August 27, 2010

Here’s Why Fly Down Wins

There is no doubt that the Mid-Summer Derby is one of my favorite races of the season. Year and year out, it acts as a great bridge between the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. This year’s edition of the Travers is no different. What it lacks in superstars, it makes up for with competitiveness. There is literally not one horse, among the eleven, that would be a major surprise to me if they crossed the wire first. Having said that, I have a couple of reasons why I believe Fly Down may be the one to prove victorious.

Reason number one is stamina. In watching years of Travers, it occurs to me that this is a race in which the need for stamina is somewhat underrated. Saratoga’s dirt course combined with the classic distance seem to weed out the horses that do not appreciate the extra furlong. This year there is a clear division, in my mind at least, between horses who will get the distance, and those who will deploy the parachute at some point in the stretch. You can make a case that the only four likely to not need an oxygen tank at the eighth pole are the four horses who ran (and did well) in the triple crown races, namely Super Saver, Ice Box, First Dude, and Fly Down. The other seven have never been the distance for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is the Travers will prove a tough race to attempt the distance for the first time. I would be more likely to forgive this drawback if any of the other seven had breeding that screamed distance … none do.

Reason number two is pace. A full field of eleven gunning for a million dollar win should ensure solid early fractions. Also, in looking over the field’s past performances, there are several horses in here who need to be on or near the lead. The combination of those two things have bells and whistles going off in my handicapping brain. A fast and contested pace, with many of the field’s contestants not wanting the distance anyway, should lead to some serious staggering down the lane. It also should set the race up nicely for the closers. For that reason, I prefer Nick Zito’s pair of Fly Down and Ice Box over my other two contenders based on stamina, Super Saver and First Dude, who both want to be part of the early pace.

Of Fly Down and Ice Box, I believe the former is just a better horse, and will beat his barn mate. A repeat of his Dwyer or Belmont performance should be plenty good enough to see Fly Down victorious in tomorrow’s Travers, and don’t be too surprised if you see New York Nick Zito all smiles after the race with a 1-2 finish.

It ought to be a fun, and counting the hours down in anticipation of the big race, has me recalling some of my favorite Travers. There may be none more memorable than my very first. The year was 1978 … for my memories on that epic showdown, please visit today’s piece on ZATT History.


SaratogaSpa said...

I could change my mind tomorrow, but right now I agree with your viewpoint, the mile and a quarter distance is key for me-who can really get it. I think Fly Down can and will pass a tiring first dude in the end. Maybe Afleet Express gets the bottom of some tickets and maybe Admiral Alex is the real deal-but who knows if either can get the distance-so lets go with Fly Down.

D.P. said...

Good pick Zip, probably should have won