The 151st Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course
Editor's Note (9/10/2020): 2020's summer meet at Saratoga Race Course took place without spectators in attendance. The information below reflects 2020, but we will update it with 2021 details as soon as they are released by the New York Racing Association (NYRA).
Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course: August 8, 2020
The 2020 Travers Day is scheduled for August 8 and it will feature the legendary Travers Stakes (which dates back to 1864). Nicknamed Saratoga's Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes is a Grade 1 race for three-year-olds.
This is the most popular day of the Saratoga summer racing meet, and in a typical year, spectators would be allowed to attend. However, NYRA has announced that Saratoga Race Course is opening on July 16, 2020, without spectators in attendance. We will provide updates on whether fans will be allowed later in the season when info becomes available.
General Travers Info & History
When the Saratoga Racing Association named the Travers Stakes for William R. Travers (one of the founders of America's oldest race course), they sought only to honor a man who'd made his mark on the sport of horse racing. Mr. Travers' horse, Kentucky, won that first race in 1864.
Almost immediately, the Travers became a prestigious event, as word spread that the race was designed for only extraordinary three-year-old horses. The race has been run at four different distances during the course of its history to-date:
- 1 miles (2.81 km): 1864 to 1889
- 1 miles (2.41 km): 1890 to 1892
- 1 miles (2.01 km): 1893 to 1894, 1897
- 1.12 miles (1.81 km): 1895, 1901 to 1903
- 1¼ miles (2.01 km): 1904 to present
The present distance of 1 1/4 miles is a perfect distance for contemporary three-year-olds. The race is open to colts and geldings, carrying 126 lb (57.2 kg) and fillies, carrying 121 lbs. (54.9 kg).
The Travers creates memories every year, for thousands of people. There are too many wonderful experiences to recount here, but some of those memories that have been shared by large numbers of race fans include:
- In 1941, Whirlaway became the only horse ever to win the superfecta: he'd won the Triple Crown, then went on to take the Travers, as well.
- In 1962, Jaipur won by a nose-bob in track record time over Ridan, who was considered to be more talented. The long battle (the entire 1 1/4 miles) saw the two horses duke it out the entire distance of the race.
- In 1982, Runaway Groom (Champion Canadian three-year-old), who was trained by John DiMario, arrived at the Saratoga backstretch after a very long and exhausting season. He'd competed in the Canadian Triple Crown: he won the Prince of Wales Stakes, the Breeders' Stakes, and finished second in the Queen's Plate. Runaway Groom's Travers victory made him the only horse in racing history to beat the winners of that year's American Triple Crown in the same race. (Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol; Preakness Stakes winner Aloma's Ruler and Belmont Stakes winner, Conquistador Cielo.)
- Point Given, a gorgeous, big, 17hh monster, won the Travers on August 25, 2001. That day, Point Given drew a record Travers Stakes Day crowd, 60,486 fans. The race brought in a total betting handle of $34,529,273. This was also a Saratoga record to that date.
The Travers Trophy is known as the Man O' War Cup, and was designed by Tiffany & Co. The trophy was named for Samuel Riddle's great Champion: Mr. Riddle donated the trophy as the permanent award for winning the race. Typically, a gold-plated replica is presented to the winner every year by a member of the Riddle family.
The winner of the Travers Stakes typically receives an extravagant floral blanket, a beautiful blanket of flowers to drape over the horse, handmade locally with over a thousand carnations.
The Travers Canoe
The Travers Canoe has been a lovely tribute to the winners of the Travers every year since 1961. The canoe is painted in the colors of the silks of the reigning Travers winner. A canoe has been a fixture in the infield pond since 1926, but it wasn't until 1961 that the canoe became affiliated with the Travers.
The City of Saratoga Springs typically celebrates the entire week leading up to Travers Day with various events, including live music, as part of a Travers Festival. However, for the 2020 season, the Travers Festival may see some changes as New York State continues to reopen.