By The Numbers: Saratoga's Travers Stakes

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August 24th, 2021

The climax of the Saratoga summer meet is arguably the Travers S. (G1). The Midsummer Derby is known for drama, upsets, and great performances. Here is the Travers by the numbers:


The margin in lengths at the finish line between Alpha and Golden Ticket in the 2012 Travers. After 2:02.74, nothing could separate the 2-1 favorite Alpha and the 33-1 longshot Golden Ticket. It’s the only official dead heat in the Travers; Atilla and Acrobat dead-heated in 1874 but a run-off was held with Atilla on top.

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Alpha and Golden Ticket dead heat in Travers S. (Photo courtesy of NYRA)


The number of Triple Crown winners to win the Travers. That horse is Whirlaway, who won the Travers by three lengths in 1941. Three other Triple Crown winners tried and all placed second – Gallant Fox behind Jim Dandy (1930), American Pharoah behind Keen Ice (2015), and Affirmed, who beat Alydar home in 1978 but was disqualified after severely interfering with his great rival.


The fastest time run in the Travers. It was put up by Arrogate in 2016 and was the race in which he announced himself to American racing, winning by 13 1/2 lengths. To date it is the only edition of the race run in under two minutes.


The number of Travers winners sired by Lexington. The greatest sire of the 19th century, Lexington won 16 stallion titles. He sired nine of the first 15 Travers winners, including Hall of Fame inductees Kentucky, Harry Bassett, Tom Bowling, and Duke of Magenta.


The winning margin in lengths for champion galloper Damascus in the 1967 Travers. Rated one of the top 20 horses to race in North America in the 20th century by Blood-Horse, Damascus ran below his best for third in the Kentucky Derby before winning the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Without any of his outstanding rival three-year-olds Dr. Fager, Proud Clarion, and In Reality to oppose him, Damascus was way too good for three opponents.

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Damascus (Photo by Coglianese Photos/NYRA)


The odds that Jim Dandy started at in 1930. He wasn’t expected to get near Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox or the Belmont Stakes runner-up Whichone. But on a sodden track which suited him perfectly, Jim Dandy found a run beside the rail to overhaul the sparring Belmont combatants and won by eight lengths. Jim Dandy ended with a career of 141 starts for just seven victories.


The renewal number of this year’s Travers. It’s the oldest stakes race in the United States for three-year-olds; older than the Kentucky Derby (1875), the Preakness Stakes (1873), and the Belmont Stakes (1867). However, there have been more runnings of the Belmont Stakes (153). Both races did not happen in 1911 and 1912 due to the Hart-Agnew Law that effectively stopped racing in New York, but the Belmont Stakes has not missed any other years while the Travers was not staged for four of the five years between 1896 and 1900.


The approximate number of carnations required to make up the floral blanket presented to the Travers winner. Despite its long history, the Travers winner never had a floral blanket until 1994, when floral designer Susan Garrett approached Saratoga about putting one together.


The first year the Travers was run. It is named after William R. Travers, the wealthy New York lawyer who founded Saratoga in 1863 along with John Hunter. Travers was also one of the owners of the first winner of the race named in his honor: the mighty Kentucky, who would win 21 of his 22 races and be later inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.


The number of fans that poured into the infield at Saratoga in 1920 because every seat and vantage point outside the track was taken. The reason? Man o’ War was running in the Travers. He was already a sensation, having won 15 of his 16 starts, and was going for his 10th consecutive victory. Facing him was John P. Grier, the second best three-year-old in the United States, and Upset, the only horse to beat him, in a juvenile race the year before. The fans got what they wanted: Man o’ War won easily by three lengths.