2022 Travers Stakes Contenders & Odds
Bet the Travers Stakes with OTB
The Travers Stakes, also known as the Midsummer Derby, is one of the most historic races in the country and has been an annual feature at Saratoga for nearly as long as the track has been running.
2022 Travers Stakes Race Info
Distance: 1 1/4 Miles
Last Year’s Winner: Essential Quality
Track and Stakes Record: Arrogate (2016) 1:59.36
The Travers is slated as Race 11 at 5:44 p.m. Eastern, and can be wagered and watched at OffTrackBetting.com - US legal online OTB.
Travers Field of Eight Headed by Jim Dandy Winner Epicenter
Three-time graded stakes winner Epicenter leads a competitive group of eight, including four Grade 1 winners, in the field for the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, on Saturday, August 27.
The Travers headlines a blockbuster program, which also includes the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa, the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego Stakes, the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign, and the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Stakes - a "Win And You're In" qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf.
The Travers is among the most historic and prestigious races for 3-year-olds, and predates all three Triple Crown races. Inaugurated in 1864, the 10-furlong event is the Spa's marquee race and honors Saratoga's first president William Travers, who won the first running with the A.J. Minor-trained Kentucky.
Winchell Thoroughbreds' Epicenter enters from a victory in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 30 and will attempt to become the 12th horse to sweep the Jim Dandy-Travers double. One of five millionaires in the field, Epicenter boasts field-best earnings of $2,270,639 and a record of 9-5-3-0.
Epicenter, one of two sons of Not This Time in the Travers, enters off a string of four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures as the only horse in the race with more than one triple-digit number.
2022 Travers Stakes Field & Odds
Race 11 at Saratoga on Saturday, August 27 - Post 5:44 PM
|2||Rich Strike||10-1||Sonny Leon
|3||Ain't Life Grand||20-1||Tyler Gaffalione
|Kelly Von Hemel|
|4||Gilded Age||30-1||Junior Alvarado
|5||Artorius||9-2||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|7||Early Voting||8-1||Jose Ortiz
Following a victory in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 19 at Fair Grounds, he registered a 102 Beyer in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans oval. He followed with two Triple Crown placings behind returning rivals, including a 100 Beyer when second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby beaten three-quarters of a length to Rich Strike, two weeks before running a 102 with a closing second in the Grade 1 Preakness to Early Voting.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, in search of his first Travers victory, said he believes the talented colt is at the forefront of this crop of sophomores.
"He's arguably the best 3-year-old in the division despite not having a Grade 1 win that he needs," Asmussen said. "We've all witnessed his Classic defeats with our mouths agape. But watching that happen in the Derby and the Preakness, we realize how fortunate we have to be. It looks like an incredible field, and I imagine all eyes will be on him on the grandstand and the racetrack."
In the Jim Dandy, Epicenter was last-of-4 down the backstretch and displayed a strong kick when advancing to the lead at the stretch call and drew off to a 1 1/2-length victory. The winning effort produced his third 102 Beyer.
"I love the race that he ran over this racetrack. I like him at a mile and a quarter," Asmussen said. "Nothing but respect for some extremely good 3-year-olds, but I think we have the right one."
Joel Rosario, also in search of his first Travers victory, retains the mount aboard Epicenter from post 6. Bred in Kentucky by Westwind Farm, he has been installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite.
Four-time Saratoga meet leading trainer Chad Brown will unleash three contenders in Grade 1 Preakness winner Early Voting [post 7, Jose Ortiz, 8-1], Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Zandon [post 8, Flavien Prat, 5-1] and rising star Artorius [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 9-2].
Early Voting, owned by Seth Klarman's Klaravich Stables, set the tempo last out in the Jim Dandy, finishing fourth beaten 3 3/4 lengths. Early Voting, one of two Travers entrants by Gun Runner, ran a field-best 105 Beyer for his Preakness conquest, which came following a narrow defeat to eventual Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 9 at Aqueduct.
Brown opted to skip the Kentucky Derby following the Wood Memorial with Early Voting in favor of more time between races, a pipeline he took with 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who ran eighth in that year's Travers.
Early Voting was bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm.
Jeff Drown's Zandon, bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, enters off a game second to Epicenter in the Jim Dandy, which came following a nearly three-month layoff from the Kentucky Derby. The dark bay son of Upstart, who ran fourth in the 2015 Travers, was a hard-fought third in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in arrears of Rich Strike. Zandon secured his first stakes victory four weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby when capturing the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 9 at Keeneland.
