The 2022 Travers post positions have been drawn, the morning line has been issued by the NYRA’s odds gods, and the trainers are back in their barns sharpening their tactical sabers for the August 27 running of what’s truly shaping up to be an ideal late-summer Grade 1. Phenom 2022 Derby-stealer Rich Strike is back, and so is that sneaky Preakness-stealer Early Voting.
Epicenter, the victim of those back-to-back “robberies” and the morning line favorite, has redeemed himself — sort of — at the Spa earlier this month in the bracing Jim Dandy and seems ready to rumble. By no means least, Zandon, one of this three-year-old crop’s usual suspects, is thought to be training well and ready to take ‘em all down. Adding to the picture, Trainer Chad Brown will have his hands full with no less than three contenders vying for the Travers’ $1.2 million, two of the above favorites in Zandon and Early Voting, and the hot latecomer-who-cannot-be-counted-out, Artorius.
Bottom line: If Epicenter’s going to live up to his favored status, he’s going to have to work for it. At least he’s demonstrated that he likes the track, and Steve Asmussen has been letting him work it for a solid month.
But before we wade into the nitty-gritty of this bracing six-way battle, herewith, the post positions and morning line.
(Post Position, Horse, Jockey, Morning Line)
1 Cyberknife, Florent Geroux, 7-2
2 Rich Strike, Sonny Leon, 10-1
3 Ain’t Life Grand, Tyler Gaffalione, 20-1
4 Gilded Age, Jorge Alvarado, 30-1
5 Artorius, Irad Ortiz, 9-2
6 Epicenter, Joel Rosario, 7-5
7 Early Voting, Jose Ortiz, 8-1
8 Zandon, Flavien Prat, 5-1
(Source: NYRA, 8/23/2022)
Faced with many threatening top contenders, among them the Derby and the Preakness winners, we can count, with Cyberknife at 7-2 and the newcomer Artorius at a very close 9-2, six favorites. Put another way, in this Travers as in the Breeders’ Cup races, each of the morning-line favored contenders will be fighting at least five opponents who have been acknowledged by our best gimlet-eyed oddsmakers to be threats who must be taken into account in any tactical thinking about the race. It’s the kind of tight, closely-matched field that racemakers dream of, and that’s putting it mildly. Kudos to the trainers for getting everybody there.
The star jockeys — the Ortiz brothers, Rosario, Prat, Geroux, Gaffalione, Alvarado, Leon — add much wattage, and bring their own considerable tactical prowess to their mounts. This is a way of saying that the matrices of handicapping this volcanic field will be complex because the factors that will compose the running will be so sharp and so finely calibrated.
Here’s a good example: Newcomer Artorius is third-favorite over both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness winners. He’s got top jock Irad Ortiz in the irons. So, if Preakness victor Early Voting wants to get by Artorius, as we know he does, then top jock Jose Ortiz will be executing his plan for how to take his brother down.
Ergo: One finely calibrated calculation in handicapping Early Voting’s battle with Artorius is going to be, how well do the Ortiz brothers know each other’s thinking in the heat of a battle? Odds are that they know each other fairly well. Fun, right? It’s almost Greek, and that’s just one vector of competition in this Travers’ six-way war.