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Travers Stakes

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Travers Stakes History

Saratoga's Travers Stakes Historical Overview

Known as the “Midsummer Derby”, the Travers Stakes has been run at Saratoga since 1864. The race has always been named after William R. Travers, president of the Saratoga Racing Association when the race was founded. The Travers is for 3-year-olds and contested every August at Saratoga Race Course.

The Travers has been run at a distance of 1 ¼ miles since 1904.  It has been a Grade I affair since 1973, as long as stakes have been graded in North America.

The winners of the Travers Stakes have been a who's who of the last century and a half of American horse racing.  The winner of the inaugural Belmont Stakes, Ruthless (1867), went on to become the first filly to win the Travers.  Triple Crown winner Whirlaway (1941) added another jewel in the Travers. The magnificent Man o' War (1920) counted this race among his victories -- and lends his name to the Travers Stakes trophy as the winner of 20-of-21 career starts. The namesake of the day's marquee turf race, Sword Dancer, won the 1953 Travers.

The storied history of the Travers also includes some major upsets, thrilling finishes and controversial results. In 1930, Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox lost to 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy, who is now honored with a stakes races that servers as Saratoga’s leading Travers prep race. Ten Travers winners have won by a nose, including the 1962 thrilling finish between two leading 3-year-old champion contenders. Jaipur and Ridan went stride-for-stride the entire way, separating themselves down the stretch in a head-to-head duel in which Jaipur prevailed by a nose. History was made in 2012 when Alpha and Golden Ticket finished in a dead heat for the win.

Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner who became Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Colt, was disqualified and placed 2nd behind arch-rival Alydar in the Travers. That race was the final meeting between the two icons, who raced against each other 10 times during storied careers. 

Trainer Bert Mulholland won the Travers a record five times from 1939-1963, and he served as a private trainer for former Jockey Club chairman George D. Widener, Jr. Current jockey Javier Castellano is the rider with a record five Travers wins. Two of them were by a nose aboard Wicked Strong (2014) and Afleet Alex (2010). His most recent Travers victory to claim the blanket of flowers was aboard Keen Ice in the upset of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah when Travers Day produce a record handle of $49,668,754.

The fastest Travers winner was General Assembly (1979), a son of Secretariat who stopped the timer in 2:00 flat. That was until the 2016 edition when Arrogate, making his stakes debut and sent off at 11-1 odds, burst onto the national racing stage with a stunning 13-length victory in a Travers record time of 1:59.36. Arrogate would go on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Pegasus World Cup, and the Dubai World Cup in his next three starts and become North America’s all-time money winner.

Recent Travers Winner History

Year

Winner

Odds

Payout

Time

Style

Favorite

2017

West Coast

6-1

$14.20

2:01.19

Front

5th

2016

Arrogate

11-1

$25.40

1:59.36

Front

11th

2015

Keen Ice

16-1

$34.00

2:02.57

Mid-pack, off pace

2nd

2014

V.E. Day

19-1

$41.00

2:02.98

Closer, back

10th

2013

Will Take Charge

9-1

$21.00

2:02.68

Mid-pack, off pace

7th

2012

Alpha
Golden Ticket

2-1
33-1

$4.10
28.80

2:02.74

Stalking
Stalking

1st

2011

Stay Thirsty

2-1

$6.80

2:03.03

Pressing

1st

History Continued...

The Travers Stakes, contested every August at Saratoga for three-year-olds, is colloquially known as the “Midsummer Derby.” Tracing back to 1864, it is older than all three Triple Crown events, but has not been run consecutively.

Originally contested at 1 3/4 miles, the Travers was also run at 1 1/2 miles and 1 1/8 miles before its present distance of 1 1/4 miles was established in 1904.

Given its longevity and the fact it is contested at the country’s oldest racetrack, the Travers honor roll is replete with some of the biggest names ever to grace the American turf.

Foremost among these was Man o’ War (1920). “Big Red,” who many still consider the 20th century’s leading Thoroughbred, won 20 of 21 starts.

The most shocking result in Travers history occurred in 1930 when Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox lost to 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy, who is now honored with a stakes race that serves as Saratoga’s leading Travers prep.

The most thrilling renewal of the Travers was arguably the 1962 edition, when Jaipur and Ridan went toe-to-toe for the entire mile and a quarter. Jaipur eked out a narrow win and was later named champion three-year-old colt.

The Travers of 1978 proved a controversial one as Affirmed was disqualified and placed second behind arch-rival Alydar. It was the final meeting between the two colts, who met 10 times on the racetrack. Affirmed officially won seven times, including all three legs of the Triple Crown.

The fastest Travers winner was General Assembly (1979), a son of Secretariat who stopped the timer in 2:00.

Jaipur was one of a record five Travers winners for trainer Bert Mulholland, who served as private trainer for former Jockey Club chairman George D. Widener Jr. Five jockeys, including current star Javier Castellano, hold the record for most Travers wins with four.

History was made in 2012 when Alpha and Golden Ticket finished in a dead heat for the win, the first in Travers history that was not decided by a race-off.

The seventh and most recent filly to win the Travers was Lady Rotha in 1915. 

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