Never out of the money in six lifetime starts, Zandon's record stands at 6-2-2-2 with earnings of $1,133,000.
Artorius, a Juddmonte homebred, will attempt to make a significant rise to the top following a victory in the restricted Curlin on July 29 at Saratoga in his third lifetime start. The dark bay colt was second on debut traveling six furlongs in April at Keeneland and graduated two months later when stretched out to a one-turn mile at Belmont Park in June prior to the Curlin. He made his two-turn debut in the nine-furlong test, where he took up fourth position down the backstretch, before drawing clear to a 4 3/4-length score over fellow Travers aspirant Gilded Age.
A victory from Artorius would a special one for Juddmonte, who campaigned Artorius' sire Arrogate - a memorable 13 1/2-length winner of the 2016 Travers in a track record time of 1:59.36. Artorius is out of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Paulassilverlining, who was campaigned by Juddmonte in her last year of training.
The last Travers winner sired by another Travers victor was Summer Bird in 2009, a son of 2004 winner Birdstone.
Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will try for a second straight Travers victory after campaigning last year's winner Essential Quality en route to Eclipse Award honors as Champion 3-Year-Old Colt.
This year, he will saddle Gold Square's Cyberknife, who is the only two-time Grade 1-winner in the race. The son of Gun Runner was a last out-winner of the Grade 1 Haskell on July 23 at Monmouth Park against fellow Grade 1-winners Taiba and Jack Christopher. The last horse to capture both the Haskell and Travers was Point Given in 2001.
Cyberknife burst onto the scene in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 2 at Oaklawn Park, defeating eventual Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath while holding off a late inside rally from Barber Road. The chestnut colt finished an uncharacteristic 18th in the Kentucky Derby, but made amends with a victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn on June 12 at Churchill Downs.
The well-travelled Cyberknife, bred in Kentucky by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, owns victories at four different racetracks. In addition to the trio of ovals where he garnered graded stakes success, he won twice at Fair Grounds Race Course at maiden and allowance level.
Cox, who secured Grade 1 success at Saratoga with Monomoy Girl  and Covfefe  en route to Eclipse Award honors in their respective years, said Cyberknife should handle the Spa surface based off his three breezes over the main track.
"We've had luck shipping in here. The likes of Covfefe never really breezed here. Monomoy Girl never breezed here prior to their races, so it just depends on the horse," Cox said. "With his situation, having run at Monmouth, the owner being a local Saratoga guy, I thought it made the most sense for him to come up here. He's had three works over the track. The first we weren't looking to do much, just let him skip over it. The second one we were looking to do a little more, but the track was a little deeper last week, it was a good move in 1:01. [On Saturday], he was a minute flat. I actually had him a little quicker myself, but regardless the track was much tighter, and he did it the right way. More important is how he's come out of it - he looks fantastic, so we're set up. We're ready."
Installed as the second choice at morning line odds of 7-2, Cyberknife will break from post 1 under Florent Geroux.
Rich Strike (RED TR-Racing) will seek his first win since his memorable 80-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Eric Reed. The son of Keen Ice, who upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers, skipped the Preakness in favor of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, where he finished a distant sixth. The last Kentucky Derby winner to capture the Travers was 2007 winner Street Sense.
Rich Strike was haltered for $30,000 out of a 17 1/4-length maiden claiming score in September at Churchill Downs and found his best form at Turfway Park, finishing third in the Leonatus in January, fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial in March, and third in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks in April to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field.
Rich Strike, bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, arrived at Saratoga over one week in advance of the Travers and recorded a five-eighths breeze under exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes on Friday morning in 59.82 seconds over the main track.
"I asked Gabriel, who is always on the money, for 49 or 50 and 1:02, and that would make me tickled to death," Reed said. "He went in 46 and 59 but he did it so easy. He skipped across the track. Now, we just have to get a trip and see if he can do what he did all year and that's finish strong."
Sonny Leon, the pilot in his last six starts, will return to the irons aboard Rich Strike, who will leave from post 2 at 10-1 morning line odds.
Grandview Equine and Don Alberto Stable's Gilded Age is only horse in the field without a stakes victory, but arrives off a late-closing second to Artorius in the Curlin for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The royally-bred son of 2002 Travers winner Medaglia d'Oro, out of Grade 1 winner Angela Renee, completed the Curlin exacta at 10-1 odds, which came nearly four weeks following a triumph against winners going nine furlongs at Churchill Downs. There, he was 19 lengths off the pace down the backstretch and advanced from sixth at the stretch call to defeat next-out stakes-placed Brigadier General by a head.
