The Triple Crown campaign may be over in American horse racing, but the 2013 Grade 1 Travers Stakes boast nine contenders who were prominently involved in the year's most important prior showcases.
Saratoga Race Course will foster this marquee race, which is headlined by 2-to-1 morning-line favorite Verrazano, Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes victor Palace Malice.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Verrazano gets a bit of a bad rap for finishing 14th at Churchill Downs. However, the physically formidable colt has won all of his other six career starts, including most recently at the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes.
Despite being a long shot, Golden Soul finished second in the first leg of the Triple Crown and should be considered bankable again despite having the longest odds in this field.
Since three disappointing results in the Triple Crown campaign, Will Take Charge has had a resurgence of sorts, finishing second to Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy Stakes.
It should be an exciting showdown over 10 furlongs in Saratoga Springs, so let's take a closer look at the field and make predictions for win, place and show.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24 (post time is at 5:46 p.m. ET)
Where: Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Live Stream: NBC Sports
In winning his most recent race at Monmouth Park by nearly 10 lengths, it's safe to say Verrazano has put his Kentucky Derby disappointment behind him. That was even preceded by a first-place showing at the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes on the same New Jersey course.
The last race's field even featured the fast Preakness winner Oxbow, so there's no doubting the legitimacy of Verrazano's romp in that instance in the Grade 1 race.
Jockey John Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 and has innate familiarity with Verrazano to ride him to victory on this dirt track that is the same length as the pristine layout in Louisville.
When Verrazano is in peak form, not even rival specimens like Orb can deny him. Considering the lack of success from what would likely be his biggest competition from a naturally gifted standpoint, all signs are pointing to Verrazano crossing the finish first.
Pletcher, Velazquez and this talented horse have plenty to prove from the Kentucky Derby flop, and they will. The only concern, wisely raised by USA Today's Jennie Rees, is whether Verrazano is more suited to one mile than 1.25 miles.
Look for the more experienced Verrazano to prove that he can take it the extra distance.
Place: Palace Malice
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is back in the saddle for the horse that got him his second trip to the Belmont Stakes' winner's circle. While the combination of endurance and speed at Belmont Park's grueling test was impressive, this distance isn't quite as well suited to the horse.
Smith definitely knows how to pace Palace Malice, who just won his last start at the Jim Dandy to back up the merit of his Triple Crown triumph.
However, the form that Verrazano is showing entering this race seems too overwhelming to overcome.
It's not a bad problem for Pletcher to have with the top two morning-line favorites, but one of them has to come out on the losing end. Finishing high up in the money certainly isn't a bad consolation prize for Palace Malice going up against his stablemate.
Palace Malice's stamina should make Verrazano push hard in a photo finish, but it won't be quite enough—nor a repeat of the dead heat by last year's joint winners Alpha and Golden Ticket.
The red flag here is that Orb has not raced since finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
As prolific as jockey Joel Rosario has been in leading his peers in money earnings in 2013, he struggled when Orb was on the rail at Pimlico. Starting in the No. 2 post position next to Verrazano isn't doing him any favors.
Orb hasn't been quite the same since storming down the final stretch at Churchill Downs.
Despite his immense size and having the season's most successful mounter, it's going to be difficult for Rosario to get far enough to the outside and challenge his formidable counterparts.
Even if Verrazano breaks early, the key will be squeezing past the more methodical competitors in Golden Soul and Will Take Charge at post Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
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