Everything To Know About The Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes


The Travers Stakes is likely one of the most prestigious races for American three-year-olds and is the spotlight of the historic Saratoga meet. 

Run at ten furlongs (1 ¼ mile), the identical distance because the Kentucky Derby, the Travers is also known as the “Midsummer Derby” and helps a high three-year-old cement his or her standing because the chief of the division. 

In accordance with TwinSpires, this race is likely one of the most necessary ones within the Saratoga Race monitor schedule.

Right here’s what it’s good to know going into this 12 months’s version of the well-known race.

Why This Identify?

Though the race is known as merely the “Travers Stakes,” it’s formally the Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes. Why is that?

Probably the most prestigious type of races are stakes races, however even these have levels of high quality. The most effective stakes races could also be eligible for graded standing, with Grade I being the very best score. To obtain Grade I standing, a race should have a handbag of no less than $300,000, should have been run underneath comparable situations (floor, distance, restrictions, and different components) for no less than two years, and might solely be restricted by age and/or intercourse of the horse. Grade I races, such because the Travers, sometimes appeal to the perfect horses in coaching for his or her specific division.

As for the “Runhappy” portion, that provides to the identify is more moderen. Runhappy was a preferred racehorse, changing into the Eclipse Champion Sprinter in 2015. Retired to stud after racing as a four-year-old, his proprietor, Jim McIngvale, determined to advertise the horse by sponsoring a number of high races, together with the Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes.

Sizzling Summer season

Warmth is all the time an element when racing within the deep summer time, however this 12 months’s summer time is proving to be hotter than regular. As of the time of this writing, warmth indexes in Saratoga Springs, New York, have been as excessive as 99 levels Fahrenheit (37.2 levels Celsius). 

Because of this not solely will racegoers should refill on sunscreen and iced drinks, however trainers and grooms should hold a eager eye out for indicators of warmth exhaustion from their horses. These climate situations may additionally have an effect on the standard of the racetrack itself, particularly when thought-about alongside the prevalence of summer time rains.

The Baffert Ban

Anybody in search of Bob Baffert’s high three-year-olds on this 12 months’s Travers can be dissatisfied. 

Following Medina Spirit’s post-race optimistic, which price him a Kentucky Derby win, Baffert started to obtain sanctions from racing circuits all around the nation. Few teams, nonetheless, punished Baffert as swiftly and as harshly because the New York Racing Affiliation, the governing physique of Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and Saratoga, the monitor at which the Travers is run.

Whereas many racetracks, corresponding to Monmouth Park in New Jersey, selected to permit Baffert again after serving his 90-day nationwide suspension, the NYRA declared that Baffert was to serve a full 12 months’s ban from their tracks. Whereas this was shorter than the preliminary proposal, which was a two-year ban, Baffert is not going to solely be barred from competing on this 12 months’s Saratoga meet but in addition within the prestigious fall and winter races held at Belmont and Aqueduct. 

Because of this Taiba, the proficient son of Gun Runner who completed second by a head within the Grade I Haskell Stakes (which is usually a prep race for the Travers) can be unable to face off towards his fellow three-year-olds within the Midsummer Derby. Whereas Baffert has declared the Breeders’ Cup (held this 12 months at Keeneland) the year-end purpose for Taiba, he has not but determined which races will function the colt’s preparation.

A Bit Of Historical past

horse race

The Travers Stakes, named for Saratoga Racing Affiliation president William R. Travers, was first run in 1864, making it one of many oldest stakes races nonetheless run in America immediately. Saratoga is immediately not solely probably the most well-known locations for horse racing but in addition affords horseback driving to anybody who’s eager on making an attempt.

The race has not been run repeatedly, having been skipped in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1911, and 1912. It has been run at distances starting from 1 ⅛ mile to 1 ¾ mile, selecting its present distance of 1 ¼ mile in 1904. 

Along with the profitable purse, the connections of the Travers winner are introduced with a gold trophy referred to as “The Man o’Warfare Cup.” The trophy was first awarded to the famed American superhorse Man o’Warfare after his victory over Sir Barton in 1920. It was donated to Saratoga in 1936 by Man o’Warfare’s proprietor, Samuel Riddle, and it’s introduced yearly by Riddle’s descendants. The profitable silks are additionally painted on the canoe within the Saratoga infield.

Though the race is usually regarded as belonging to the male division, the Travers is open to three-year-old fillies as properly. Fillies carried out properly within the early editions of the race, taking it seven instances: Maiden gained the second working of the race in 1865, adopted by Ruthless (1867), The Banshee (1868), Sultana (1876), Liza (1895), Ada Nay (1903), and Woman Rotha (1915). Nevertheless, most high fillies these days race towards their very own intercourse and are pointed to the Grade I Alabama Stakes towards the ladies reasonably than the Travers.

Triple Crown winners have, considerably surprisingly, not fared properly within the Travers, contributing to Saratoga’s fame because the “Graveyard of Champions.” Of the 13 American Triple Crown winners to this point, solely 4 have contested the Travers, with solely Whirlaway (1941) coming away victorious. Each Gallant Fox (1930) and American Pharoah (2015) had been upset by lesser horses, whereas Affirmed (1978) crossed the wire forward of his nice rival Alydar, however was disqualified for interference.

Main Contenders

Two of the three Triple Crown race winners from this 12 months are pointed towards the Travers Stakes: Kentucky Derby winner Wealthy Strike and Preakness winner Early Voting. Whereas the previous will doubtless prepare as much as the Travers, in accordance with coach Eric Reed, the latter is eyeing the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, additionally at Saratoga, as a prep race. 

They’re prone to be joined by Cost It and Cyberknife, who’ve made their presence often called divisional leaders in latest weeks. Cost It earned his first stakes victory in dramatic trend, crushing the competitors within the Grade III Dwyer Stakes by an incredible 23 lengths. His coach, Todd Pletcher, has famous the grey son of Tapit may additionally contest the Jim Dandy on the way in which to the Travers.

On the flip facet, Cyberknife gained the Grade I Haskell Stakes by a determined head after a stretch battle with the aforementioned Taiba, setting a brand new monitor file within the course of. A son of Gun Runner, Cyberknife had beforehand gained the Grade I Arkansas Derby, and is now eligible for a million-dollar bonus ought to he add the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Basic to his win file.

An attention-grabbing prospect is the proficient filly Nest, who gained the Grade I Teaching Membership American Oaks over Kentucky Oaks victor Secret Oath. Though Todd Pletcher mentioned she’s going to almost definitely go towards Alabama, the Travers was a risk. Nest has beforehand contested the colts, working second within the Belmont Stakes.