running of the Travers will take place at Saratoga on Saturday. This year’s
Midsummer Derby with its $1,000,000 purse will have a field of nine or ten. The
official post position draw will be held on Wednesday.
The Travers, which was
first run in 1864, is the oldest stakes race for three year-olds that is
contested in America. The Kentucky Derby began in 1875, while the Preakness had
its first running in 1873, and the first Belmont happened in 1867.
In the past ten years or
so, three winners of the Travers have gone on to earn championship honors for three year-old males: 2001 Point Given, 2006 Bernardini, and 2009 Summer
Bird. Back in the 20th century, Hall of Famers Holy Bull, Damascus,
Buckpasser, and Native Dancer also achieved that distinction.
Interestingly in 1941,
Whirlaway became the only horse to win the Triple Crown and then take the
Travers. There certainly needs to be an asterisk after Whirlaway’s name because
of Affirmed. In 1978 Affirmed won his Triple Crown and finished first in the
Midsummer Derby only to be disqualified and placed second behind his lifelong
rival Alydar. A crowd of 50,122 showed up at the Spa that day to see what
turned out to be the final meeting of these two historic rivals. Laffit Pincay,
who was riding Affirmed for the injured Steve Cauthen, came in on Alydar causing
him to abruptly pull up as they entered the final turn.
In 1982 the Canadian
Runaway Groom won the only running of the Travers that featured the three
winners of the Triple Crown races. Runaway Groom beat the Derby winner Gato Del
Sol, Aloma’s Ruler who took the Preakness, and Conquistador Cielo from the
The largest crowd in
Travers history turned out in 2001 for Point Given’s victory. 60,486 attended
that day and produced a total betting handle of $34,529,273.
Hansen and Alpha are the
headliners and likely favorites in this year’s Travers. Hansen, who finished fourth in the West Virginia Derby (G2) at
Mountaineer in his last start, has been preparing at the Trackside Training
Center in Louisville. Owner Dr. Kendall Hansen
gave a report on his namesake, who this time will not be running with a
blue-dyed tail. “I texted with [trainer Mike Maker], and he said the horse went very well and is very happy. He ran
recently, so it’s just a maintenance work.”
a recent blog Dr. Hansen blamed other trainers for forcing his horse into an
extremely fast early pace in that race. Dr. Hansen is also a regular chat
contributor at Horse Racing Nation. Hansen, the horse, will ship to the Spa on
Monday and Hansen, the man will arrive on Friday.
will have his third rider change in three races with Javier Castellano getting
the mount. Castellano will be
looking for his third consecutive Travers victory having won with Stay Thirsty
in 2011 and Afleet Express in 2010.
Alpha comes into the race
off of an impressive gate to wire win in the Jim Dandy (G2) on a sloppy
Saratoga track. That was his first start since a 12th place finish
in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported on Alpha’s final
breeze on Friday. “He worked well. I had him galloping
out in 1:01and 4/5. Officially I think
they said 1:02 and 1/5, but he went great and all systems are go.” Alpha’s sire Bernardini won the Travers
Nonios and Stealcase
finished second and third in the Haskell behind Paynter’s dominant win. In the race at Monmouth Park, Nonios finished 4½ lengths ahead of
Stealcase. Nonios returned to Del Mar to prepare with Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Nonios had his
final breeze of :47.5 in California on August 18th, and he will
ship to Saratoga on Monday.
Stealcase had his final breeze on August 13th, on the Saratoga main track. “We
were looking for a big work, and he delivered that,” said Norman Casse, son and
assistant of trainer Mark Casse. “He went out three quarters in 1:12 and seven
eighths in 1:25. You really can’t work any better than that, so it seems like
we’re on track for the Travers at this point. Stealcase has always been our
favorite 3-year-old from the very beginning. It just seems like he’s his own
worst enemy, and he hasn’t really put everything together. Even in the Haskell,
had he broke better, he probably would have finished second.”
Street Life and
Five Sixteen, the first and
second place finishers in Saratoga’s July 27th Curlin Stakes will
face off again. Street Life, who is the son of the 2007
Travers winner, Street Sense, has been at the New York track training for Chad
Brown. Brown is currently second in the Saratoga trainer standings. Five Sixteen has only a maiden victory to his credit and this
Dominick Schettino trainee stands to be the race’s longshot.
Four other horses from the Jim Dandy
are expected to start. Neck n’ Neck, Liaison, Atigun, and Fast Falcon finished in
second, third, sixth, and seventh places. Neck n' Neck, who is sired by the 2005 Travers winner Flower Alley, won the Matt
Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs in June for trainer Ian Wilkes. He defeated
Stealcase by over seven lengths in that race. Liaison, who will
represent Bob Baffert, had his final timed workout on Sunday on the main track.
This Indian Charlie colt has not won a race in 2012 in seven tries.
Trainer Ken McPeek sent Atigun out for his final work in
blinkers for the first time. “He worked super. I was a little worried he went off a little
fast, but for the most part it was a very good work. [Jockey] Mike Smith and I were talking about it yesterday, and he is
concerned that the blinkers might make him rank, and he might be right. I don’t know, we’ll see. If he has a
blinker on, it will either be a small one or none at all.” Atigun has two
allowance wins this year.
Nick Zito decided to run Fast Falcon after an impressive breeze on Friday. “He worked super and
galloped out strong,” Zito said. “He’s going to be a long shot, which I like.”
Fast Falcon was second in the Dwyer (G2) at Belmont. This will be Zito’s 27th
Travers starter. He has a record of 26: 1-5-3 with his lone win coming in 2004
Travers weekend features six graded stakes
races. The $500,000 Ballerina (G1) for fillies and mares three-years old and up
will be run at seven furlongs on Friday. The Saturday graded stakes are: the
$250,000 Ballston Spa (G2) for fillies and mares going a mile and a sixteenth
on the turf, the $500,000 Test (G1) for three-year old fillies at seven
furlongs, the $500,000 King’s Bishop (G1) for three-year olds at seven
furlongs, and the Travers. On Sunday the $600,000 Personal Ensign (G1) will be
run at 10 furlongs for fillies and mares three years old and up.