Much of the talk surrounding the Travers Stakes this past week focused on the thoroughbreds that were not able to race. With top three-year-olds like Union Rags, I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Hansen out of the picture, many wondered if the race would be able to live up to its illustrious history. By all accounts, it did and then some. For only the second time in 143 races, the Travers Stakes ended up in a dead heat between the favorite Alpha and longshot, Golden Ticket.
The Ken McPeek trained Golden Ticket came into the race with only one career win, which came on his fourth try in a maiden special weight race. His only other significant finish before Saturday was second place in the Tampa Bay Derby back in March. Alpha has had a very solid career to this point and he now has four wins in six starts as a three-year-old, with three of those being graded stakes races.
From the start Golden Ticket pushed to the front, alongside of Speightcity and Stealcase, with Speightcity moving up and controlling the pace early. As they turned into the backstretch, Alpha moved into third just ahead of Golden Ticket. This order held through the ½ mile mark. The field bunched up a bit as they started the turn, but Golden Ticket stayed on the inside and burst into the lead. Alpha, who moved to the far outside bolted into second and challenged Golden Ticket, who was looking like a clear winner with one furlong to go. As they approached the wire, Nick Zito’s Fast Falcon surged along with Alpha to catch the tiring Golden Ticket. Alpha had just enough push to put his nose at the wire with the David Cohen jockeyed long shot, with Fast Falcon missing by a neck. Atigun and Nonios finished fourth and fifth respectively.
It was the first dead heat at the Travers Stakes since 1874, when Attila and Acrobat had a run-off to determine the winner. There would be no such run-off on Saturday as both horses were awarded the victory. Trainers Kiaran McLaughlin (Alpha) and Ken McPeek (Golden Ticket) have known each other since their childhood days and were equally excited about the results. McLaughlin and Godolphin racing were uncommitted about where they may take Alpha next, but the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby is an option along with the $1 million Grade I Jockey Gold Club Cup. The Jockey Gold Club Cup is the top race in the Belmont Park fall meet and is open to all horses three years of age and up. Alpha is beginning to make a case for three-year-old of the year and another big win and a solid showing at the Breeders’ Cup could make him the front runner in the class as the other top options in the division are on the shelf. It would seem that the Pennsylvania Derby would be the next destination for Golden Ticket, who will surely not give 33-1 odds again!