Dating back to 1864, the Travers Stakes is America’s oldest stakes race for Thoroughbreds. The Travers is a Grade 1 race at Saratoga and restricted for 3-year-olds. The 2021 race is the 152nd edition and offers a purse of $1,250,000. Nicknamed the ‘Midsummer Derby’, the Travers has been contested at the classic 1 1/4 mile distance since 1904.
Travers Day is the most popular day of the Saratoga summer racing meet and held on the last Saturday of August. The 2021 Travers headlines a huge day of racing that includes seven graded stakes including six Grade 1 races of which three are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In’ automatic qualifying races.
The 2019 Travers Day all-sources handle of $52.1 million was an all-time record. But more than 48,000 fans were in attendance at Saratoga and wagered an on-track handle of $11.6 million. The 2020 Travers was held in front of an empty grandstand without fans, but in 2021 fans return to ‘The Spa’ in Saratoga Springs, NY for the biggest day of racing during the Saratoga Summer Meet.
The 2021 Travers will include Belmont Stakes (G1) and recent Jim Dandy (G2) winner Essential Quality, who is leading the Horse of the Year race for 3-year-olds and No. 3 in the latest NTRA Top Thoroughbred poll behind recent Whitney winner Knicks Go.
Travers Stakes odds and post positions
|Post||Horse||Odds||Jockey / Trainer|
|1||Midnight Bourbon||9-2||Ricardo Santana
|2||Essential Quality||4-5||Luis Saez
|4||Dynamic One||6-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|5||Miles D||12-1||Flavian Prat
Al Stall, Jr.
|7||King Fury||15-1||Jose Ortiz
The 2021 Travers Stakes (G1) is set for Saturday, Aug. 28 at Saratoga, and Essential Quality is the favorite at 4-5. A record handle may be within reach following the recent Whitney Stakes Day, which generated record all-sources of $36,820,234, eclipsing the previous Whitney Day record by more than $1 million set in 2020.
Along with the Travers Stakes, there are five consecutive graded stakes races leading into the Travers including three “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races.
Best Travers betting sites 2021
Travers Stakes schedule and race details
The 152nd running of the Travers Stakes will be broadcast on FOX with coverage from 5:00-6:30 p.m. ET. Also, FS2 carries earlier race coverage along with all of Saturday’s races on TVG as part of its comprehensive daily racing coverage.
- Date: Saturday, August 28, 2021
- Time: 6:12 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX 5-6:30 p.m. ET
- Track & Location: Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, New York
- Distance: 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs)
- Surface: Dirt
- Horses: 3-year-old thoroughbreds by invitation only
- Track Record: Arrogate won the 2016 Travers in a record time of 1:59.36
- Largest Margin of Victory: Arrogate (13 lengths)
A gold-plated replica of the Travers Trophy, known as the Man O’War Cup, is presented to the winner, along with the locally hand-made floral blanket with thousands of carnations draped over the horse in the winners circle.
You can also wager on horse racing legally across the US at racetracks and simulcast centers such as Off Track Betting (OTB) Centers.
Travers Stakes betting guide and field
As handicappers and bettors try to identify a value horse or two that could pull the upset in this year’s Travers, review races of 1 1/4 miles like the Kentucky Derby, and other races at least 1 1/8 miles while evaluating current form. There are annually improving and maturing 3-year-olds at this time of year who can break onto the scene like the great Arrogate did in winning the 2016 Travers – his first stakes race and record time.
Win or lose, it’s worth watching how Essential Quality runs. He’s the only Grade 1 winner in the field, and his only defeat was at this distance when finishing fourth with traffic issues in the Kentucky Derby.
Keepmeinmind may give it another go after finishing a close 2nd behind Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy. Midnight Bourbon is another familiar rival looking to run well in the Travers. He finished 2nd in the Preakness and Louisiana Derby and 6th in the Kentucky Derby, but has never posted a 100 or better speed figure.
The pace can often dictate a race, and Essential Quality will try to sit just off the pace with leading jockey Luis Saez hoping for moderate fractions. He had similar trips and reserved energy turning for home and went on to win the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy.
