A top-class field of eight, including seven Kentucky-breds, will contest the 153rd running of the prestigious Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 27. Topping the field are three-time graded stakes winner and morning-line favorite Epicenter, Haskell Stakes (G1) winner Cyberknife, and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike. The historic race for 3-year-olds was inaugurated in 1864, and the 10-furlong fixture is the Spa’s marquee race and is known as the “Midsummer Derby.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter enters the Travers following an impressive score in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on July 30. Epicenter will attempt to become the 12th horse to sweep the Jim Dandy-Travers double. One of five millionaires in the race, Epicenter leads the group in earnings with a bankroll of $2,270,639 and he sports a record of 9-5-3-0. He was bred in the Bluegrass by Westwind Farms.
One of two sons by Not This Time in the Travers, Epicenter is the only horse in the race with more than one triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. He recorded a 102 Beyer in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. He followed that with a 100 Beyer when second to Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby and ran a 102 with a closing runner-up effort to Early Voting in the Preakness Stakes (G1). In winning the Jim Dandy last time out, he also recorded a 102 Beyer. Trainer Steve Asmussen is seeking his initial Travers win on Saturday.
“He’s arguably the best 3-year-old in the division despite not having a Grade 1 win that he needs,” Asmussen said. “We’ve all witnessed his Classic defeats with our mouths agape. But watching what happened in the Derby and the Preakness, we realize how fortunate we have to be. It looks like an incredible field, and I imagine all eyes will be on him in the grandstand and on the racetrack.”
Second choice on the morning line is Kentucky-bred Cyberknife. He will be sent out by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox who will try for a second straight Travers victory after saddling last year’s winner Essential Quality.
Cyberknife is the only two-time Grade winner in the race. The son of Gun Runner won the Haskell (G1) on July 23, defeating fellow Grade 1 winners Taiba and Jack Christopher. Prior to that, he won the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park on April 2. The last horse to capture both the Haskell and Travers was Point Given in 2011. Owned by Gold Square LLC, Cyberknife was bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.
“With this situation, having run at Monmouth, the owner being a local Saratoga guy, I thought it made the most sense for him to come up here,” said Cox. “He’s had three works over the track. He looks fantastic, so we’re set up. We’re ready.”
Trainer Chad Brown will send out three contenders—all Kentucky-breds—in Early Voting, Zandon, and Artorius. Early Voting, winner of the Preakness Stakes, is owned by Klaravich Stables. Jeff Drown’s Zandon, sharp winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), enters off a second to Epicenter in the Jim Dandy, and Artorious, a Juddmonte homebred was a handy winner of the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on July 29.
Red TR-Racing’s Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike is seeking his first win since his memorable 80-1 upset on the First Saturday in May. The son of Keen Ice skipped the Preakness and finished a distant sixth in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 11 for trainer Eric Reed. Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Rich Strike recorded a five-eighths work last week at Saratoga in :59.82 in preparation for Saturday’s test.
“He went in :46 and :59 but he did it so easy,” said Reed. “He skipped across the track. Now, we just have to get a trip and see if he can do what he did all year and that’s finish strong.”
Rounding out the Kentucky-bred contingent in the Travers is Gilded Age. The son of Medaglia d’Oro is owned by Grandview Equine and Don Alberto Stable and is trained by Bill Mott. He finished second to Artorius last time out in the Curlin Stakes.