Bob Baffert’s rising star West Coast stayed true in the 2017 Travers Stakes and scored a monumental victory to put him on path towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The colt led a supremely competitive field from start to finish after closing at the window tied with 6/1 odds near the top of the board. Always Dreaming and Tapwrit were also 6/1, with Cloud Computing coming in at 10/1.
Those four took the field out early but were immediately threatened by surprise favorite Irap who ended up with 5/1 odds. The pack hit fractions of :23.82, :48.12 and 1:12.23 as they blasted around the track at a frantic pace. Many contenders made moves around the final corner to position themselves for a battle down the backstretch, but nobody could keep pace with West Coast.
The eventual 2017 Travers Stakes winner dropped the gears and won the 1 1/4 mile race in a time of 2:01.19 with Gunnevera shooting up in to second after potentially bumping Irap in the final lengths. An attempt to steal the show from West Coast fell well short as the Baffert trainee strode to a 3 1/4 length victory and booked his ticket to the main event at the world championships.
The payouts for the race were huge as West Coast delivered $14.20, $7.60 and $5.30 with the win. Gunnevera’s rally as a 24/1 longshot led to $18.40 and $10.40 at the window while Irap finished third for $5.40.
Irap showed very well in the 2017 Travers stakes and didn’t look like he had it in him to catch West Coast on this day. Jockey Mario Gutierrez did mention that there was a touch of friction between Irap and Gunnevera. “There was a little bit of an incident in the stretch, but beside that I had a pretty good trip,” said Gutierrez. “He was a little bit rank today but nothing unusual. He was pretty good. Gunnevera did push me down, but I guess the stewards didn’t think it was enough to cost me my place, but who knows?”
What we do know is that West Coast has thundered straight to the front of sophomore class. This was his fourth consecutive win, and his fifth in just seven starts. He was a runner-up in the Lexington and in a maiden special weight earlier this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be at the Classic, though it’s too early to tell.
“We don’t even know what his next start is, or even if he’s going to be in the Classic,” Baffert said. “Right now, we just want to get him home and then we’ll figure out a game plan. Right now, we’re not thinking anything for him.”
The 2017 Travers Stakes was hyped because it featured all three Triple Crown winners for the first time since 1982. Tapwrit showed the best out of the three with a fourth place finish, but Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing fell to 8th and 9th.
McCraken, another well regarded three-year-old colt, was 7th while the highly touted Good Samaritan was a respectable 5th in his follow-up performance from the Jim Dandy.
It wasn’t just that West Coast won, it was how he did it. The 2017 Travers Stakes was a showcase of how determined and willing this horse is to compete. It would be a shame if he skipped the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but Baffert is too smart to ignore the potential he has at his finger tips.