Travers Stakes Predictions, Expert Picks, Odds (Saratoga)

Travers Stakes Predictions

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Essential Quality (4/5)

Travers Stakes Post Position and Odds

Check out our predictions and odds for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
R Santana Jr S Asmussen
L Saez B Cox
J Rosario R Diodoro
I Ortiz Jr T Pletcher
5 MILES D 12/1
F Prat C Brown
M Mena A Stall Jr
7 KING FURY 15/1
J Ortiz K McPeek

The champion Essential Quality, a six-time graded stakes winner and only once beaten, stands over the rest as the odds-on favorite in a field of seven set for Saturday’s $1.25 million, Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Trained by Brad Cox, the Godolphin homebred has won two straight since suffering his only career loss in the Kentucky Derby. Two starts back the son of Tapit scored a determined win over Hot Rod Charlie in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Last out, he got his first taste of the main track at Saratoga when defeating Keepmeinmind in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy.

Keepmeinmind, a graded stakes winner at 2, will be back to test Essential Quality again in the 10 furlongs Mid-Summer Derby after running a big race to be second in the track’s major prep; as will Masqueparade, the third-place finisher in the Jim Dandy.

The second favorite on the morning line is Midnight Bourbon. The son of Tiznow finished second in the Grade 1 Preakness two starts back, before falling in the stretch run of the Haskell last time out.

Dynamic One is another who should get plenty of support in the meet’s signature event. The son of Union Rags won the local Curlin Stakes in impressive fashion in his first start since finishing way back in the Kentucky Derby.

Best Bets for the Travers Stakes

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$10 Trifecta Part Wheel – Essential Quality over Midnight Bourbon and Dynamic One over Midnight Bourbon, Dynamic One, Keepmeinmind, and King Fury = $60

Top Pick:

Essential Quality (4/5)

How to Watch the Travers Stakes

Travers Stakes Race Information
Race Travers Stakes (Grade 1)
Location Saratoga
Time Saturday, August 28 — 6:12 pm Eastern time
How to Watch Fox Sports 1
Purse $1,250,000

Race Analysis

Essential Quality

Despite only winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy by a half-length, I believe it was the perfect prep for him to be at his best for Saturday’s Travers. He has already proven that he can handle the distance, and with the ability to stay close early, he looks to be in an ideal spot in this $1.25 million race. Proven for class over and over, he may not overwhelm his competition, but he does what he has to do to win the race. This is a very important and prestigious race, but I believe his bigger test is to come when he faces older in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I often like to try to beat the favorite, but in this year’s Travers, I see no good reason to pick anyone other than Essential Quality.

Midnight Bourbon

The attractive son of Tiznow has been a very consistent horse throughout his career. Running in a steady diet of graded stakes races, he has only finished out of the money twice and both came with big excuses. As the speed of the race, I believe it is very likely that he will hit the head of the Saratoga stretch on top. While I do not like his chances to hold off the favorite, the others will have to work very hard to get by him. His scary fall in the Haskell looks to have done no damage, so I expect him to bounce back with another solid, in the money performance.


A winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club to close out his juvenile season, this son of Laoban is 0-for-6 in 2021. It’s been a tough year, but he has gradually improved to the point of giving the champion a real race in the Jim Dandy. Granted, he saved all kinds of ground that afternoon compared to the winner. Still it was a solid race over the track, and he looks like a horse who can handle the distance. Another performance like the last one certainly puts him in the mix among the top competition to the favorite, but it’s hard to get excited about his chances for the win in here considering his overall 1-for-10 career record.

Dynamic One

That big move he made when narrowly beaten in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial earlier this year looked like the race of a developing horse. Unfortunately, the Kentucky Derby proved too much for the Todd Pletcher trainee. Freshened after the tough race, he not only came back good, but he did it over the Saratoga main track, with a strong rally to win the Curlin Stakes. He now tries the big boys again and this just looks like a better spot than he was in at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Having said that, he’ll need to prove he can stick with the big boys. After the favorite, he looks like one of the most likely to run a good race.


After scoring over a good field in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby two starts back, this son of Upstart came to Saratoga to test the champ in the Jim Dandy. His third-place finish was by no means a poor effort, but after weakening late, he now has to try to beat the same horses and more while going an extra furlong. As he did in his first try at Saratoga, I expect the Al Stall, Jr. trainee to come up short down the stretch against this type at 10 furlongs.

Miles D

This lightly raced colt ran a very good race last time to finish second in the Curlin Stakes in only his second start of the year. It was a promising effort for the son of Curlin in his first start against winners, but he was clearly second best behind the winner Dynamic One. He has every right to take a step forward after the experience, but this represents a jump up in both distance and class. It looks like the Chad Brown colt has a future, but my gut tells me this will be a bit more than he is ready for.

King Fury

This multiple-graded stakes-winning son of Curlin prepped for the Travers by running in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby on the grass. He did not run big, but the effort should have him fit and ready for the 10 furlongs of the Travers. A confirmed stretch runner, his two dirt races this year are quite good, winning the Grade 3 Lexington in April, before closing for the second-place position in the Ohio Derby. As the longest shot on the board, I like his chances to run a good race and hit the board for trainer Kenny McPeek.

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

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