The Brock Talk

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Travers History As Colorful As The Canoe

Sixty years after Kentucky and jockey Gilbert W. Patrick won the first running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, the track decided to start a tradition to recognize the owner of the Spa's mid-summer Derby. That year Frank Coltiletti rode Mars to victory and the colors of Walter M. Jeffords were painted on the new canoe that floated in the serene lake in the track's infield.

That was 1926. Eighty-three years later there is still a canoe in the infield lake, now painted in the white and green colors of WinStar Farms, the owners of 2008 Travers winner Colonel John. But the history of the race is perhaps even more colorful and storied.

The Travers Stakes, first run in 1864, is the oldest stakes still run annually in the United States. Although the Kentucky Derby gets the oldest "continously run" distinction because of six missed runnings of the Travers. The latest coming in 1911-12 during World War I. It is named in honor of the first president of Saratoga Race Course, William R. Travers, who was also the owner of Kentucky, the first winner of the race.

The Travers list of winners includes legends like Man o' War in 1920, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway in 1941, Native Dancer ('53), Buckpasser and Damascus in 1966-'67 respectively and Alydar in 1978.

Two of the top young sires today, Medaglia d'Oro and Birdstone, are both Travers winners as is Bernardini.

Pat Day, Eddie Arcaro and Jim McLaughlin lead all jockeys with four Travers victories each but Hall of Famers such as Eric Guerin, Bill Shoemaker, Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey have their share of wins as well.

In 1962, the Travers produced a race for the ages as Jaipur edged out Ridan at the wire after the duo raced in tandem throughout most of the mile and one-quarer distance. Recognized as one of Horse Racing's Top 100 Moments by Blood-Horse magazine, the 1962 Travers determined the champion 3-year-old colt that year.

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