Although the biggest names in the 2012 three-year-old division are either injured or sidelined with an illness, there is plenty of reason to still be excited about the 143rd Travers Stakes that will take place this Saturday in Saratoga Springs. The purse is $1 million and that’s sure to have the training staffs and the horses ready to perform at the top of their games. Let’s have a look at a few of the horses who are expected to be factors at Saratoga Race Course this weekend.
Neck N’ Neck: Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Neck N’ Neck has worked out well in Saratoga, pleasing his trainer with a five furlong breeze in just over a minute on Monday, according to HorseRacingNation.com . This colt has had a very sporadic career to this point, as he has picked up three victories in eleven starts, but finishing out of the money in six of those races. He will be ridden by Leandro Goncalves, who Neck N’ Neck has responded to in a big way. Goncalves has been on this thoroughbred four times, picking up three wins and a second place finish.
Alpha: Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Alpha has developed nicely for Godolphin Racing over the course of the past year. Alpha recently took the Jim Dandy Stakes wire to wire and has won four of eight career starts, while finishing second in two high profile stakes races; the Wood Memorial and Champagne Stakes. He is likely to be the favorite when the gates open on Saturday.
Stealcase: Trainer: Mark Casse
Stealcase has only recently seen his stock rise in the three-year-old division. It took him three tries to win his maiden race and after that he was only able to manage a third place finish in his next three starts. His fortunes have started to change though. His last two races were the Matt Winn and the Haskell and he finished second and third in those respectively.
Hansen: Trainer: Michael Maker
Hansen saw his career start about as well as possible. In 2011 he won all three of his races by moving immediately to the front out of the gate and never looking back, including a big win over Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on his way to locking up an Eclipse Award. 2012 hasn’t gone as well, as Hansen has had to make some adjustments, including taking off his blinkers and trying to respond when he isn’t running ahead. This year, Hansen has won the Gotham Stakes and the Iowa Derby, but finished fourth in his most recent race, the West Virginia Derby, where he was the big favorite.
Atigun: Trainer: Ken McPeek
Atigun is a colt that just has not been consistent. He has won two allowance races in six starts in 2012, but the biggest boost to his career came with a third place finish in the Belmont, behind Union Rags and Paynter.
Nonios: Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Nonios is a colt to keep an eye on for this race also. He is a late bloomer who didn’t enter a race as a two-year-old, but has been very solid in 2012. He has made five starts, winning three of those, with one being a Grade III race, the Affirmed at Hollywood Park. In his last two graded stakes races (Swaps, Haskell) he has finished second, ahead of some the competition he will face in the Travers Stakes.
As is evidenced by the names in the field, racing fans won’t be seeing the brightest stars of the three-year-old class, but they will get to see a few thoroughbreds that still hold promise for the future, such as Alpha, and a last year’s champion two-year-old, Hansen. The race itself is steeped in tradition and is by all accounts one of the top races of the season, and that is a good reason to be excited about the Travers Stakes this Saturday!