Because what could be better that a Travers winner than TWO Travers winners?
So, never before in Travers history had there been two horses reach the wire, sort of. In 1874, Attila and Acrobat finished so close the race was declared a dead heat. A runoff between the two was ordered and Attila won the runoff. But today’s result was the first “official dead heat” in the race’s history.
But no Travers in the modern era ever finished in a tie although nine have come close, like the year when everyone thought Mambo In Seattle beat Colonel John in a photo, only it was the other way around.
Interesting, too, that today’s Travers marked the golden anniversary of perhaps the most famous nose decision of all, when Jaipur and Ridan put on a match race-within-a race, hooking up for the entire 10 furlongs.
And that’s when Fred Capossela, with distinctive nasal tones but never with an emotional outburst, said “and it’s…Jaipur, by a nose. He never hesitated.
But there was plenty of hesitation when Golden Ticket, who not only hadn’t raced since Derby Day at Churchill Downs but failed to win his “a other-than” condition, reached the finish line right next to Alpha, charging up on the outside beneath Ramon Dominguez.
To almost everyone in the press box, it looked like Alpha had won it, although I thought Golden Ticket might have won it on the re-bob.
Alpha was in front a foot before the wire, and a foot after it, but at the line he had company.
So Kiaran McLaughlin did become the first trainer since Carl Nafzger to annex the Alabama-Travers double, although for some reason he didn’t appear to be enjoying the moment with the Travers favorite.
Although he did allow “at the sixteenth pole I thought we were second-best…at the last lunge or two I thought we got there. The photo indicated a tie and I said ‘we’ll take it’.”
Dominguez and David Cohen, who rode a great race aboard longshot Fast Falcon, were both happy:
“When we both realized it was a dead heat, we were pretty relieved and pretty happy at the same time,” said Dominguez who has all but clinched the Saratoga riding title.
“On the gallop-out, Ramon and I spoke to each other and neither one of us knew if we won,” said Cohen.
Nick Zito was happy, but who could blame him. He came within a half-length of winning the King’s Bishop with 14-1 Fort Loudon and within a neck of taking the Travers trophy with 32-1 Fast Falcon.
Ken McPeek, who almost pulled off a Travers stunner a decade ago with the well regarded Repent--coming off a similarly long layoff in the same year he won the Belmont Stakes with Sarava at 70-1--and who shocked today’s crowd of 46,528 with his training acumen, was over the moon.
“I’m thrilled we finished in a dead heat. It couldn’t work out better for the two of us,” McPeek said with some grace. Kiaran is a great guy. We all work our tail off.”
Other major contenders didn’t fare as well, Second favorite Nonios was a one-paced fifth; Neck n’ Neck an even sixth; Liaison never got untracked and finished ninth.
Street Life, trained by the meet’s second leading trainer, Chad Brown, finished last, appearing off in his left fore, according to Dr. Celeste Kunz, the on-call veterinarian.
There were no obvious injuries to the horse and he was taken by van back to the barn for further evaluation.
Travers Day was great for business. Attendance was up year over year by 8 percent, on-track handle was up 7 percent and all-sources handle totaled $36,597,173, an 11 percent gain over 2011.
It’s Travers Day, the sun was shining (a minor miracle); Ramon Dominguez has a riding triple (a minor miracle if he hadn’t); nine races have been run and, as I write these words, it’s still 70 minutes until post time for the Derby of Midsummer.
And could this be an omen, that it was Dominguez getting his third aboard Grade 2 Ballston Spa favorite, Zagora, for trainer Chad Brown, his 21st winner of the meet.
If there is to be a second one on the day, he would prefer it come with Street Life in front of the hometown fans. I’m sure Dominguez, however, would love to win his first Travers aboard Alpha—Ramon giveth, Roman taketh away.
Summer Soiree set realistic, albeit sustainable, fractions, even if it was her season’s debut. She was stalked from afar by Thundering Emilia and Tapitsfly virtually throughout and had no difficulty holding them safe until passing headstretch.
But that’s when Zagora beneath Dominguez made a bold move into contention, took the lead with a furlong to go and drew off as a strong finishing Hungry Island gave futile chase.
Don’t hold that against the runnerup, not when the winner got her 1-116 miles in 1:39.07, a new course record.
It was a formful beginning to the all graded stakes Pick 4, a pool that attracted $1,837,082, over 11 percent more than was bet on last year’s sequence.
Only a SoCal-based filly, a Bullet Bob Baffert-trained filly, could be taken out of her speed game, get a 21.49 and 44.09 thrown at her and , despite a hesitant start--enathema for a speed horse--finish up a take a Grade 1sprint, the Test Stakes, in 1.22.47. That's a final furlong in a pokey :13.41 for this level, but who's counting?
Gypsy Robin, on the hard chase all the way, while Contested was patiently handled in third by Rafael Bejarano after he caught up to the leaders within a quarter-mile, did well to hold place in front of late finishing New York-bred Beautiful But Blue.
Any Given Saturday
On Wednesday he won the New York-bred Albany Stakes wire to wire by a short pole. On Saturday, here comes Willy Beamin, not with Jamie Foxx, but Alan Garcia, whose new agent, Jimmy Riccio Jr., secured the mount for his rider on the 3-year-old owned by Riccio's father, James Riccio Sr. Way to keep it in the family.
Trained by Rick Dutrow, known for his success with quick turnarounds, entered Willy Beamin back in the G1 King's Bishop and if he ran well enough, cooled out fast enough, and earned a performance figure didn't didn't put him over the top of condition, he'd run the gelding back on two days rest.
While the rapid Trinninberg set a strong, pressured pace, 2-1 favorite Currency Swap, undefeed in three starts at Saratoga, sat the pocket in fourth.
Meanwhile, Willie Beamin, named for the phenom pro quarterback in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday," had one horse beaten after the first quarter mile, was covered up under a hammerlock inside at the half-mile pole, began to angle out approaching headstretch, split the seam beautifully from the 6 path and he rolled down the lane at 11-1.
It's the reason why they call it gambling.