The 2019 Travers Stakes is the Best Bet of the Weekend

Aug 21, 2019 John Mucciolo/

A talented and well-matched field of 12 will vie in the “Midsummer Derby” on Saturday at Saratoga. The $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) is the longest running race in America dating back to 1864. This year it features an accomplished cast of three-year-olds in one of the most competitive editions of the event in recent times.

I was on the Danny Gargan-trained Tax in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) when he was a powerful winner of the local Travers prep race. And since the horse has done nothing wrong in the interim, I will come right back with the well-bred sophomore. He is my Best Bet of the Weekend.

Bred in the Bluegrass State by Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider, the son of Arch was nabbed out of a $50,000 maiden claiming event in his juvenile campaign and has already exceeded expectations. The dark bay gelding was a solid third in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in his two-year-old finale and came back a winner in his 2019 debut with a gritty Withers Stakes (G3) triumph.

A fine second in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) followed, and he then threw in his lone clunker to date when never a factor in the Kentucky Derby (G1). His fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) came next, prior to his excellent performance in the Jim Dandy.

Tax was training in fine fashion in advance of his first run at The Spa and continues to thrive at this venue. The sturdy sophomore fired another bullet half-mile on the Saratoga main strip as of late, and he once again seems primed for a big showing on Saturday.

The top play received a demanding outside draw in the big field, but the post might actually play to his strengths if he breaks well. This Travers cast lacks early speed and pilot Irad Ortiz Jr. could have the three-year-old in a fine spot early on while close to the pace. Tax is also bred to run all day, and the 103 BRIS Late Pace number that he earned in the Jim Dandy indicates that another furlong will be right in his wheelhouse.

In the 2018 Travers, Catholic Boy broke from the 10 post, tracked the pace in second to the top of the lane, and then delivered a knockout punch in the stretch en route to a dynamic victory. I could envision a similar scenario with the peaking Tax on Saturday.

Tax taking the historic Midsummer Derby is my Best Bet of the Weekend.

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