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A Look At The Travers Stakes

Updated on August 20, 2012

This Saturday (August 25th, 2012) will mark the renewal of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. The “Mid-Summer Derby” is the oldest, continuously run race exclusively for three-year-olds in North America. It was named for William Travers, a prominent New York lawyer of his time, who was also one of the founders of Saratoga Race Course.

The race was first held, way back in 1864, while the American Civil War was going on and the United States re-elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Over the course of its history, the Travers Stakes has seen some of the most renowned thoroughbreds and jockeys in its winners circle. Greats such as Thunder Gulch, Alydar, Sword Dancer, and Man O’ War enrich the races glorious past, while a “who’s who” of famed jockeys like Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, Willie Shoemaker, and Mike Smith have padded their resume’s at the famed Saratoga track.

The race was originally run at a distance of 1 ¾ miles, but since 1904 it’s been a 1 ¼ mile affair. The purse was upgraded to $1 million in 1999, with the winner also taking home a gold plated replica of the Man O’ War Cup, which was designed by Tiffany & Company. The first winner of the Travers Stakes was a horse called Kentucky who was owned by the races namesake (William Travers) and Belmont Park founder, August Belmont. There has been only one horse that has won the Triple Crown and then gone on to take the Travers Stakes. In 1941, Whirlaway pulled off the feat on his way to induction into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959. Another piece of Travers Stakes trivia surrounds the race from 1982. It was the only time that race featured three different winners of the Triple Crown races. Kentucky Derby champion Gato Del Sol, Preakness winner Aloma’s Ruler, and Belmont victor Conquistador Cielo all took part, but were beaten out by the Canadian Hall of Fame thoroughbred, Runaway Groom.

It’s not likely that the 2012 winning colt will have the Hall of Fame in his future. The three-year-old division has been decimated by injury and illness and what was expected to be a tremendous race that would springboard fans to the Breeder’s Cup in November, is now going to be quite a different affair from a star power perspective. Both Triple Crown race winning horses, I’ll Have Another (Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes) and Union Rags (Belmont Stakes) have been retired due to injury. Bodemeister and Paynter are both out due to illness and earlier in the season, notable colts such as Mark Valeski, Take Charge Indy, Gemologist, and Algorithms have all been sidelined with various injury and illness. The favorites for this year’s race will likely fall on the necks of Alpha and Hansen. Alpha, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, is coming off a victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes and has finished first or second in six of his eight career starts. Hansen was the 2011 two-year-old champion, and has posted victories in five of nine races, but has had an inconsistent 2012 campaign. He will be ridden by the third different jockey in his last three races when Javier Castellano takes the mount on Saturday. Bob Baffert will bring Liaison to Saratoga to take another shot at the colt winning a race in 2012. In seven starts as a three-year-old, the once highly regarded Liaison has only managed to finish in the money in three races.

Other colts that could be a factor are Ken McPeek’s Atigun, who has had a checkered career to this point and Street Life, trained by Chad Brown, who is coming off a victory in the Curlin at Saratoga last month. While the names may not pop off the program, you can bet there will be plenty of excitement surrounding the event on Saturday. There are some races that transcend its participants and the Travers Stakes is one of those. After the positions are drawn on Wednesday, the excitement will build and Saratoga Race Course will become the center of thoroughbred racing.

Don’t forget that the Kentucky Derby hopefuls for 2013 are already training and racing! It takes a lot of hard work and luck for those horses to make it to racing’s pinnacle event in Louisville on the first Saturday in May, but it doesn’t have to be difficult for you. Contact for information on Kentucky Derby tickets and Kentucky Derby ticket packages. is sure to have a ticket package that is right for your budget, so don’t delay; start planning your Kentucky Derby vacation right now!


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    • Derby Deals profile imageAUTHOR

      Derby Deals 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville, Indiana

      Thanks for the comment Barb!

    • FreddyCaple profile image


      5 years ago from Louisville, Ky

      Hansen is out for the Travers and may be through for good.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Derby Deals...This is a very enjoyable write-up on the Travers.

      Whirlaway is one of my favorite horse "characters". It's interesting that he alone among Triple Crown champions also scored in the time-honored Travers Stakes.


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