By Ray Wallin
Peas and carrots. Franks and beans. Peanut butter and jelly. Travers and amazing finishes.
The Mid-Summer Derby at Saratoga, the Travers Stakes, has produced some commanding wins and some heart pounding stretch drives. The last three runnings have produced commanding wins by Arrogate in 2016, West Coast in 2017, and Catholic Boy in 2018. Yet, there have been several amazing battles in the stretch in the last decade of the Travers as well.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah went right to the lead as the 1-5 favorite and set comfortable fractions with a half mile in 48-1/5 seconds despite being pressed by Frosted. Frosted would briefly take the lead before American Pharoah would battle back to retake it only to lose just short of the wire to Keen Ice. American Pharoah would be the fourth Triple Crown winner to run in the Travers and third Triple Crown winner to finish second. Jockey Javier Castellano wins not only his second straight Travers, but this makes him the winningest Travers jockey in history with his fifth win. He would go on to add a sixth victory in 2018 aboard Catholic Boy.
The 2014 Travers had one of the most competitive fields featuring Bayern, Wicked Strong, and the Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, who derailed California Chrome’s attempt to win the Triple Crown. Those three would be the frontrunners early, distancing themselves off a strong pace by the half mile and would turn for home together. That is when the excitement begins. V.E. Day would prevail late over his stablemate Wicked Strong giving Jimmy Jerkens his second Travers winner.
In a race that featured Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy winner Palace Malice, and Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano, the story was almost
the 31-1 shot Moreno that nearly took the field wire to wire. It was another dramatic finish that was decided by a nose as Will Take Charge ended up the winner.
The favorite and the third longest shot on the board produced a historic finish in the 2012 Travers. For the second time in Travers history there would be a dead heat, yet unlike in 1874 (Attila and Acrobat), there was no runoff to determine the winner. Both were forwardly placed throughout most of the race and the favorite Alpha was left to run down the long shot Golden Ticket late in an amazing finish.
The son of the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex makes a big late move on the tiring long shot frontrunner only to be tested in the deep stretch by Fly Down. He holds him off long enough to win the head bob in another race that was determined by a nose to give trainer Jimmy Jerkens his first Travers winner.
Whether the winner takes command of the field or the race comes down to the wire, you know that you will be in for an exciting race again this year at the “Graveyard of Champions” in the Travers.
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.