What is the greatest Travers Stakes moment?

August 23rd, 2022

Coming up Aug. 28 is the flagship race of the Saratoga meet — the Travers S. (G1)!

The summer's premier race for three-year-old males, the Travers has a rich history that dates back to 1864. Some of the greatest horses in the world have won the race.

But some of the greatest moments in racing history have also happened in the Travers.

Let's look back on some of the most historic moments in Travers history, then let us know — which is your favorite?

Damascus (1967)

In the early stages of the 1967 Travers, Damascus was nowhere.

Gala Performance and Tumiga dueled. Dual-classic winner Damascus dropped almost 20 lengths behind that torrid battle, happy to bide his time, along with longshot Reason to Hail.

About halfway down the backstretch, Damascus began to swallow up the sloppy ground. With three-eighths of a mile remaining, Damascus flew past the tiring leaders and almost immediately opened up a yawning advantage.

With just one tap of the crop near the quarter pole to keep him on task, Damascus won by as much as he wanted — 22 lengths — over Reason to Hail.

He tied the track record, 2:01 3/5, and posted the most decisive win of his great career.

Jaipur vs. Ridan (1962)

Jaipur may be best known today for the Grade 1 turf sprint that features his name, but he also won a classic edition of the Travers.

Jaipur and Ridan entered the Travers as a well-fancied pair — Jaipur the 8-5 chalk, Ridan the 5-2 second choice.

From the start, they locked in battle. Ridan saved ground on the fence and Jaipur was just to his outside. For brief moments, it looked like Jaipur was pressing outside, as Ridan attempted to edge forward, but Jaipur always reengaged. In the blink of an eye, it was be a duel again.

Jaipur and Ridan continued to battle. Neither gave an inch. At the wire, the photo confirmed Jaipur got his nose down, but Ridan could have just as easily, in a horse race that did not deserve a loser.

Jim Dandy (1930)

The footing for the 1930 Travers was gummy, not quite finished drying out from the rain.

All eyes were on Gallant Fox, the Triple Crown winner, who bookmakers offered at 1-2 to win.

Few gave a second thought, or an odd dollar, to Jim Dandy's chances. He was 100-1 in a four-horse field.

With a tracking trip, off the leading pair of second-choice Whichone and Gallant Fox, Jim Dandy got involved around the far turn. He got through on the rail and passed the fancied pair. By the time they crossed the wire, a confused crowd saw Jim Dandy — a son of the slop-loving Jim Gaffney — finish six lengths clear of the Triple Crown winner.

Keen Ice (2015)

Heading into the 2015 Travers, American Pharoah looked invincible.

He hadn't been beaten since a sprint debut on Polytrack, he dominated the Triple Crown series, and made the Haskell S. (G1) look like a paid workout.

But the Travers unfolded a little differently.

Frosted took the race to American Pharoah. Though by midstretch, American Pharoah had won the battle against Frosted, he hadn't won the war. Keen Ice, who was bred to run forever, got the setup he needed to suit his stretch-running style. Inside the sixteenth pole, Keen Ice was moving the better of the two, and he got there in time to win by three-quarters of a length.

As Larry Collmus proclaimed past the wire, "the Graveyard of Champions has claimed another."

Whirlaway (1941)

By the time Whirlaway loaded into the gate for the 1941 Travers, he was already a legend.

He had already swept the Triple Crown, after all. Though, there were questions about whether he would win the Travers. Two starts before, he was beaten in the Arlington Classic, and in his final prep, just 10 days before the Travers, he labored to win.

Despite the muddy conditions and Whirlaway's closing style, though, he would not be denied in the Midsummer Derby.

The AP reporter described him as a "mud-covered lightning streak," as he roared past Lord Kitchener and then Fairymant. Whirlaway crossed the wire three lengths clear, and he remains the only Triple Crown winner to win the Travers.

Last week, we asked you who the greatest winner in Queen's Plate history was.  With a decisive 67% of the vote, the crown goes to a Kentucky Derby winner, and a horse you see in the pedigrees of most of the racehorses on the track today — the great Northern Dancer.