The Travers Stakes is an annual rite of summer in Saratoga Springs, New York. Commonly referred to as the Midsummer Derby, the Travers is the oldest race in the United States for 3-year-old thoroughbreds. It traditionally represents the culmination of the prestigious Saratoga racing season and garners national attention in the sporting community. The rich history of this grand event dates back to 1864, when it was the first race contested at Saratoga Race Course, arguably the sport’s most iconic venue.
From the beginning, the Travers was a prominent event on the American racing calendar. The inaugural edition was won by the great colt Kentucky, who was co-owned by William R. Travers, the race’s namesake and the first president of the Saratoga Association.
Throughout its history, the Travers has been won by some of the sport’s most accomplished and celebrated competitors, including 23 members of the Hall of Fame, and numerous other champions and standouts. Some of the immortals counted among the winners of the Midsummer Derby include Man o’ War, Twenty Grand, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Gallant Man, Sword Dancer, Buckpasser, Damascus, and Holy Bull.
Along with its many great winners, the Travers has been a race of great stories. Jim Dandy’s shocking victory over Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox at odds of 100-1 in the 1930 edition … Jaipur’s breathtaking head-to-head duel with Ridan in 1962 … the final meeting of legendary rivals Affirmed and Alydar in 1978 … Arrogate’s run into the record book in 2016. These stories have delighted generations of racing fans.
The Travers has persevered through two World Wars, the Great Depression, a New York racing shutdown, and ebbs and flows in the popularity of the sport. Today, it is firmly entrenched as one of the most prestigious races in America.
In “The Travers: 150 Years of Saratoga’s Greatest Race” authors Brien Bouyea and Michael Veitch take an in-depth look at each of the first 149 editions of the Midsummer Derby, as well as the one-of-a-kind history of Saratoga racing. Each race has a story that is unique and worthy of being chronicled. Here, for the first time, these remarkable tales are told in a singular volume.
As the Midsummer Derby celebrates its 150th running in 2019, it is an appropriate time to take a journey into the past and recognize the historical significance of one of America’s finest sporting traditions — the Travers.