A fourth-out graduate in his juvenile swan song at Churchill, the Don Alberto Corporation Kentucky-bred made his sophomore debut when third to Early Voting in the Grade 3 Withers on February 5 at Aqueduct.
Junior Alvarado will retain the mount from post 4 aboard Gilded Age, the longest shot in the field at 30-1 morning line odds.
Completing the field is RPM Thoroughbreds' Iowa homebred Ain't Life Grand for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. The son of Not This Time owns five lifetime wins in eight starts, including wins against his Hawkeye State-bred counterparts in last year's Iowa Cradle and the last out Iowa Stallion on July 23, both at Prairie Meadows. He also defeated open company in the July 9 Iowa Derby as well as last year's Richard Radke Memorial at the Altoona, Iowa oval.
"He's settled in really well," Von Hemel said. "He's trained well over the track, he's keeping his weight good, his energy level is really good. Everything's been great. He's trained great and like I said he's carrying his weight well and he's very happy right now, so everything's been good."
Von Hemel said he is hopeful that Ain't Life Grand will pass the class test on Saturday.
"We don't know what quality, but he is a mile-and-an-eighth, mile-and-a-quarter horse for sure," Von Hemel said.
Tyler Gaffalione will pick up the mount from post 3 aboard Ain't Life Grand [20-1].
2022 Travers Stakes Probables
Probable: Ain't Life Grand (Kelly Von Hemel), Artorius (Chad Brown),
Charge It (Todd Pletcher), Cyberknife (Brad Cox), Early Voting (Brown), Epicenter (Steve Asmussen), Gilded Age (Bill Mott), Rich Strike (Eric Reed), Skippylongstocking (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Zandon (Brown).
Ain't Life Grand Heads To Travers
AUGUST 22 - The two early season stars of the 2022 Thoroughbred meet at Prairie Meadows, Iowa Derby (listed) winner Ain't Life Grand and two-time juvenile stakes winner Tyler's Tribe, are both scheduled to make their next starts on Saturday, Aug. 27.
For 3-year-old Ain't Life Grand (Not This Time-Cat d'Oro by Medaglia d'Oro), the waters will get much deeper in the G1 $1,250,000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in New York.
The Iowa Derby winner is expected to face the likes of G1 Kentucky Derby hero Rich Strike, G1 Preakness winner Early Voting, G1 Haskell champion Cyberknife, and G2 Jim Dandy winner Epicenter.
Ain't Life Grand, owned by RPM Thoroughbreds of Prairie Meadows Hall of Famers Peggy and Ray Shattuck and trained by Prairie Meadows Hall of Famer Kelly Von Hemel, takes a two-race winning streak, five lifetime victories in eight starts, and earnings of almost $400,000 into the marquee stakes race of the summer season at Saratoga.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Ray Shattuck. "I can't wait to get there. I've got a group of 15 heading with me to Saratoga to cheer him on!"
Von Hemel was on hand at Saratoga on Saturday morning August 20 when Ain't Life Grand got in a final workout one week ahead of the Travers, logging the best drill of 80 runners at four furlongs in 45.88b.
"It was a bit faster than we wanted it to be," noted Von Hemel. "But the clockers told me the track was very fast and there were a lot of quick workouts on the tab."
"Tammy Fox, who works a lot of horses for trainer Dale Romans, told me he did it easily and comfortably," added Von Hemel. "She said he was fantastic and did it all on his own. He came back and he wasn't breathing hard at all."
Von Hemel reported that jockey Tyler Gaffalione will pick up the mount when Ain't Life Grand makes his New York debut.
Gaffalione replaces Elvin Gonzalez, the Prairie Meadows-based jockey who has ridden Ain't Life Grand in all eight of his lifetime races.
Charge It Ruled Out Of Travers
AUGUST 21 - There was both good news and bad news out of the Pletcher barn on Sunday morning as graded stakes winner Charge It was ruled out of Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers with an abscess on his right front foot.
Initially scheduled to have his final breeze for the Travers this weekend, Charge It was out for a Sunday morning gallop.
"He galloped super, but you could tell jogging back he was a little bit tender on it," Pletcher said. "It's one of those things where if we didn't need to breeze again, we might be able to get it healed up before the race, but needing to get another work into him, it's just unfortunate timing."
