The summer of huge horse racing action continues at Saratoga in August, as the Travers Stakes is due to take place on the 27th. It is a massive Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winning runner automatically ensuring their place in the money-spinning Classic at Keeneland in November.
However, the race could give us one final opportunity to look at some of the three-year-old runners before they step into company against the older horses for the first time.
Travers Stakes Records
The Travers Stakes has been held annually since 1864, with the only exceptions coming in 1896, 1899, 1900, 1911 and 1912. It has often been a huge point in the season for some of the most talented horses, and is seen as the third-best race for three-year-olds on the calendar behind the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby.
Saratoga racetrack in New York hosts the race and it’s one of the main events in this iconic course. You can read more about the track here: twinspires.com/race-tracks/saratoga
Arrogate won the race in 2016 with a speed record of 1:59.36, for Bob Baffert. However, the record for most wins for a trainer is still held by Bert Mulholland, who won on five occasions between 1939 and 1963. Javier Costellano is the most successful jockey in this race, with his success onboard Catholic Boy in 2018 being his sixth victory in the race.
Nest To Take On The Boys Again?
One of the early interesting angles for the race this year is the fact that we could see Nest return to take on the boys. The Todd Pletcher-trained horse put in a fine display in the Belmont Stakes earlier in the year, as she finished second to Mo Donegal over 1 ½ miles.
She bounced back in commanding fashion from that third career defeat in a Kentucky Oaks rematch against Secret Oath, as she powered clear of the field over 1 1/8 miles. This distance certainly brings out the very best in Nest, and if at the level she was in the Coaching Club American Oaks, she could have a strong chance to top this field.
The Travers this year could all be about the potential rematch between Early Voting and Epicenter. Early Voting managed to hold off Epicenter to win the Preakness Stakes earlier in the year, but a renewal challenge could be made by Epicenter after finally having a bit of a break away from the track.
The three-year-old for Steven Asmussen was the pre-race favourite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but finished second on both occasions. Interestingly, Rich Strike, who beat Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby, may also return from his underwhelming effort in the Belmont Stakes with a run in the Travers. That only adds further intrigue ahead of the Saratoga showdown.
Could Cyberknife Continue Charge?
The Haskell Stakes in July was billed as a showdown between Taiba and Jack Christopher. However, it was all about the return to form of Cyberknife. While Jack Christopher certainly had excuses after traveling across the 1 1/8 mile distance for the first time, Cyberknife is certainly seen as a more realistic contender for the Classic compared to Taiba at this point.
The three-year-old for Brad Cox travelled menacingly throughout the Haskell, and finally pounced late to beat the Baffert-trained horse by a head. The victory continues Cyberknife’s strong run of form since finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, as he also claimed Grade 3 success in between in the Matt Winn. Once again, the Cox-trained runner may be slightly longer in the odds compared to some of his rivals in the Travers, but punters will be very keen to not underestimate his abilities for the second time in just over a month.