Travers Horse Profiles
Essential Quality (4/5) has won 7-of-8 starts and towers over this Travers field. Eight of the last 12 Travers winners prepped for the race in New York, and Essential Quality won the Jim Dandy Stakes last month without running his best over the Saratoga surface. His 107 Equibase Speed Figure was down slightly from his previous three races, but this shining star and son of Tapit is clearly the best horse in this field of 3-year-olds. His Belmont Stakes win was superb, and the pace in Travers projects to be moderate, leaving Essential Quality able to relax just off the leaders, Midnight Bourbon and Masqueparade. Plenty of stamina and energy in reserve and tough to knock Essential Quality other than his very low odds.
Midnight Bourbon (9/2) has had a productive campaign with a win in January and two runner-up finishes including in the Preakness. He’ll try to take this race running closer up front. But without every posting a speed figure of 100 or more, there is doubt. Still, he posted a 99 speed figure when running this distance in the Kentucky Derby and came front off the pace to finish sixth just in front of Keepmeinmind. Midnight Bourbon makes his ninth straight graded stakes start and the hard trying son of Tiznow has finished in the money in 8-of-10 starts overall and faced solid competition.
Keepmeinmind (6/1) keeps getting stronger and ran his fastest two races in June in July with speed figures of 105 and 106. That includes when finishing a close second to Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy. Keepmeinmind makes his 10th straight graded stakes start, and his recent blistering bullet workout over 4 furlongs at Saratoga provides hope that he could run better and earn his second win in 11 career starts.
Dynamic One (6/1) came flying from the back to win the Curlin Stakes a month ago, and he’s also an improving and maturing colt with strong connections in trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. He’s also been tested when running in the Kentucky Derby and finishing a close second in the Wood Memorial. But Dynamic One is clearly stronger and better now and showed it off a layoff in winning last month.
Masqueparade (8/1) offers some value having won the Ohio Derby before finishing 3rd in the Jim Dandy. He pressed fast fractions in that race before grudgingly yielding to Essential Quality and Keepmeinmind. With less pace up front, he could prove to be tougher to pass this time and Masqueparade has posted speed figures of 103 or better in his last three races.
Miles D (12/1) is lightly-raced making just his fourth start. He finished runner-up in his stakes debut last month behind Dynamic One, and while improving, he’ll need to run his best race ever to factor into the money. Potential to grow and move forward as a son of the great Curlin.
King Fury (15/1) is also a son of Curlin who won the Lexington Stakes in April and was runner-up more than two months later when posting a 105 speed figure in the Ohio Derby with a very strong late pace figure. He tried a turf race three weeks ago without any positives to report, and that race should be tossed from the evaluation. Potential to surprise and hit the board with a late run.
Profile of a winner
Essential Quality and Keepmeinmind are a few of the Travers runners who posted an Equibase triple-digit speed figure of at least 105 in their most recent race. That’s one of the key profiles in identifying a Travers Stakes winner the past decade.
- 11 of the last 12 Travers winners recorded an Equibase Speed Figure (ESF) of 105 or more in the race prior to the Travers.
- Since 2010, every Travers winner finished in-the-money in the race preceding the Travers (7 wins, 3 place and 1 show).
- Forwardly-place runners have fared better, as 7-of-12 winners were in the front three at quarter pole and 9-of-12 raced in the front half of the pack by the half-mile marker.
- Since 2010, the average odds of the winning Travers is near 7/1 with an average win payout of $16.60.
- Only three of the last eight Travers favorites have hit the board, with only one post time favorite winning – Tiz the Law at 1/2 odds in 2020.
In 2015, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah lost the lead in the stretch to finish 2nd behind upset winner Keen Ice (16/1). American Pharoah won 9-of-10 races during that stretch including the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year. But he joined other great race horses in the big races at Saratoga who have fallen victim to the “Graveyard of Champions.”
Along with running the 1 1/4 mile distance and tighter turns at Saratoga, a number of runners will be racing over the Saratoga surface for the first time. That includes Midnight Bourbon. The potential stage is set for another upset in the Travers, although Essential Quality has shown he can win across many racetracks and distances.
Bob Baffert trained 3-year-old Arrogate won the 2016 Travers Stakes by 13-lengths at 11/1 odds in a track record time (1:59.36).
A few years later, Baffert explained again the significance of the Travers and racing in the biggest races at Saratoga.
“The thing about Saratoga is everybody is watching, the whole industry,” he said. “This is where it happens. If you are going to showcase a horse, it is important to get a win on the East Coast, but if you can get it in Saratoga, it means more because it is probably the biggest platform to showcase a horse. All of these races have so much history and have been won by all the greats.”
