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2012 Travers Preview Starring Alpha and Hansen

The 143rd 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 Belmont.
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.”
In 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.
Hansen 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 in 2006.
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 with Birdstone.
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. 


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Older Comments about 2012 Travers Preview Starring Alpha and Hansen ...

Hi, I wanted to clarify above. In the blog I was not critical of another trainer because they forced the pace. That is horse racing. The problem I had was his celebration afterwards when he ran 5th. Seems he did not push the pace to win, rather just to beat Hansen. Mike Smith also said when he slowed Hansen down, the other jockey slowed down, (fast-slow-fast) matching strides on purpose for no sporting reason. You draw your own conclusions on why this was done and why he was celebrating when his horse lost.
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • warchant · It's called the Russian mob..... · 1916 days ago
  • GregPadala · Sorry to read about Hansen's retirement. Your obvious love of the game was very evident this year and I hope you catch lightening in a jar again and get another just like the exciting Hansen racing needs people like you. · 1915 days ago
you won't be able to take Hanson, he's retired
Deep field? This is a field of benchwarmers
Deep field, and I think I'll take Hansen for the heck of it!
Why should I be happy, he's not my horse? Has a contract been made whereby Hansen will run as a 4yo, even if by some miracle he proves himself and doesn't have to? I didn't qualify my comment with the words "good grade 1" because I assummed that was a given."hansens been running almost monthly since last october" but every other horse is getting milked but him, but he ran more, maybe you can enlighten me as to the meaning of this. If so we'll continue if you like. If a grade 1 (GOOD) can't run one quarter in 22.9 and still finish well then I believe were not looking at a grade 1 horse. The only reason he's in this years Travers is because it's possibly the poorest Travers field ever and might go in 2:05.
Also horses on, or neat the lead have it all thier own way
you CANNOT compare time directly. ALL handicapping software I ever saw has to have intertrack variant normalization before one can touch rationally handicapping a contest.
when horses can't surive past may, or 5 races, maybe they weren't legitimate grade 1 horses either, just good horses that were milked for everything they had. hansens been running almost monthly since last october--his worst 9f time is almost 5 lengths better than alpha's best 9f time. lots of grade 1 horses get burned out by 22.9 fractions, which is what hansen ran in in the second quarter of the wva derby. why can't you be happy you have a sound horse who's connections a committed to racing not shipping to the shed?
When you burn a horse grade 1 horse out in 24.1,47.1 maybe you don't have a grade 1 horse. Considering he was running in a grade 2 maybe you should reasses his transition from 2yo to 3yo and where he actually fits in this year of virtually no legitimate grade 1 3yos left standing.
Thanks for the additional information, Dr. Hansen. Having Hansen in the Travers will make for a great race and a great day of racing.
I remember the conflict after Forty Niner went after Winning Colors in the Preakness. YOU ARE OUT TO WIN, if the other party is sucker enough to fall for a pce duel that you have accomplised your goal.
I remember Runaway Groom well ... Conquistador Cielo and Aloma's Ruler battled much of the way allowing the gray from north of the border to pick up the pieces. As far as 2012, I believe this race will be the coming out party for Nonios.
Runaway Groom with Jeffrey Fell up
Someone just posted the answer to that trivia question recently. I think it was tv that named the horse that beat the 3 TC race winners. Anyway, a few weeks ago it was lonely on the Alpha bandwagon, but no more from the looks of the poll. Only 29 total votes, but it could be a trend.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


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