The Travers Stakes is an American Grade I Thoroughbred horse race held at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. First held in 1864, it was named for William R. Travers, the president of the old Saratoga Racing Association. His horse, Kentucky, won the first running of the Travers. The race was not run in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1911, and 1912.
The field for the Travers is limited to three-year-olds, Colts and geldings carrying 126 pounds (57 kg) and fillies carrying 123 pounds (56 kg) and since 1999 the purse has been $1,000,000. The race is the highlight of the summer race meeting at Saratoga, just as the Belmont Stakes is the highlight of the spring meeting at Belmont Park.
In 1962, arguably the greatest Travers in history took place. Jaipur won by a nose-bob in track record time over the arguably more talented Ridan after a long, head-to-head battle over the entire mile and a quarter. Still written and talked about today, the race is listed in the 2006 book Horse Racing's Top 100 Moments written by the staff of Blood-Horse Publications. The race result determined which colt would be named the 1962 U.S. Champion 3-Year-Old Horse.
In 1982, Runaway Groom, the Champion Canadian Three year old, trained by John DiMario, arrived at the Saratoga backstretch after a grueling season competing in the Canadian Triple Crown, winning the Prince of Wales Stakes, the Breeders' Stakes, and finishing second in the Queen's Plate. At the Travers that year, Runaway Groom became the only horse in racing history to beat the Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol, the Preakness Stakes winner Aloma's Ruler, and the Belmont Stakes winner Conquistador Cielo in the same race.
The 1997 Travers was another of the memorable races in its history, as it saw U.S. Racing Hall of Fame jockeys Jerry Bailey and Chris McCarron (aboard Behrens and Deputy Commander respectively) in a home-stretch duel wherein Deputy Commander prevailed. Adding to the drama was a thunderstorm which produced hail 24 hours before the race, and the uncertainty around whether or not McCarron would be present after the recent death of his mother. On the day that Point Given won the Travers (August 25, 2001), it was a record Travers Stakes day attendance of 60,486. The race, dubbed the "Midsummer Derby," achieved a total betting handle of $34,529,273. This was also a Saratoga record.
The 1921 Travers Stakes is known, unfortunately, for a betting scandal. In those days, bookmaking rather than parimutuel wagering was the primary method of taking bets on horse races. The original field was fairly light with the favorite, the filly Prudery, owned by Harry Payne Whitney, facing no serious competition. Then Arnold Rothstein entered his colt, Sporting Blood, ostensibly to pick up second place. A few days before the race, however, Rothstein had learned that Prudery was off her feed. He knew he might have a real chance to win. Initially, the odds on the filly were 1-4 while Rothstein's colt was at 5-2. On the day of the race, however, a leading three-year old, Grey Lag, was entered by trainer Sam Hildreth. Grey Lag immediately becomes the favorite, with Prudery the second choice, driving the odds on Sporting Blood up to 3-1. Rothstein bet $150,000 on his horse. Just before post time, Grey Lag was scratched with no explanation. During the race, Sporting Blood overtook the ailing Prudery gaining his owner nearly a half million dollars, including wagers and the purse. Although many smelled foul play, it was never proven that Hildreth received any payoff or that there was a conspiracy between him and Rothstein.