The Travers (Grade 1)- $1,250.000 Purse
SAR- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Quarter on the Dirt
August 26, 2023
It’s time for the Midsummer Derby! Any day that Saratoga racetrack is open is an exciting day, but there is none bigger at this racetrack than Travers weekend. Fans from all over will make their way to the track for this special weekend while many more will be tuned in to watch it, and of course, wager on it. In our virtual racing world, things are no different, and we can always count on the race having a full, or nearly full, field to go with it. In 2023, that will be no different, as thirteen of the best three-year-olds out there strive to get this coveted victory and the winner’s share of the $1,250.000 purse. That’s been the purse amount ever since 2014, other than for 2020, which was reduced for the virtual pandemic. Among the past winners of the Travers include Five Fives, making this part of his special year in 2010. A One, Centerpiece, and Jolly Rook are some more recent winners. Last year, it was Individuation who got the win in this race, one of the three times that Mb Stables has taken home the trophy. Individuation went on to win the BC Classic and continues to be at the top of this game, running third in the Whitney here earlier this month. But enough about the past, it’s time to crown a new winner! Here’s a look at the field!
#1- Everythings Fine (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by A Beschizza)- After four races, Everythings Fine found himself in the auction and was sold for $52.760 in March. He’d break his maiden in his first start with TwinTowersRacing, which impressed the trainer enough to enter him in the Grade 2 Peter Pan a month later. That did not go well, but he has been since, and with the addition of Bute for his last race, he went on to win the $150.000 NY Derby at FL last month. Typical of the horse who’s on the upswing, that you see enter the Travers hoping to see that he can step up to increased competition.
#2- Wahpekute Sioux (Mb Stables, ridden by U Rispoli)- Winner of the “Dandy Stakes here last month, making it the fifth straight year that he has won the race. Last year, it was Individuation that did so, and as mentioned above, he went on to win the Travers. Wahpekute Sioux may not be seen as a BC Classic favorite yet, but we will have to put his name in that conversation with a win here given that he has won four out of his last five. The AR Derby and the IND Derby are also a part of that stretch, but this would be the biggest win of his career.
#3- Hiei (Fractious, ridden by M Franco)- Back in May, Hiei ran in the KYD as a 27/1 longshot, and when he crossed the wire in twelfth, no one other than his trainer likely noticed. A month later, he would be back in a TC race, running in the BEL and got a little more respect from the bettors, going off at 12/1. That day, he would pick up the historic win with an impressive come from behind effort. If people were wondering if he could do it again, they got their answer when he used a mostly similar style to win the Haskell down at MTH. Winning the Travers would not only make it three in a row, but a statement would also be made that he is a frontrunner when looking at BC Classic favorites.
#4- Lunar Victory (Fractious, ridden by R M Hernandez)- Won on debut at WO in September, but that has been the only victory for Lunar Victory. On only one other occasion has he even hit the board, and that was in his second career start, the $250.000 Coronation Futurity. Otherwise, there is very little to be excited about when it comes to him in this field, though in fairness, he has been competitive at times. He was a dud last month at the Dandy and gets another chance to run at this level. Eventually, he’s going to have to put up.
#5- Blue Duck (Night Rider Stables, ridden by F Geroux)- Only marginally better than Lunar Victory, really. Blue Duck has just one win in ten career starts, but as at least hit the board in four races altogether. Night Rider Stables purchased the Cherokee Sunset colt in private sales for $600.000 in February and hasn’t gotten the results on the track to justify that as of yet. He might get there, though at least with his pedigree, he should have an additional career as a sire.
#6- Quiet Return (Allinthegate, ridden by T Gaffalione)- We can all readily associate him with his win in the KYD in May, but he’s actually been a lot steadier and more consistent than just that. He is also a BC winner, coming in the Juvenile Turf, which is the last time he has seen the grass. It’s a good thing, too, because Quiet Return carried that over to the main track without any issue, getting a string of seconds (and a third) in the preps which sent him to the KYD. Next up, he would run second (in a dead heat) in the PRK and ran fourth last month in the Haskell. That race was the first time in his career that Quiet Return did not finish in the top three. All of his works are great, and he should be a threat here.
