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Saratoga and Del Mar 2017

Travers, Still Top Dog

In a time where speed rules the horse racing world and the nation’s leading classic races have faced distance cuts to abide the wishes of speed crazed breeders and owners, only one race remains untouched...the Travers Stakes at beautiful, grand, old Saratoga. Better known by some as the Mid-Summer Derby, the Travers Stakes has seen many of its victors go on to become Champion Three Year Old at the year's end. However, despite the high prestige of the Travers has among the three year olds some seem to feel that Haskell Invitational, held at Monmouth Park, is slowly becoming the leading summer target for the leading sophomores.

The Haskell Invitation has long been considered a very reliable prep for the Travers Stakes. The likes of Forty Niner, Coronado's Quest, Holly Bull, and Point Given all won the Haskell before going on to take the Travers Stakes. Though, as of late, with the growing fragility of the breed and the trends are seeing trainers wishing to keep their stars fresh rather than having the tested and battle ready. Due to this development the two races have seen the leading contenders split down the middle. The Haskell, with its shorter nine furlong distance and speed favoring track, plays more towards the trends used by today’s owners and trainers. That said, I still believe that the Travers holds the upper hand.

While last decade the Haskell did produce slightly more champions, one can argue that the Travers was able to draw horses of the same caliber. In 2002 The Haskell prevailed when War Emblem was crowned champion, however Medaglia D'Oro, the Travers victor also had a phenomonal season, winning the Jim Dandy Stakes and running second in the second in the Belmont Stakes in addition to winning the Travers. In 2007, Street Sense won the Travers, but lost division honors to Haskell third place finisher Curlin. In that year both Curlin and Street Sense were evenly matched with the record 2-1-1 between them, until Curlin won all the marbles in the Breeders Cup. In 2008 Big Brown took the Haskell route, but in both 2006 and 2009 the champion three year old male was the winner of the Travers Stakes.

Despite its length in distance, trainers still send their best colts to the Travers Stakes and have for years. While the Haskell's prominance has indeed blossomed, its growth takes away none of the luster the Travers Stakes has garnished.

When you ask an owner or a trainer  the question "What race would you most like to win with your star three year old?", they don’t tell you they want to win the Haskell, they tell you they want to win the Kentucky Derby or the Travers Stakes. That is why it still and will forever remain the most prestigious summer affair in racing.


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Older Comments about Travers, Still Top Dog...

I have heard it called that and I most certainly believe in that name. However, I would disagree with you on the level of the Haskell. I would actually liken it to the Preakness, the baby child when standing next to the Derby which has so much age and prestige. While it still draws some wonderful deep and talented fields, it in no way can be called equal to the Derby.
DeadHeat……….I’m not trying to argue with you and I’m no saying that you commented one way or another. I just wondered if you had ever heard of anyone calling the Travers Saratoga’s signature race. Regarding the fields for the Haskell. They seem to be getting deeper with talent in the past few years than they used to be and I think that one reason is the 9F distance. I also agree with Mike that the Travers is the greatest race for three year olds outside the Triple Crown. The Haskell to me has always been like a Blue Grass or a Florida Derby or a Wood Memorial, a top G1, but not on the same level as the TC races and the Travers.
The Travers is the greatest race for three year olds, except maybe for the Triple Crown races, and what makes it special is the 1 1/4 mile distance. One of the worst trends in racing today is the shortening of the major races. It seems like every race today is 1 1/8 miles, our champion horses need to prove themselves at the American classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.
Already debating Haskell v. Travers, wait until you see the POINT/COUNTER POINT!
Laz, I don't know where I said it was not, in fact in my blog i'm advocating for it. However, you in your first comment said the Haskell lacks much depth and only draws one or two good horses, when it has drawn several deep fields in the last couple years. 07 drew Hard Spund, Curlin, and Any Given Saturday. 09 had several stakes winners including The Preakness and Belmont winners. Last year drew the Derby runner-up, along with both the Preakness winner and second place finisher. My point was the Haskell has proven to draw deep fields, just as the Travers does, but that does not in any way change the fact that the Travers is still the race to win.
Will be at the top of stretch to watch this one with my running buddy Pozzouli. We are biased since this track is in our backyard but Travers I believe is the All Star Game and The Haskell is the junior varsity version. There may be a few 3 YO's with some talent is the Haskell but the Summer Derby is always stacked. I've been to both events and although this is anecdotal, I saw more NJ license plates transplanted in the Toga parking than I did NY plates at Monmouth.
DeadHeat.....I might be wrong, but isn't the Travers considred to be the signature race of the greatest race meet in North America?
The last few years have gotten deeper and deeper in terms of talent running in the Haskell. Last year was a very good year, so was 2009. 2007 was also a great year for that race too. However, as I said Travers is an awesome race and event. It is the best race of the summer
I have always considered the Haskell as a prep for the Travers, the Summer Derby and I guess that Kiaran McLaughlin does to when he said that he will train Rattlesnake Ridge up to the Travers instead of running in the Haskell. Often you get a good horse or two in it but not a lot of depth. This year for sure has to be one of the deepest fields I can recall with most having a legitimate shot of winning the race. One thing that is starting to stand out for me is that many trainers are leaning towards the 9F distance of the Haskell as opposed to the 10F of the Travers. The depth this year suggests that many that will be running in it might be suspect at the 10F distance.

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