The 2021 Travers Stakes

The Travers, or as they say the midsummer Derby will be run Saturday at legendary Saratoga Race Course. The Feld is led by two year old champion Essential Quality who won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy in his two most recent starts. He will be a solid and deserving favorite perhaps at odds of 4-5 or 3-5. Is he worth that short a price? That only you can answer but for me he would have to have no knocks or nicks in the armor as I say.

The only race Essential Quality lost was the Kentucky Derby and we know that is a race that can almost always be forgiven. Essentially, Essential Quality is almost undefeated and pretty much brings it every time he gets loaded into the gate.

Here are my concerns with this odds on favorite.

Essential Quality had to run hard to beat a worthwhile adversary in Hot Rod Charlie in the mile and a half Belmont Stakes. The distance alone is taxing and he had to work to win that race. He chilled out until the Jim Dandy, no walk in the park but that was the “prep” race for the Travers. He was wide throughout and had to really dig in to beat Keepmeinmind who fought him all the way. Yes he edged away late but the question for me is that what you want in a prep race?

Generally speaking I like a prep race where the horse does not have to go all out to win. Sometimes it is by design they do but that is usually when fitness is a question. Coming off a mile and a half I would guess even with a bit of a wind down Essential Quality was fit. Does he go forward off the Jim Dandy or regress and does he have to go forward to win?

I think if he runs the same race in the Jim Dandy that could be good enough unless someone takes a nice step forward which is certainly possible. That said I personally gravitate towards horses I think are going to go forward. Sometimes I’m sure, and sometimes I’m not and this is one of those times I’m not, but I lean against a forward move by the champ.

Horses are not machines and mostly some point throw a dud. It can easily happen off a hard prep race. Essential Quality is tough, and he was out on Past the Wire’s Tracking Trips list off his debit and was on our early Kentucky Derby Radar with only 5 other horses. Sure that indicates high quality but also opens the door to the almost inevitable at some point regress race.

To take 3 or 4-5 I don’t like questing I am not 100% in on my answers. I would also have to be singling and again at that price I’d have to be sold all the way. I’m not so I’ll be looking long and hard at alternatives to Essential Quality at Saratoga which I have once or twice heard referred to as the graveyard of favorites or champions or something like that.

To see where I land and a whole lot more check out Saratoga Today every race day of the meet on YouTube at Past the Wire TV or on

Hopefully you’ll be glad you did.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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