Travers Holds The Key


As things stand at this writing, the Travers Stakes could play a very significant role in determining the champion 3-year-old male for 2011.

The $1 million “Midsummer Derby” will be run for the 142d time on Aug. 27.

Despite the changing landscape over the last few decades, most notably the advent of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, the Travers has maintained its position on the racing calendar.

Begun in 1864, it is named for William R. Travers, one of the founders of Saratoga Race Course and its first president.

With three different winners of the Triple Crown events this year, the Travers figures to be a major stop on the road to a title.

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is on the sidelines following surgery, so he is out of the picture at this moment, although I suspect he is foremost in the minds of most Eclipse Award voters.

However, Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont winner Ruler on Ice will soon be back in action this summer.

Both are pointing for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 31 at Monmouth Park.

The $1 million event is at 1-1/8 miles on the main track.

If Shackleford or Ruler on Ice wins the Haskell, he becomes the division leader.

Shackleford, in particular, might carry on in the Travers, run at 1-1/4 miles.

He is trained by Dale Romans, who stables at Saratoga and who is not afraid to run his horses when they are doing well.

Shackleford raced in all three Triple Crown events, following three races at Gulfstream Park that included the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby.

Others pointing to the Haskell include Dominus, winner of the Dwyer Stakes, and Rattlesnake Bridge, winner of the Long Branch Stakes.

The Haskell is run on the same weekend as the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, a Grade 2 event worth $500,000 at 1-1/8 miles on July 30.

The Jim Dandy is always an important race when it comes to the Travers.

Flower Alley in 2005, Bernardini in 2006, and Street Sense in 2007 won both events.

Those pointing to this year's Jim Dandy include Alternation, winner of the Peter Pan, plus Astrology, Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed.

Astrology was third in the Preakness, while Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed finished second and third, respectively, in the Belmont.

The last Travers winner to win the Eclipse Award as champion was Summer Bird in 2009, a year in which he also won the Belmont Stakes.

That double is powerful when it comes to championship voting, producing three champions in the ten years before Summer Bird.

They were Lemon Drop Kid, Point Given and Birdstone.

Since the Eclipse Awards were established in 1971, three champions won the Haskell and Travers.

They are Wajima in 1975, Holy Bull in 1994, and Point Given in 2001.

by Michael Veitch


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