Among the races for lightly raced 2-year-olds and stakes contests with solid favorites, we found only one favorite we feel confident betting against. It might surprise you that we see Epicenter as the only favorite vulnerable enough to oppose. See our “Bonus Race” analysis of the Travers Stakes that appears after the Gulfstream Park picks.
RACE 1. Maiden Claimer $12,500. 1 mile 70 yards. All Weather.
False Favorite: #12 Voice of Now (7-2).
Reason: In 6 races at this level this runner has never finished first or second. He’s now parked wide without sufficient natural speed to get clear on the first turn. In fact, he’s a likely midpack victim who’ll be hung wide. We no like.
#8 King D (12-1). His prior race, a one-step drop to this level, should’ve been the money run, but his mediocre jockey decided to play bumper cars. Trainer Rohan Crichton wins 57% of the time with Chantal Sutherland aboard, so the freshening, strong works and jockey switch seem to have this one pointed toward victory.
#10 Nippon (9-2). His debut was decent. Now trainer Orseno makes the sensible move of stretching out the slow-starting Nippon. This runner isn’t a proven failure at this level and distance like most of his rivals, and he looks to have the running style suited to grinding away at cheap runners with limited talent.
RACE 3. Maiden Claimer $16,000. 1 mile 70 yards. All Weather.
False Favorite: #5 Hurry Up Dear (6-5).
Reason: She has failed 7 times at this level at 3 different distances and 2 different surfaces. She desperately needs a class drop.
#1 Souper Duper Ready (7-5). Judging from the long series of strong works for this runner, it seems Diane Morici made a good claim. This well-bred horse formerly of the Casse barn seems sound enough and fit enough to get the best of this $16,000 crew.
#7 Pretty Devil (15-1). This winless 5-year-old mare has never failed around 2 turns at this level. She was given a shot at a mile in just her second lifetime start, so she might be better suited to this 2-turn distance. Also, she faces a field with very little early speed, so her sprint experience might pay dividends.
BONUS RACE: GRADE 1 TRAVERS STAKES
Saratoga. Race 11. Grade 1 Stakes. 1 mile and 1/4. Dirt.
False Favorite: Epicenter (7-5).
Readers of my first book, The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby, have seen this movie before. The basic plot features a horse with moderate early speed stalking rivals through 6 furlongs and then obliterating them down the stretch. But the movie doesn’t end in glory for such “superstars.”
As the plot thickens, the super horse faces faster and faster early pace scenarios. And like Sampson losing his strength when Delilah cuts his hair, the super horse no longer delivers his patented turbo-charged late run to victory when a sharp early pace cuts into his reserves of oxygen.
Essential Quality’s failures in the Kentucky Derby and BC Classic are the most recent examples of this. We see Epicenter as the next highly regarded, late-blasting star to come up short in a big race.
Epicenter twice got caught by longshots when forced to run fast early (in the Lecomte and Kentucky Derby). He has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes and faces 3 rivals who have already done so. As a horse most comfortable completing 6 furlongs in 1:12.0 or so, he’ll likely be a fish out of water if forced to stay within striking distance of competent stakes horses traveling at a rate of about 1:11.0. He dodged that bullet in the Jim Dandy Stakes when Early Voting was geared down early as lone speed. With Cyberknife likely prompting or challenging Early Voting for the early lead, the pace should be crisper in the Travers. And the road to the finish line, as in the Kentucky Derby, will likely be an overly demanding one for Epicenter.
#1 Cyberknife (3-1). Our only bet will be Win/Place on Cyberknife. He owns two Grade 1 wins, the fastest opening 4-furlong time in a 2-turn race and a combination of early and late speed unmatched in this field. We expect Cyberknife to prompt Early Voting into setting a pace that’s uncomfortably fast and self-defeating for that rival. We also expect Cyberknife to be fit and talented enough to hold off late runners, all of whom will be left with too much ground to make up or who’ll enter the stretch with depleted reserves from trying too hard to keep up in the earlier stages of the race.
To see my in-depth analysis of the Travers Stakes with Mark Cramer, watch the final video in our “Slow Train to the Travers” series for 2022.