Pletcher said Charge It could target the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 24 at Parx.
"That's our next possible target, but the foot is going to dictate when he's going to be ready to breeze again," Pletcher said.
Cyberknife Puts In Final Prep for Travers Stakes
AUGUST 20 - Gold Square's multiple Grade 1-winning Cyberknife had his final breeze Saturday in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by 2021 Travers winner Brad Cox, the son of Gun Runner breezed five-eighths in 1:00 flat over Saratoga's main track, where he has posted three workouts since he captured the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 23 at Monmouth Park , a win that saw him earn a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
"Excellent move, galloped out great and cooled out good," said Cox. "We're all set. He's doing about as well as he can do and we are excited about the race."
After finishing a distant 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby in May at Churchill Downs, Cyberknife rebounded to capture the Grade 3 Matt Winn in June at the Louisville oval before his Haskell feat over Grade 1-victor Taiba.
Cox said that those two wins since Cyberknife's run in the Kentucky Derby and the scorching pace endured during the Derby makes a case for drawing a line through the distant finish.
"He was too close to the hot pace," said Cox. "That was the kind of race you just draw a line through and act as if it never happened. That's what we've done. He's got a good race record since and a good race record before, and we think as long as we have a good week, we'll show up and run a big race."
A $400,000 purchase out of the Fasig Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, Cyberknife is a lifetime 9-5-2-0 with $1,596,520 to his name.
Rich Strike Eyeing $1.25M Travers Stakes
AUGUST 19 - Rich Strike breezed five-eighths in 59.82 seconds Friday over Saratoga's main track under exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 27.
Trained by Eric Reed, the Keen Ice chestnut arrived at Saratoga on Sunday afternoon.
"He worked really good. He worked faster than we thought he would, but he did it easily," Reed said. "I think my question on him liking the track was answered this morning. He came home well. It is probably as good as he worked, even since before he did going into the [Kentucky] Derby. He was supposed to go :49 or :50. He did it all on his own. He was galloping over the track."
Rich Strike was claimed for $30,000 out of a maiden claiming score in September at Churchill Downs and found his best form at Turfway Park, finishing third in the Leonatus in January, fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial in March, and third in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks in April to land on the precipice of the Kentucky Derby field.
When Ethereal Road scratched from the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike drew in and shocked the world with an 80-1 upset victory from the outermost post 20, besting Travers rivals Epicenter and Zandon, who finished second and third, respectively.
Rich Strike skipped the Grade 1 Preakness in favor of the 12-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, finishing a distant sixth in a key race that runner-up Nest exited to win the Grade 1 CCA Oaks at Saratoga and third-place finisher Skippylongstocking departed to win the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.
Reed said Rich Strike has settled in well to his new surroundings at Saratoga.
"Everything is in good shape. All we have to do is do some paddock schooling and keep him happy and healthy," Reed said. "He'll go to the paddock Sunday morning after he gallops. He will walk through it on Monday. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, we'll plan on taking him there in the afternoon."
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Rich Strike is out of the graded stakes winning Smart Strike mare Gold Strike, who was named Canada's Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2005.
Charge It Prepping for Grade 1 Travers
AUGUST 5 - Whisper Hill Farm's homebred Charge It took another step forward for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers with a half-mile breeze Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
The graded stakes-winning son of Tapit was amongst the first horses to greet the Saratoga main track and completed his four-furlong move in 48.77 seconds under exercise rider Hector Ramos.
The work was Charge It's second serious work since an emphatic 23-length romp in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 2 over a fast main track at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
"He went really well, five-eighths by himself in 1:01 and change. He had a super strong gallop out, pulled up the mile in 1:42," Pletcher said. "Essentially, we're trying to follow the same program we did leading up to the Dwyer and he seems to be doing everything the right way."
A distant 17th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby two starts back, Charge It will stretch back out to two turns for the August 27 Runhappy Travers, where he will likely face as many as four Kentucky Derby alumni. Prior to the Run for the Roses, he was a game second to White Abarrio in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in April at Gulfstream Park.
"He gives me every impression that two turns and a mile and a quarter is right within his wheelhouse," Pletcher said.
