of Seattle Storm Gate’s rivals in here have those credentials. He rates the look of an outsider, with that poor race last out in the New Yorker, a wide post and a long price. He will break from post No. 13 at 16-1. If you were looking for a reason that this horse might fire, you might do so for simple respect for his trainer. Stockswami has become a major Sim player over the past decade. His horses have won major races and major awards. He has proven he knows what he is doing with a good horse. After all, this is the trainer of GOLD WAR FRONT, winner of last year’s Travelers and current major contender in the handicap division.
SEATTLE ON ICE is the first of two front-end types which we can expect to set the early pace in the 10-furlong Travelers. This speedy bay son of Keen Ice is a scratch-bred with Seattle Slew and Dixieland Band behind. Seattle On Ice set the pace in this year’s running of the Bluegrass Derby. He entered the starting gate in Simulated Louisville at 24-1, and he came out of there running! Past the stands for the first time, jockey K. Ledwith tried to slow it down with Seattle On Ice, nursing him as best he could on a short lead. He got to the head of the lane in front, but that’s as far as he could go. Here they all came, and Seattle On Ice flattened to make it home in 11th, passed by 10 rivals in the stretch. Since then, Seattle On Ice has failed to hit the board despite setting the early pace in both the Grade 2 Flat Land Derby and the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell. It will be a familiar, comforting sight for Kashbarn’s Bluegrass Derby champion to see Seattle On Ice in the post parade with him. Seattle On Ice has been the pacesetter in two gigantic wins for Giant’s Kash, in the Derby and Eddie Haskell. Can he set him up for a third Grade 1 win? That remains to be seen. Further complicating the task for Seattle On Ice is the presence of another need-the-lead type on his outside in Blizzack. The most likely scenario is that these two will be there early, and absent late. However, I will say that of the two speedballs, I prefer this one. It may be possible that one of the two fails to fire, and leaves the front to the other one. Even if everything broke his way, it’s hard to imagine Seattle On Ice being able to carry his speed on this day. He’ll break from post No. 6 at 9-1, and I am going to go ahead and call that an underlay. Now watch him go! Baggio represents Del Penn National with this speedy contestant.
STORM CRACKLIN, like Cadet’s Voyage of Charon, automatically draws this handicapper’s attention by being so lightly raced. Canyongate will represent the Minnesota Testbarn Residency with this scratch-bred 3yo bay son of Distorted Humor (Storm Cat X AP Indy), who makes only his seventh start in the Mid-Summer Derby. This is a magnificent scratch breeding that has resulted in a brilliant 3yo colt. Rising up the class ladder and distance rungs this year, Storm Cracklin flashed his brilliance in both his listed debut and his graded debut. In May, Storm Cracklin romped in his listed debut, galloping home two and a quarter in front. However, that was only a field of six, and veteran railbirds in New York were doubting his chances next out in the Grade 2 The Liar. This time, he would face a full field of 14, and a far better field. “We got this,” said jockey M. Jolly, who allowed Storm Cracklin to drift back more than 13 lengths behind at the second call before calling for run from Storm Cracklin. The horse took off, and despite still trailing by nine at the head of the stretch, displayed that lightning closing move to win going away by two lengths. Can he show that same kind of lightning kick in the Travelers? His disappointing fifth-place run last out in the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell casts doubt. Every Sim trainer would want to own this colt, but not everyone is going to pick him in the Travelers. This horse has a lot to prove both in terms of class and distance. If he could not handle the nine furlongs of the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell, can we expect him to handle the 10 furlongs of the Grade 1 Travelers? Perhaps not. However, this is a real stick of dynamite in the hands of Canyongate and it will be interesting to see what happens going forward with this highly talented 3yo. Storm Cracklin will break from post No. 1 and is only 8-1. Normally, the rule of thumb in BTB coverage is to beware a horse that goes off at short odds despite qualifying far down the qualifying order. Who knows? Maybe the distance of that last race had nothing to do with the defeat.
EXCELSIS ENERGY might not look so hot coming in off that dismal 10th-place run last out in the aforementioned Grade 1 Clerk of Scales, but not so fast. Don’t you see who is training this light gray son of Tapit, out of the stakes-winning Smart Strike mare, EXCELSIS DEO? It is Mr. Blazing Saddles himself, the very keen MTK. Veteran BTB reporters like this one have learned to be wary of any MTK runner when they are running for the biggest pots the Sim has on offer. I have previewed huge races, like the Breeders Bowl Classic, when MTK scored with a horse that did not have the sharpest form coming into the race. This is a trainer that can bring horses back quickly from sub-par efforts. Can he do it again with Excelsis Energy? This colt was a disinterested spectator last out in the Clerk of Scales, when Voyage of Charon and The Graive put on that mad dash to the wire. Another Travelers contestant, Schumershutdown TB, at least kept close attendance, finishing within two and a half lengths while fourth. Excelsis Energy settled for a far more distant view, struggling home in 10th, more than nine lengths behind. So, that’s three rivals and a lot of lengths he has to somehow turn the tables on in the Travelers. It seems a tall task, but like we say, watch out for MTK. Excelsis Energy breaks from post No. 10 and is 13-1.