#7- High In Hollywood (The Freakshow, ridden by P Lopez)- After winning two of his first four races, High In Hollywood got the attention of the virtual racing world by running third in the FL Derby and then following that up with a needed victory in the Lexington. That got him into the KYD, which for him was a bit tough as it was his third race in five weeks (this was the only way he was going to get into the race, though). In that, he came on well to get up to fourth and it seemed like the best was yet to come. Well, that has not panned out, as he disappointed in both the BEL and the Haskell. Needs a bounce back here.
#8- Gorogue Laga (Arindel, ridden by L Saez)- Just like it should be, we will have all three TC winners running in the Travers. Gorogue Laga was the PRK winner, which was one of his six career wins. A couple weeks prior to that, he was the post-time favorite for the KYD, thanks to impressive showing during the preps that him win the Southwest and finish second in the LA Derby. He wasn’t bad in the KYD, but it was a frustrating close fifth place with no check result. Since the PRK, he’s run in the BEL and the Dandy, and placed in the top half of the field, but did not cash a check in either of them. It might be good for him to send a “don’t forget about me” message here to the other top horses with a big result, if not a win.
#9- Domiano (Fractious, ridden by Ru Silvera)- Towards the beginning of March, Fractious would add Domiano to his stable with a $400.000 private sales price. The Hard To Deny colt had run well as a two-year-old, and early this year as well, but after running fifth in the San Felipe, prior trainer Night Mare Racing sold him off. Since the sale, his only win is the $125.000 Lee for NY-breds, but he is coming off a very good result last month right here in the Dandy, where he was third as a massive longshot. It was a needed result for him, and it will be an interesting to see how he follows that up.
#10- Noble Faerie (Riggins Racing, ridden by L Contreras)- Following second place finishes in the Gotham and Wood Memorial at the Big A, Noble Faerie was able to find his way into the KYD. Unfortunately for the trainer, that race will not go down as a career highlight, as he finished near the back, but it didn’t derail his career. He bounced back nicely in the Affirmed with a near miss third place result and then won the Grade 3 Marine at WO after that. The positive momentum continued into MTH for the Haskell when he came from well off the pace to wind up second. That doesn’t necessarily have to be his running style, though.
#11- At The Gates (Mb Stables, ridden by F Prat)- Early this year, At The Gates was entered into several TC preps, but he never really made that much of an impact in them. He has his moments, such as when he ran second in the SA Derby, but when you are in this stable, you need to do a little bit more if you want to run in the KYD. He would instead be entered into the Peter Pan, where he did run third, but we still have not really seen him tested to this magnitude since the SA Derby. Works are as good as anyone else here, so if it sets up for him, he could surprise here.
#12- Jacks Courage (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Put together a four-race winning streak over the winter and into the spring, with the Swale and Gotham between races that established himself as a contender, and then AR Derby win being a race that showed he was worthy of being one of the three to wear Mb Stables silks in the KYD. In that, he would prove himself even more with a strong showing that resulted in a third-place finish. Two weeks later, he was fifth in the PRK but was beaten by four lengths. Finished in a photo with his stablemate, Wahpekute Sioux, here in the Dandy last month. This will be his third start in four races beginning from a double-digit post.
#13- Dayton (Pan Farms, ridden by D Davis)- Completing our look at this field, we have this exciting late bloomer, if you will. He’s only made six starts, and in late March, he was still running in an N1X allowance to show he could step up to increased competition. He’d still get to run at CD on Derby Day, instead competing in the Day Mile where he was third, and that was a finish that he had once again in the Haskell. That result makes him pretty intriguing, even if he doesn’t score a big result here. Starting from this post doesn’t help, but based on his works, he may be able to make it happen.