The Midsummer Derby will be run before the Kentucky Derby for the first — and hopefully only — time. The Travers Stakes will be contested by eight 3-year-olds over 1 1/4 miles Saturday at Saratoga in New York.
Belmont winner Tiz the Law looks to add the Travers Stakes to his impressive resume. The son of the Constitution is listed at even-money on the morning line. This is the next step of a planned schedule that should see Tiz the Law head to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, which will be contested in September and October.
The biggest foe for Tiz the Law is the Bob Baffert-trained Uncle Chuck.
“I’d rather have [the favorite] than be 15-1,” Jack Knowlton, co-owner of Tiz the Law, said Wednesday. “We think that he is a special horse.”
A Grade I race for 3-year-olds run at 1 1/4 miles on the main track. Purse: $1 million. Post time: Saturday, est. 6:15 p.m. TV: FOX, 5-6:30 p.m.
No. Horse; Jockey; Trainer; Odds
1 First Line; David Cohen; Orlando Noda; 30-1
Should not be a factor in this key stake for 3-year-olds. Coming in off maiden score and is overmatched against this field.
2 Country Grammer; Irad Ortiz; Chad Brown; 6-1
Country Grammer is a winner of the Peter Pan at Saratoga this meet and comes from the powerful barn of Chad Brown. Definitely is on the improve but would have to take a major step up to compete with the top choices.
3 Uncle Chuck; Luis Saez; Bob Baffert; 5-2
Baffert seeks his fourth Travers with Uncle Chuck, who was deep on his depth chart until injuries shelved Nadal, Charlatan among others. Uncle Chuck won the Los Al Derby in impressive fashion in most recent. He’s 2-for-2 in his career and this is a big test. Shipping from California suggests Baffert means business. It is a testament to how deep the barn is to have a horse like Uncle Chuck suddenly become a major Travers player with so many others sidelined.
4 Max Player; Joel Rosario; Linda Rice; 6-1
Max Player was soundly beaten when third to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes. The added furlong could be a plus, but still hard to believe Max Player will make up the five-plus lengths on the favorite.
5 Shivaree; Junior Alvarado; Ralph Nicks 30-1
Shivaree finished 11th in the Toyota Blue Grass. The good news is he can’t duplicate that with eight horses in this race.
6 Tiz the Law; Manny Franco; Barclay Tagg; even
A powerful effort in the Belmont Stakes made Tiz the Law 3-for-3 in 2020 and 5-for-6 overall in his career. The Travers is the next step on a daunting schedule for the summer/fall. He’s done everything right and there is no reason to expect any different this go-round. The mile-and-a-quarter will be the test, but the Barclay Tagg-trainee should be up to it.
7 Caracaro; Javier Castellano; Gustavo Delgado; 10-1
The best thing about Caracaro is jockey Javier Castellano’s record in the Mid-Summer derby. Castellano has six wins in this race. Unlikely to turn this one into lucky No. 7.
8 South Bend; Jose Ortiz; Bill Mott; 15-1
The second-place finisher in the Ohio Derby is now in the barn of the trainer who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby via disqualification. Just don’t see this one as ready to rock ‘n’ roll with the top-tier talent in the Travers.
The pick: Tiz The Law, Country Garammer, Max Player
With Tiz the Law expected to be a heavy favorite, might be best to use the chalk in wagers that incorporate races around the Travers rather than trying to cook up an exacta or trifecta in the Mid-Summer Derby that might not provide a rewarding payoff.