There are many prestigious races for 3-year-old horses in addition to the Triple Crown, and then there is the Travers Stakes. A perfect bookend to the racing action that has built up over the summer since the Belmont Stakes, the $1-million, 1 ¼-mile Travers, the oldest Grade 1 race in the United States, is about as high-brow as you can get - it has tradition and class written all over it.
Bucolic Saratoga Race Course is a mesmerizing setting. Horses and people seem to sense the magic once they drink the spring water and saunter among its sap-green barns, white fences and verdant grounds. But a relaxed pace and summery atmosphere does not diminish the competitiveness in the air. The chance to be handed the Tiffany designed Man o’ War Cup in the winner’s circle by a member of the Samuel Riddle family and have a canoe in the infield painted in your stable’s colors is as alluring as any prized jewel in horseracing.
So who do we have champing at the bit? It looks like a dream team of the best colts and geldings anywhere near the East Coast.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb has been getting seawater and hyperbaric spa treatments since his third-place Belmont finish. He looks rested and ready to run. Big horse Verrazano ran like a star when gobbling up the Haskell field earlier this summer, and speedy Palace Malice, underrated in the Belmont, won’t be overlooked here after winning the Jim Dandy Stakes. Neither will persistent Golden Soul, who although less than stellar since his second in the Kentucky Derby might be rejuvenated by the Saratoga magic. Will Take Charge has Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas on his side. The Darley Stable entries, Romansh and Transparent, and as well as Moreno are all hoping for a good ride and some strategic luck. Ken McPeek, who won last year’s Travers with Golden Ticket in a dead heat, is looking to keep that infield canoe painted his colors with his entry War Dancer, a turf horse getting his second chance to shine on dirt.
Saratoga Race Course is called “the Graveyard of Champions” for the stunning defeats of favorites and champions that often take place there. Saratoga seems to bring out the best in people and horses. Its restorative powers may shape the race in ways that are inspiring, uplifting and maybe surprising.