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Top 5 Memorable Travers Victories

The Travers Stakes is one of America’s oldest races, having been established since 1864 when Kentucky won the inaugural outing. Since then, so many greats have won the “Midsummer Derby” including Man o’ War, Native Dancer [pictured], and Buckpasser. But who won some of the most memorable outings of the greatest American summer classic? Here’s five worth mentioning once or twice next time you’re talking down the shed row (click the names for videos):

#5 - 2006 - Bernardini: When Bluegrass Cat, the runner-up to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby, broke the winning margin record of the Haskell (winning by 7 lengths), it was obvious he was the biggest challenge to Jim Dandy winner Bernardini going into the “Midsummer Derby.” Or was he?: Bernardini turned Bluegrass Cat away turning for home, winning by 7.

#4 - 1967 - Damascus: After a huge sophomore season— winning the Preakness, Belmont, Wood Memorial, and Dwyer— Damascus was the huge favorite to win the ‘67 Travers. He clearly wasn’t done obliterating the competition, winning by a romping 22 lengths with only 3 horses willing to challenge him. Truly, he’s among the all-time greats.

#3 - 1979 - General Assembly: One of Secretariat’s first sons, General Assembly wired the field on a very muddy Travers Day. He took up a sharp pace, eventually turning away the field in grand style to win by 15 lengths and set up a new track record for the 1 1/4 mile at Saratoga— which still stands today.

#2 - 1930 - Jim Dandy: In 1930, Gallant Fox became America’s newest Triple Crown champion, and was seemingly invincible challenging just three others on Travers Day. The track was a bit muddy, especially down toward the center of the homestretch. Gallant Fox’s jockey knew he only had one horse to worry about and dueled side-by-side with him throughout most of the race. Gallant Fox got stuck on the slow-going center of the homestretch and was tiring when the 100-1 shot Jim Dandy spurted past him in the mud to launch an impossible upset.

#1 - 1962 - Jaipur: One of racing’s most memorable moments period was Jaipur’s enthralling struggle versus Ridan in the 1962 Travers, the two taking jabs at each other again and again from wire to wire. Ridan had seemed to have conquered Jaipur when the latter came on again courageously, winning by a nostril.

In 2006, Bernardini completed the Jim Dandy-Travers Stakes double and became Three-Year-Old Male of the Year. His son, Stay Thirsty, is attempting the same feat five years later. 

In 2006, Bernardini completed the Jim Dandy-Travers Stakes double and became Three-Year-Old Male of the Year. His son, Stay Thirsty, is attempting the same feat five years later. 

Kensei, winner of the 2009 Dwyer and Jim Dandy Stakes, has been euthanized. The horse broke his right front cannon bone during a routine gallop at Belmont’s training track. A half brother to Lookin At Lucky, he won the Salvator Mile (III) and placed second twice in his three 2011 starts.

Kensei, winner of the 2009 Dwyer and Jim Dandy Stakes, has been euthanized. The horse broke his right front cannon bone during a routine gallop at Belmont’s training track. A half brother to Lookin At Lucky, he won the Salvator Mile (III) and placed second twice in his three 2011 starts.

Stay Thirsty Stays Strong in Jim Dandy Win

Severely doubted and considered a second-stringer in Todd Pletcher’s barn, Stay Thirsty [pictured] stood tall in the company of six others in the Jim Dandy Stakes (II) to emerge as an early Travers (I) favorite— and deservedly so.

Tucked back in fourth through the far turn, Javier Castellano let Will’s Wildcat show the way as Dominus showed a surprising amount of patience sitting in second. The pacing was slow and the action relatively mum as the field sat through brooding fractions of :24, :47 1/2, and 1:11 2/5 waiting for someone to take charge. Brilliant Speed began edging up at the 3/4 mile mark, but fired not from the outside. 

Pouncing as the head of the stretch came into view, Javier Castellano gave the Bernardini colt the go ahead and he responded obediently. Dominus engaged Stay Thirsty briefly, but all it took was another swat or two from Castellano to dig in deep to pass him coming for home. Under a hand ride after conquering Dominus, Stay Thirsty glided to an easy 4 length score, finishing the 1 1/8 mile Jim Dandy in 1:48 4/5. Moonshine Mullin dug deep for the show while Dominus was third. Alternation caught up late for fourth.