The second of two likely pacesetters is BLIZZACK, a late entrant for veteran trainer Pointblank, representing Empire State Racing. The way it looks, ESR members had better get their cheering done early for this brown son of Cairo Prince, out of the allowance-winning Candy Ride mare, CANDY STRIPE NURSE. He has been flashing and fading at shorter distances against lesser competition. The 10 furlongs of the Travelers appear to be an impossibility. He was 10th and 11th at nine and 9.5, respectively. Of the two speedballs, Blizzack and Seattle on Ice, I would take a guess that this one would be the first to throw out the anchor, as he did in the Middle Jewel and Corkscrew Stakes. The late entry of this colt was a welcome development for almost every trainer in the Travelers except for the one who got bumped and the one who trains the other speedball. Most of the contenders in the Travelers are deep closers, and the presence of a speed-and-fade type such as Blizzack is normally just the pace that the closers need to win. Blizzack will break from post No. 12 as the longest shot in the field at 18-1. Even though his chances look slim in the Travelers, it seems like that a shrewd trainer like Pointblank is going to find a nice for a speedy horse like Blizzack, who is capable of setting the pace in some very tough races. There will be better days ahead.
LOGICAL CAUSE breaks widest of all in post No. 14 at 13-1. This is the third of three Giant Causeway colts in the field. There are also three Tapits, and two Arrogates. Every other sire with a horse in the Travelers has but that one. Logical Cause is a bay son of the EOY and Grade 1-winning Malibu Moon mare, UNBRIDLED LOGIC. Flagdown is off to a fast start with Unbridled Logic. Retired in 2017, Unbridled Logic was sent to Curlin for her first foal, and the result was the graded-placed and stakes-winning SOUND RATIONALE. Logical Cause has taken his mare up another class rung, winning the Grade 2 Ransom last fall in New York. Considering his unlikely current form, it may be that winning performance over a sloppy track that has convinced Flagdown to take a shot in the Travelers with Logical Cause. Unfortunately, the name of this colt appears to be a least a little bit painfully ironic in the Travelers. He does not make much sense in this spot. In his last two, Logical Cause was seen competing in allowances on the turf. He’s been badly beaten in both his Grade 1 tries, and it’s hard to imagine anything different in the Travelers. The horse got his track when the 50-50 went wet, but the off track is going to have to move him up a lot.
For your reading pleasure, I present to you now a special guest for our preview of EL ENCICLOPEDICO. “Miss Buff, I present to you the 14th and final qualifier for this year’s running of the Grade 1 Travelers Stakes.” This light gray son of Tapit came flying last out in the Grade 2 Flat Land Derby to be second only a quarter length. “Oh, a Tapit,” Ace said. “Just like the real winner will be!” “You are a fan of Tapit?” asked the dull-witted BTB reporter. “Nope, hate him” she replied in a clear act of sarcasm. “I also hate all gray horses, especially that Sherpa Ray horse.” Yes, that Sherpa Ray horse. Fans of Simulated racing may know that my friend Ace is the trainer of SHERPA RAY’S TAP, who stands head and shoulders above the turf sprint division. Fans of real-life racing also may know that Ace was referring to Tacitus, a son of Tapit and a contender in this year’s real-life Travers. Right now though, she buried her nose in Simulated past performances, and took a close look at El Encliclopedico. “In all seriousness though, it’s a bit concerning that he hasn’t tried 10 furlongs yet and has only gone nine furlongs once, but he’s progressed nicely and has the pedigree to succeed.” Our friend in Buffalo has hit the nail on the head with Ivanymil’s colt. We must assume that the distance is a significant challenge, despite the fact that’s he is bred for it. Do we wait and see? Ivanymil says no. He says the time is now for El Enciclopedico, and who is to say he is wrong? We can say that this horse is a lot more live than a couple who have qualified ahead of him. He spun his wheels the first two times he tried graded racing, then really took a huge step forward to become graded placed with that big run last out. The Travelers Stakes is a long way from the non-winners of two allowance company which this colt beat two back, but that big run in Iowa last out makes him look like a “now” horse. El Enciclopedico breaks from post No. 11 and is 12-1.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!!!