The race dubbed “The Midsummer Derby” celebrates a major milestone today at Saratoga Race Course and gives off the feel of another, slightly younger, marquee event run annual the first Saturday in May.
The 150th Travers Stakes attracted a field of 12 3-year-olds, not quite the expansive draft that runs annually in the Kentucky Derby but still large by modern standards. The 12-horse field, if it stays together for the $1.25 million Travers, would be one of the largest in the race’s history and the biggest since 13 ran in 2016.
The largest Travers field featured 14 runners when Jatski won via the disqualification of Run Dusty Run in 1977 and three times it included 13 starters and three times it included 12.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano knows what it takes to win the Travers. He’s won it a record six times and bids for another aboard Looking At Bikinis, one of two horses for trainer Chad Brown. Castellano, watching breezers from his golf cart near the quarter-pole gap Friday morning with his agent John Panagot, said he liked his chances against favorites Tacitus, Code Of Honor, Tax, Owendale and Mucho Gusto.
“It’s a Grade 1, the Travers and one of the best races in the country,” said Castellano, who won last year aboard Catholic Boy. “I’m pretty live. He’s a great horse and Chad has been developing him. Don’t get me wrong, I give a lot of credit to the other horses. Tacitus is the horse to beat. He stumbled really bad at the gate last time and he made that move. Just too much to ask to do. You never know. That’s horse racing. It’s a mile and a quarter, a question mark for young horses, 3-year-olds. It’s going to be a very competitive race.
“I don’t see any horse that is unbeatable. But that happened before, too, one year with Keen Ice we were like, ‘how can we beat that horse, American Pharoah? How can we beat that horse?’ There you go. Keen Ice. He beat him. That’s horse racing. You have to perform and hopefully you show up.”
To read the rest of the Travers preview, download Saturday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.