This Saturday, August 27th, marks the 147th anniversary of Travers, Saratoga Race Course's most popular summer horse race - and the oldest major 3-year-old-thoroughbred race in America, dating back to 1863. In advance of the race, which was first run TWC News Albany will premiere a half hour special entitled Travers: The Tradition.
The program will feature exclusive interviews with this year’s jockeys and trainers and explore The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Matt Hunter, our Saratoga County and North Country reporter, is on the ground in Saratoga Springs, New York. In this third installment of our special Reporter’s Notebook series, Matt offers his behind-the-scenes look at the iconic "Midsummer Derby."
Introducing TWC News Albany's 'Toga Today
Here I am with TWC News Anchor Kate Welshofer co-hosting 'Toga Today.
For the past five years, I’ve spent the better part of July and all of August covering thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course. First opened in 1863, it’s the nation’s oldest active sporting venue and continues to attract upwards of one million visitors each summer to watch the very best horses, jockeys and trainers in the world. With both a backyard picnic area and grandstand and clubhouse with reserved seating, the festival like atmosphere is not unlike the Kentucky Derby. This summer we launched ‘Toga Today, a first of its kind live 30-minute show that airs before the start of the first race every afternoon. As a lifelong racing fan, covering the sport at the world’s most celebrated racetrack is a dream assignment.
Celebrating the History of Travers
Here's a close-up shot of the track for the Travers race.
The highlight of the annual 40-day meet is without question the Travers Stakes. Run at the same 1 ¼ mile distance as the Kentucky Derby, the “Midsummer Derby” is oldest stakes race in the country for three-year-old thoroughbreds. Set to be run this Saturday, the 147th Travers features a field of 14 horses, tying a record set in the 1970s. Six of the entrants competed in this past May’s Kentucky Derby, including the morning line favorite, Exaggerator.
No American Pharoah This Year
Last year I stood behind the scenes with thousands of fans to watch American Pharoah's morning gallop the day before the Travers.
Arguably the most exciting Travers in recent memory, the 2015 race was bolstered by the presence of American Pharoah, racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. After he was flown in from California three days before the race, 20,000 people showed up the morning before the Travers just to watch him go for a light gallop; a crowd larger than what most tracks attract during an afternoon of racing. It was an unbelievable scene unlike anything I’d ever seen at the racetrack before or since.
'Graveyard of the Favorites'
Here is a behind-the-scenes shot of American Pharoah at 2015's Travers.
After seeing so many of the sport’s greatest champions fall short over the years, Saratoga has famously earned the nickname “The Graveyard of Favorites.” It would live up to that reputation last year. Despite entering the race as the overwhelming favorite, American Pharoah was beaten in the Travers by longshot Keen Ice, a horse he’d already defeated three times going back to the Kentucky Derby. Other famous horses to lose at Saratoga include Man o’ War, Gallant Fox and Secretariat.
Travers: The Tradition will air on TWC News Albany, Friday August 26th at 9:00 p.m. EDT and on Saturday, August 27th at 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. EDT. Watch the video above for a preview of the special. TWC News Albany will also feature extensive reports live from the Saratoga Race Course throughout the day Saturday. For more information, click here.