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Travers Stakes Odds & Preview: Essential Quality Favored in Saratoga’s Marquee Race

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman in Horse Racing News

Aug 27, 2021 · 7:08 AM PDT

Travers Stakes
Jockey Luis Saez reacts after crossing the finish line atop Essential Quality (2) to win the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 5, 2021, At Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
  • Saturday’s Travers Stakes is the most awaited race at Saratoga this year
  • Essential Quality is the favorite in the oldest stakes race for three years olds in the United States
  • How can you bet The Travers with an eye towards value?

They call the Travers Stakes the Mid-Summer Derby.

Like the Kentucky Derby it is a prestigious grade one event for three year olds with a big purse ($1.25 million). Positioned near the end of Saratoga’s boutique high end meet, it is the highlight of summer for many racegoers.

Run since 1864, the Travers has attracted the best of the best. Three Triple Crown winners have run in the Travers. Affirmed, and American Pharoah lost, while Whirlaway added to his lore winning Saratoga’s most talked about race.

Essential Quality is the heavy favorite this year. His only loss in eight tries came at the Kentucky Derby. He has since rebounded with wins at the Belmont Stakes, and Jim Dandy Stakes.

Let’s examine the odds and see what bet makes the most sense.

2021 Travers Stakes Odds

Horse Odds
Essential Quality -120
Midnight Bourbon +450
Keepmeinmind +600
Dynamic One +600
Masqueparade +800
Miles D +1200
King Fury +1500

Odds as of August 25th

Like the Kentucky Derby, the Travers is contested at a-mile-and-a-quarter. Unlike the Derby, horses at this point on the calendar are now more proven at the championship distance.

Last year Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law won the Travers. The Travers record time was set by Arrogate in 2016, 1:59.36.

There is nearly a 50% chance of rain Saturday in upstate New York. Post time is slated for 6:12 pm EST. FOX will provide television coverage.


Essential Quality was the Kentucky Derby favorite and despite poor racing luck finished fourth. If Medina Spirit is eventually disqualified for running on a banned substance, Essential Quality will go down in the records book as the third place finisher.

He rebounded by outdueling Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes. After eight weeks off he beat several of his Travers rivals in Saratoga’s Jim Dandy Stakes.

Jockey Luis Saez confidently road Essential Quality, navigating him wide on the turn knowing he had plenty of horse to reach the wire first. Keepmeinmind battled to finish a close second. Masqueparade was a well beaten third.

There is no doubt trainer Brad Cox is working towards a Breeders Cup Classic bid for Essential Quality. That would be his first race against older horses. The Travers is really more of the same, and aside from the Kentucky Derby, he has proven to be dominant against his peers.


Keepmeinmind ran a terrific race threatening Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy. That said, he still has only a single victory in 10 starts.

Winning a grade two race is not a small accomplishment. That said, in 2021 he has raced six times with no wins, one second, and a single third place performance.

Midnight Bourbon ran a decent sixth at the Kentucky Derby, and followed it up with a clear runner up performance at the Preakness Stakes.

He has run just once since May, and at the Haskell Stakes last month was well behind Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun, and not mounting much of a charge, when he clipped heels and rider Paco Lopez was thrown off of him.

Midnight Bourbon has two wins in 10 tries but has hit the board on eight occasions.

Dynamic One needed four races before breaking his maiden, but then ran a surprising tight second in the Wood Memorial, earning a trip to the Kentucky Derby. He got bumped hard at Churchill Downs, never settled down, and finished 18th. However, given nearly three months off, he bounced back in Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes.

Three year olds mature. The effort against a good field in The Curlin seemingly says Dynamic One is dangerous, particularly since he had a nightmarish trip in the Kentucky Derby. Whether he is good enough to beat Essential Quality is another question.


Masqueparade won the Ohio Derby but was an unthreatening third against Essential Quality and Keepmeinmind in the Jim Dandy.

Miles D is regally bred and lightly raced. Because of an injury he did not run for eight months between mid-October and mid-June. He broke his maiden at Belmont Park upon return, and finished second, a couple lengths behind Dynamic One in The Curlin.

King Fury was going to be the wise guy horse at the Kentucky Derby after he won April’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

He got hurt and didn’t get to participate in the Run for the Roses. He finished second behind Masqueparade in the Ohio Derby, and then tried turf and ran poorly at Saratoga three weeks ago. Back on dirt, he’ll need his best effort.

Pick: Essential Quality (-120)

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