Champion Bernardini was the winner of the ‘06 Jim Dandy (with the same jockey, no less), and it was no doubt a proud moment for him as well as trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole, who also owns two-year-old champion Uncle Mo. While Mo won’t recover in time to make the Travers, Saturday proved an excellent occasion to keep the faith, stay strong, Stay Thirsty. Once a second-stringer and inconsistent runner, Stay Thirsty has become the newest start on the horizon with a catchy name. See you in August, Thirsty.

Preview: Jim Dandy Stakes (II)

In what is being touted as an “evenly-matched” field of three-year-olds who just aren’t as good as those running in Sunday’s Haskell, the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (II) at Saratoga is sure to be a race to watch regardless of how good you think the field is. Both the Haskell and the Jim Dandy are regarded as solid prep races for the summer’s denouement event, the Travers, with 7 of 12 Travers winners coming from the gates of the Jim Dandy. Here’s a look at the field of seven colts in order of post position, only one of which has a Grade I win:

$500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday July 30 at 5:45PM.

[Post Position, Horse, Jockey, Impost, Trainer]

1) Moonshine Mullin - Emma-Jayne Wilson, 117 lbs, Reade Baker - Fresh off an unexpected win in the Victoria Park Stakes at Woodbine, this Canadian invader is probably the best of the Jim Dandy underdogs. That race was also a 1 1/8 mile event, though it was on Polytrack. Expect to see this one up with the front runners at this, his best distance, at which he’s beaten Twinspired, who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and Newsdad, who has since switched to turf.

2) Dominus - Julien Laparoux, 121 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Rapidly improving and hot off a wire-to-wire win in the Dwyer Stakes (II) at the same distance on dirt, expect to see Dominus running up front to slow the pace down a bit. Even with a slow going, this guy can blast away from a decent field so keep Dominus in your thoughts. He’ll be adding another half furlong to his repertoire following the 1 1/16 mile Dwyer.

3) Brilliant Speed - John Velazquez, 123 lbs, Tom Albertrani - The only Grade 1 winner in the field, though it was on Polytrack. Finished 3rd in the Belmont, 5th in the Kentucky Derby, and championed the Blue Grass. He’s a wonderful horse who knows how to stay the pace, but I’m not entirely sure he’ll be up to snuff to challenge some of the speed here. Nonetheless, he’s the highweight with 123 lbs.

4) Scotus [pictured]- Alan Garcia, 119 lbs, Ken McPeek - I’m feeling lukewarm about Scotus. I don’t believe that his win in the Matt Winn (III) at Churchill Downs was convincing enough to rule him out as a fluke. But, to his credit, he’s yet to finish off the board in his 5 starts, but isn’t that experienced and this will be his first try at 9 furlongs.

5) Will’s Wildcat - Robby Albarado, 117 lbs, James Baker - I don’t know enough about this horse to say anything good or bad. He finished 4th last time out in the Long Branch Stakes and for whatever reason his connections felt he was a strong enough case to make the Jim Dandy instead of the Curlin Stakes held yesterday.

6) Stay Thirsty - Javier Castellano, 119 lbs, Todd Pletcher - How good is Stay Thirsty? He’s been a tough cookie to gauge between his Gotham Stakes (III) win to his 12th place in the Kentucky Derby to his powerful duel with Ruler On Ice to show in the Belmont. Erratic, to say the least. I don’t see him being sharp enough to have an easy time here, but hey, crazier things have happened to this on again, off again colt I should have easily fallen in love with.

7) Alternation - Ramon Dominguez, 121 lbs, Donnie Von Hemel - I’ve been a believer in this horse for some time, and it’s paid off for me mentally after his quickfire win of the Peter Pan Stakes (II) at Belmont. He’s been taken along a slow conservative training route, and with his fast closing style, should finish well in this race if not win.

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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