Horse racing plays an enormous part in the local history and culture of the Capital District but specifically of Saratoga. With the tracks most historic and high stakes race fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to take a minute this week to talk a little bit about the history, origins and grand traditions of the Travers.
Named for the track’s first president William Travers, the Travers inaugural race was first run on August 2, 1864, 11 years before the Kentucky Derby, making it the oldest 3-year-old stakes race in America. That year, the first race was won by none other than Mr. Travers’ own horse, Kentucky. While this may appear suspicious to some, foul play was never suspected; upon his passing in 1887, William Travers’ obituary referred to him as “the most loved man in New York.
This is not to say the race has always gone off without a hitch though. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, the Travers has not been run every year since its inception, having been shut down in 1896, 1898 and 1900 as a result of corrupt track ownership and then again in 1911 and 1912 when racing was outlawed in the entire state of New York. Ever since though, the race has run annually to incredible fanfare and acclaim, marking for one of the most exciting weekends of the whole year for the Capital District.
One of the most beautiful trophies in all of professional sports, the “Man o’ War Cup” designed by Tiffany and Co. was first awarded in 1920 and named after the year’s winner, one of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses of all time. Following the death of Man o’ War’s owner Samuel Riddle, his wife donated the trophy to Saratoga and every year since, a member of the Riddle family has presented the winner with a gold plated replica of the famed trophy.
Whether you’re making it out to the race, watching it at home, or just trying to avoid the traffic, there is no denying the electricity in the air during Travers week. For almost 150 years, it has stood as a beloved tradition of the Capital District.