Ten Things You Should Know: Travers Stakes
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
1) The Travers Stakes is a race for 3-year-olds run at Saratoga Race Course in New York. The race is traditionally dubbed “The Mid-Summer Derby,” a reference to its significance on the racing calendar and a brief period (1927-1932) when it officially ran as the “Travers Midsummer Derby.”
2) The race is named for William Travers, a wealthy lawyer and investor who was the first president of the Saratoga Race Course and one of the prime movers behind its founding and construction. When he died in 1887, his obituary called him “the most popular man in New York.”
3) The first Travers Stakes was run on August 2, 1864 during the second race meeting at Saratoga. The first winner was Kentucky, winner of 21 races from 23 starts, and was owned by track president and race namesake William Travers.
4) The first Travers pre-dates the inaugural Kentucky Derby. The first running came over a decade before the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. It is the oldest 3-year-old stakes race in the United States.
5) Unlike the Kentucky Derby, the Travers has not been run every year since its first running in 1864. The Travers was not run in 1896 and 1898 to 1900 during a period of corrupt track ownership when many stakes races were cut from the program. It also was not run in 1911 and 1912 when politics shut down racing in the entire state of New York.
6) Fillies won three of the first five Travers Stakes. The 1867 winner Ruthless, the second filly to win the Travers, also won the inaugural running of the Belmont Stakes. The last filly to win the Travers was Lady Rotha in 1915.
7) Man o’ War made his final appearance at Saratoga in the 1920 Travers when he beat Upset, the only horse to ever finish ahead of him when Upset won the 1919 Sanford Stakes.
8) The final race in the legendary rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar came in the 1978 Travers. Alydar crossed the line behind his rival but was declared the winner after Affirmed was disqualified for cutting off Alydar on the far turn.
9) Affirmed, American Pharoah and Whirlaway are the only Triple Crown winners to race in the Travers. Whirlaway (1941) is the only Triple Crown legend to win the Travers.
10) The 2012 Travers Stakes ended in a dead heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket which was the first dead heat finish of the modern era. The previous Travers dead heat came in 1874.