Anyone who tunes into sports broadcasts during the spring is familiar with the “Triple Crown” of Thoroughbred horse racing, comprised of three races over the span of five weeks in May and June. All three—the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes—are broadcast nationally by NBC Sports, and each year, millions of viewers tune in to watch the best three-year-old colts in the country vie for supremacy in these prestigious races.
The Travers is held over the same 1 ¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby and is often considered to be an unofficial fourth leg of the Triple Crown. That seems particularly fitting this year, for in addition to Exaggerator and Creator, twelve other talented horses will contest the Travers, including familiar names like Destin (second in the Belmont Stakes) and Gun Runner (third in the Kentucky Derby.)
Exaggerator is expected by many to win the Travers following his victory in the prestigious Haskell Invitational last month, in which he defeated Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist with ease. But all of his biggest wins have come over rain-soaked “sloppy” tracks, and it’s clear that Exaggerator—like his famous sire Curlin—loves muddy conditions. If it rains on Saturday, he’ll be tough to beat, but if the track comes up dry, the world will be watching to see if he can adapt.
In contrast, Creator would enjoy a dry track, but he finished last in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga last month, his prep race for the Travers. He didn’t finish far behind the winner that day, and his late run was compromised by a very slow pace that favored the leaders. Can he rebound in the Travers? And can he turn the tables on Jim Dandy winner Laoban, a huge colt who seems to be finally growing up and unleashing his front-running talent?
Bob Baffert, the trainer of American Pharoah, will seek Travers redemption by sending out two colts: American Freedom, who finished second to Exaggerator in the Haskell, and Arrogate, who has won three straight small races in California. Chad Brown, who has built a reputation training brilliant winners of major grass races, will run three horses: Connect, who won the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga (in an amusing coincidence, Connect’s sire is Curlin!), Gift Box, who finished second in that same race, and My Man Sam, second in the Blue Grass Stakes earlier this year.
Throw in the Kentucky Derby veteran Majesto, Belmont Stakes starters Governor Malibu and Forever d’Oro, plus the newcomer Anaximandros, and you have the makings of an absolutely fantastic horse race!
The Travers Stakes will be broadcast live on NBC Sports starting at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to tune in and cheer for your favorite horses!
Update: Arrogate won the Travers Stakes by an astonishing 12 lengths:
Unbelievable! Arrogate smashes the track record as he wins the Travers Stakes by 12 lengths: https://t.co/6YQKEIxGCX
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) August 27, 2016
J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and racing enthusiast who considers Zenyatta to be his all-time favorite racehorse. He is the founder of the horse racing website TheTurfBoard.com and writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.