The three colts who won this year’s Triple Crown races are taking different paths to the $1 million Travers on Aug. 24 at Saratoga. The prestigious Travers is called the Midsummer Classic for good reason.
The Travers could decide the champion 3-year-old, and as of now, Orb (Kentucky Derby), Oxbow (Preakness) and Palace Malice (Belmont Stakes) are the leading contenders.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We’ll be treated this weekend to two great stakes for 3-year-olds in the $600,000 Jim Dandy on Saturday at Saratoga and the $1 million Haskell on Sunday at Monmouth Park.
Orb trainer Shug McGaughey is taking the path of abstinence for the Travers. He’ll go into the race on workouts alone.
Palace Malice (5-2) is a solid choice to win the Jim Dandy. But the fact that six of his nine foes have won graded stakes races means it might be a competitive race.
The Eclipse Award for the division will come down to the body of work for the entire year. Thus, every graded stakes such as the Jim Dandy carries enormous weight.
As for Palace Malice’s nine foes, they probably will need to run well to consider a Travers start.
Among top contenders Mylute (7-2), Freedom Child (4-1) and Code West (6-1), I would be most wary of Code West. He is improving at the right time for trainer Bob Baffert, and he gets the nation’s hottest jockey in Joel Rosario.
The Haskell has a loaded seven-horse field.
Oxbow (2-1) has championship aspirations for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. After the Preakness, he ran second to Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes. If he could win the Haskell and Travers, I would be hard-pressed not to vote him champion 3-year-old.
The Haskell easily could become a rider’s race. Verrazano (9-5) looks like lone early speed, the most dangerous play in horse racing, for jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Oxbow and Power Broker (3-1) have enough to stay close to the early pace. What happens up front will impact how effective the closing punch of Golden Soul (8-1) and Micromanage (6-1) will be.
Monmouth historically favors speed, so Verrazano is my choice. He won the Pegasus prep at Monmouth in facile style and should grab this race by the throat from the start.
Baffert, who trains Power Broker, has won the Haskell three years in a row and six times overall.
■ HERRON DIES — Longtime Las Vegas race and sports book executive Rick Herron died last weekend. He was 59.
Herron held key positions at the Barbary Coast, Fremont, Sands, LVH, Orleans and Coast Resorts. His wagering opinion was highly regarded, and he was one of the industry’s good guys.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.