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Epicenter the Choice in 153rd Travers Stakes

Saratoga still a graveyard of favorites?

The Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes runs at Saratoga Race Course Saturday afternoon, and we’re frothing at the mouth in anticipation.

It was once a graveyard for favorites, but the storied venue has turned of late. Epicenter is favored to win the mile-and-a-quarter Midsummer Derby at short odds.

Epicenter Spearheads Travers Stakes
Maryland. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

Horse racing betting markets have Epicenter at 7-5 early to defeat his rivals, including Early Voting, Cyberknife, Zandon and Artorius. Eight 3-year-olds have been entered.

Confident with Asmussen Favorite

Trainer Steve Asmussen could not have more confidence in Epicenter, coming off an impressive win in Saratoga’s Jim Dandy

The sophomore son of Not This Time was a touch unlucky not to win either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, but his overall form around the Triple Crown races has been stellar.

Wins in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby (both at Fair Grounds), and the aforementioned Jim Dandy holds the sportsbook favorite in good stead at Saratoga. Epicenter has three wins and three seconds in six 2022 starts, earnings in excess of $2.1 million.

“Epicenter is doing extremely well now,” Asmussen told BloodHorse. “I’m very proud of the way he ran in the Jim Dandy. It’s the best he’s looked. I thought it showed a lot of maturity. He seems to understand racing a lot better.

“It was great to see after what I thought were two tough races in the Derby and the Preakness. We’re hoping he’s getting better.”

The only thing that’s missing from his resume is a Grade 1 win, but we’re expecting comes Saturday in one of the toughest races to win. Joel Rosario rides from post position No. 6.

Cyberknife Cuts Through Them?

We were impressed with Cyberknife’s win in Monmouth’s Haskell. There’s no reason to not include that form.

The son of Gun Runner was well beaten (18th) in the Kentucky Derby, but his response has been consecutive wins over quality foes including Howling Time, Taiba, and Jack Christopher.

Perhaps not be the best 3-year-old form compared to Epicenter and Early Voting, but he’s growing and could be one of the most-improved late-season runners.

“Cyberknife is doing very well. He’s impressive every morning. (Trainer) Brad (Cox) likes what he sees and we’re looking forward to the race,” owner Al Gold said. “His Ragozin speed figures have improved since the Arkansas Derby, so we’re excited about that.”

It’s Cyberknife and Florent Geroux breaking from post No. 1.

Horse racing odds have Cyberknife at the 7-2 early second choice, and that’s a value price for the Travers.

Polls Not Favoring Early Voting

Following a fourth in the Jim Dandy Stakes, bettors have abandoned Early Voting.

He couldn’t encore his Preakness win with a good subsequent showing. However, a start over the track is never detrimental.

We don’t think Travers Stakes odds should have him at 8-1, especially against similar opposition. He represents value, and we wouldn’t be leaving the Grade I winner out of our selections.

Look at a push race day. One of trainer Chad Brown’s trio, Early Voting (Jose Ortiz) drew penultimate post No. 7.

Intrigue with Newbie

There is intrigue with the new kid on the block. Artorius comes off back-to-back wins (Belmont and Saratoga), so he has winning experience on this surface.

He won the Curlin Stakes in style, and although yet to face much in the way of opposition, looks to have a fair amount of ability.

The Brown-trained son of ’16 Travers winner Arrogate is owned by Juddmonte Farms. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. does the honors as the 9-2 morning-line third choice breaks from post No. 5.

He was green when winning last start, but the speed is there and we’re not leaving him out.

“We know it’s not easy to win the Travers off just a handful of races, but you put your trust in the trainer and when they see all the right signals, you try. It’s the Travers and that’s the kind of race you take a chance in,” Juddmonte manager Garrett O’Rourke said.

“The inexperience is a bit of a concern. He’s going up against horses who are battle-tested, some who are battle-tested in the classics.”

Running in the first three would be excellent for his pedigree, and that’s what they’re trying to achieve.

First post Travers Day is 11:35 a.m. ET, with the featured of the six stakes going as race 11 (Fox, 5:44 p.m. ET).

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