The disappointing racing season in the three-year-old division will continue this weekend at Saratoga with the meet’s signature race, the Travers Stakes (G1), drawing a sub-par field for its 2019 running that will include almost none of this year’s top sophomores. Thankfully for bettors and handicappers, the race will headline what nevertheless will be one of the greatest days of racing and wagering of the year with six other graded stakes on the agenda including five more Grade 1s. The $1.25 million Travers will be run at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, and will be headlined by Tacitus, the winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2). Tacitus will face a field that will not include the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner (Country House), Preakness (G1) winner (War of Will), Belmont winner (Sir Winston), and Haskell (G1) winner (Maximum Security), nor will it include Bob Baffert’s Los Alamitos Derby (G3) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Game Winner, Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach, or the division’s brilliantly-handled up-and-coming winner of the Pat Day Mile (G3), Matt Winn (G3), Indiana Derby (G3) and West Virginia Derby (G3), Mr. Money. What we are left with is a bettable “Mid-Summer Derby,” but one that lacks any real pizazz or star power. Those hoping that this year’s running of the Travers would provide some clarity in the muddled three-year-old division are out of luck, and will perhaps need to wait until the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx on September 21 for answers. For now, we have the Travers, which is set to play host to a full field of mainly second-rung contenders. The horse to beat in the Travers will be morning-line favorite Tacitus, trained by Bill Mott, who is by no means a second-rung player in the three-year-old division this season. His second-place finish in last month’s Jim Dandy was a good effort in defeat in a shorter race with insufficient pace to help set up his late run. The race was used as a prep, because the goal for Bill Mott and Tacitus was never the Jim Dandy – it was the Travers.  Tacitus owns by far the best credentials in the field, will put blinkers on for the Mid-Summer Derby, and is decisively the horse to beat. The other horse expected to garner the most attention in the Travers will be the horse that beat Tacitus last time out in the Jim Dandy, Tax. Trained by the red-hot Danny Gargan, who is winning everything in sight at Saratoga this season, Tax came into his own winning the Jim Dandy after finishing a non-factor in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He’s a legit contender in a weak Travers field, but the pace scenario will be a lot less favorable in the Travers than it was for him in the Jim Dandy, and as they say in horse racing… “be there for the wedding, not for the funeral.” Another interesting Travers contender will be Code of Honor, who has been hanging around the upper echelons of the three-year-old division with a win in Belmont’s Dwyer (G3) coming on the heels of his Fountain of Youth (G2) victory, and his third-place finish (elevated to second via disqualification) in the Kentucky Derby. In this field, those credentials are enough to make Code of Honor the most likely exacta partner along with Tacitus. Others that will attract their share of support in the Travers that you could make a case for, at least in the exotics, will include Lexington (G3) and Ohio Derby (G3) winner Owendale, Preakness runner-up Everfast, and Haskell runner-up Mucho Gusto. Of course, no Grade 1 race would be complete without Chad Brown contenders. Brown will be represented in the field by Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes winner and third-place finishers, Highest Honors and Looking at Bikinis. Saratoga will play host to a magnificent undercard that will draw some of racing’s biggest-name horses to important Grade 1 stakes in several divisions. Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” berths will be up for grabs in three Grade 1s – the $850,000 Sword Dancer (Turf [G1]), $700,000 Personal Ensign (Distaff [G1]), and $500,000 Ballerina (Filly & Mare Sprint [G1]). The $600,000 Forego (G1) and the $400,000 Ballston Spa (G2) will also have loaded fields. The race of the day might be the $500,000 Allen Jerkens (G1) for three-year-olds going seven furlongs. That field is expected to include the likes of Borracho, Hog Creek Hustle, King Jack, Mind Control, Nitrous, Rowayton, Shancelot, Super Comet, and Twelfth Labour. This year’s Travers Stakes is looking like an unsatisfying race in the context of the overall three-year-old division due to the absence of Maximum Security, War of Will, Mr. Money, Game Winner, Omaha Beach and others, but it nonetheless will have a large field and should be a good betting race for horseplayers that will be the centerpiece of one of the year’s best days of racing and wagering. Will Tacitus emerge with the major Grade 1 win that has eluded him so far? Or will another sophomore step up to the plate on horse racing’s biggest summer stage and put themselves in the hunt to be 2019’s top three-year-old?  Tune in Saturday to find out. Best of luck! Tacitus preps for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga (Horsephotos.com)