Hailing from the influential bloodlines of 2014 Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, who was a Grade 1-winner in her own right, Charge It is out of the Indian Charlie mare I'll Take Charge - a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Take Charge Indy and champion Will Take Charge. Other prominent members of the family include 2014 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Take Charge Brandi, multiple Grade 1-winner Omaha Beach and Grade 1-winning mare As Time Goes By.
Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike Pointed at Travers
JUNE 13 - Red TR-Racing's Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will now be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course after finishing sixth-of-8 in Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park.
The chestnut son of Keen Ice displayed rail-skimming tactics in his stunning 80-1 upset victory in the "Run for the Roses," but tried something new when angling outside of foes from post 4 in the Belmont Stakes. Jockey Sonny Leon, who expertly piloted Rich Strike to his Derby win, struggled throughout the first mile of the 1 1/2-mile test to bring Rich Strike's attention to the race rather than trying to make the rail. Rich Strike trailed the field in eighth before swinging wide in the turn and only managing to put away two rivals in the "Test of the Champion."
Trainer Eric Reed said Rich Strike likely would have run better with an inside trip.
"He came back great. It was my fault. I had a feeling the race would shape up like it did, and I told Sonny that all we had to do was settle eight lengths back down the backstretch and we'd win," said Reed. "We knew that they would be waiting on us to come on the inside and I said, `Good, because we're not going on the inside; we're not going to get stopped in an eight-horse field.' But he won't run on the outside of horses. He has no interest and all he did was turn his head and try to fight to the rail and not concentrating on anything but trying to get to the rail and doing what he does. I didn't know that. It didn't cost us the win, but I do think it cost us a placing.
"I should have had a bit of an indication, because when we breeze him, Gabriel [Lagunes] breezed him about four or five lengths off the rail because he doesn't go as hard that way," Reed continued. "When he's on the rail he wants to go too fast. I thought with horses around him, he'd be waiting to go, but he lost interest."
Rich Strike will now set his sights on a cutback to the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Travers, a distance that Reed said suits him perfectly.
"We were going there win, lose or draw. We're going to give him a little rest and that's a mile and a quarter and there'll be plenty of speed," said Reed. "The track will play to his liking and we'll run another bang-up race. I have no doubt about that. We'll give him three or four easy weeks and then start training him up to the Travers. He'll train in Kentucky and train [at Saratoga] a little."
While Rich Strike's finish in the Belmont was not what his team was hoping for, Reed said he couldn't be happier to continue to train a Kentucky Derby winner.
"We didn't think we could win coming from last, but this was a chance to get another good finish and that's why we targeted it. He's still the Derby winner and he'll win plenty of races," said Reed. "It's not his only race and I would feel a lot worse if he had tried really hard and got dead tired and couldn't win. He drank a half a bucket of water and wasn't tired. He wasn't trying to win, he was trying to get to the rail."
Reed expressed his gratitude to the fans and to Belmont Park for their accommodations during Rich Strike's stay in New York.
"Oh God, I got hundreds and hundreds of messages. I'll keep everybody informed when he goes back to the track," Reed said. "He's not going anywhere and he'll get his say again. We had guys as we were walking back come out of the barns and say, `Congratulations, you've still got the good horse, you'll get them next time.' I was real surprised that dozens of people came out and were so nice to us. You've got to lose better than you win - that's my motto. As long as the horse is healthy, I'm happy."
"Everybody has treated me so good from the day I got here and Juan Dominguez [NYRA's Senior Director of Safety and Racing Operations] and Frank [Gabriel,Jr. NYRA's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations] stood here at 1 in the morning to watch him go to the stall; the press giving us our space and always being so kind," Reed added. "Who wouldn't like that?"
About the Travers Stakes
The Travers Stakes is the oldest major stakes race in the U.S. having first been conducted in 1864.
The Travers was named for William R. Travers, president of the old Saratoga Racing Association. The initial running of the race was won by his horse Kentucky. From 1864 to 1889, the race was run at 1 3/4 miles, and the current distance was adopted for the 1904 running.
In 1941 Triple Crown champion Whirlaway became the first and only horse to win the Travers after sweeping the Triple Crown. In the 1982 Travers, Canadian champion Runaway Groom became the first horse to defeat the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont winners in a single race. No other horse has accomplished this feat since. In 2012 Alpha and Golden Ticket won the race the first and only Travers dead heat.
Other top horses to win the Travers include Bernardini, Medaglia d'Oro, Holy Bull, Easy Goer, Forty Niner, Alydar, Arts and Letters, Damascus, Sword Dancer, Native Dancer and Man o' War.