When taking my first look at Saturday’s Travers (G1) field, the glaring lack of early speed immediately stands out. There are no confirmed front-runners entered outside of the Triple Crown winner.
Upstart could possibly show some zip from his inside post, but trainer Richard Violette is on the fence surrounding his charge’s participation, with the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) on September 19 a logical alternative.
I’ve got Upstart tabbed as a natural candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), with the 10-furlong Classic (G1) being beyond his scope at this point of his career, and he’d be a top contender for the $600,000 winner’s share in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby. Chasing American Pharoah early could compromise any chance for a top-three placing Saturday – why possibly run fourth or fifth at 1 1/4 miles when he has other options?
If Upstart comes out, Texas Red may be forced to race close like he did he did in the Jim Dandy (G2), where he tracked lone speed Japan during the early stages, never more than 1 ½ lengths behind before overhauling the pacesetter in midstretch.
However, the difference between running down Japan and American Pharoah, if both are loose on the lead, is comparable to a pond in your backyard and the Atlantic Ocean.
Texas Red is improving and rates as the most formidable challenger in my estimation, but none of the others appear capable of playing the sacrificial lamb needed to provide him a realistic chance.
Frosted does his best when settling back and making one run – he was four lengths off the pace in the Jim Dandy after a half-mile. Smart Transition showed in the Curlin that he can stalk-and-pounce from just off the pace, but he can’t afford to be taken out of his game by mixing it up early with American Pharoah.
Frammento, Keen Ice, King of New York, Mid Ocean and Tale of Verve are all dedicated late runners.
I expect American Pharoah to be several lengths clear rounding the first turn and the biggest question surrounding Saturday’s Travers is how many lengths he’ll win by.
American Pharoah romping as the lone speed in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes courtesy of Dave Alcosser/Adam Coglianese Photography