Travers Day and the Breeders’ Cup
The Travers may be the days headline race, but three other races are one’s to watch closely with the winner earning an automatic fees-paid entry to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar.
The $500,000 Ballerina will award the winner a fees-paid entry to the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
Two other “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup qualifying races Saturday at Saratoga include the $600,000 Personal Ensign for older fillies and mares. The winner earns a trip to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The $750,000 Sword Dancer for older horses will send the winner to the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Travers Stakes winners and history
The Travers Stakes has produced some notable champions during its storied history. The 2016 winner Arrogate was a relative unknown until he delivered a breath-taking 13-length victory in a Travers-record time of 1:59.23. That victory was Arrogate’s stakes debut, and the late-bloomer went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Pegasus World Cup, and the Dubai World Cup in his next three starts to become North America’s all-time money winner.
Historic Saratoga Race Course has produced many legends of racing with Travers winners becoming champion 3-year-old and/or Horse of the Year winners. The Man o’ War Cup, awarded to the Travers winner, is named in honor of the 1920 winner Man ‘o War, whose victory was one of his 20 wins in 21 career starts.
The most recent two decades has produced some of racing’s stars, among its many memorable moments. Winners include Bernardini (2006), Street Sense (2007), Summer Bird (2009), Stay Thirsty (2011), Will Take Charge (2013), Arrogate (2016) and Keen Ice (2015), who upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. In last year’s 2020 Travers, Tiz the Law won after capturing the Belmont Stakes and then finishing 2nd in the October Kentucky Derby in an unusual year of racing due to the pandemic and COVID-19 health crisis.
Alpha and Golden Ticket (2012) completed the first dead heat winner in Travers history that never went to a race-off.
|2020||Tiz the Law||1-2||$3.00||02:00.9||Pace Pressing|
|2019||Code of Honor||4-1||$10.80||02:01.1||Closer, back|
|2015||Keen Ice||16-1||$34.00||02:02.6||Mid-pack, off pace|
|2014||V.E. Day||19-1||$41.00||02:03.0||Closer, back|
|2013||Will Take Charge||9-1||$21.00||02:02.7||Mid-pack, off pace|
|2012||Alpha/Golden Ticket dead heat)||2-1/33-1||$4.10/$28.80||02:02.7||Stalking (both)|
|2010||Afleet Express||7-1||$16.00||02:03.3||Mid-pack, off pace|
Past Travers noted champions that paved the way for the modern race winners include: Triple Crown winner Whirlaway (1941), Sword Dancer (1953) and Ruthless (1867), who went on to become the first of seven fillies to win the Travers.
In the past 40 years, other notable and significant wins include: Alydar (1978) who won after rival Affirmed was disqualified, previous record holder General Assembly (1979), Java Gold (1987), Easy Goer (1989), Holy Bull (1994), Thunder Gulch (1995), Lemon Drop Kid (1999), Point Given (2001), Medaglia ‘d Oro (2002), Birdstone (2004), and those above in the last decade.
Some racing greats both running and riding have won and lost some of the tightest finishes, as 10 Travers Stakes have been decided by a nose, including two in the past decade, V.E. Day (2014) and Afleet Express (2010).
Jockey Javier Castellano has recorded a record six Travers wins over the last decade, guiding Bernardini (2006), Afleet Express (2010), Stay Thirsty (2011), V. E. Day (2014), Keen Ice (2015) and Catholic Boy (2018) to victory.
The most shocking result in Travers history occurred in 1930 when Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox lost to 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy, who is now honored with a stakes race that serves as Saratoga’s leading Travers prep.
How to bet the Travers Stakes
The Travers will be part of a special NYRA Bets Late Pick 5 which will feature a minimum single-ticket payout of $1 million. The $1 million single ticket payout bonus is available only to NYRA Bets customers online, on track, and at New York State simulcasting facilities.
Travers Day will also feature an all-stakes Pick 4 guaranteed at $1 million. There are six Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 race on 2021 Travers Stakes Day.
In addition to the traditional “straight” wagers (Win, Place, Show), fans can also attempt to cash big in the various “exotic” pools. Exacta (first two), Trifecta (first three) and Superfecta (first four) wagering are all offered, and cashing a ticket in any of these pools can produce a bigger payday.
- Win: Bet on the horse you think you will win the Travers Stakes.
- Place: Get paid the place price if your horse finishes first or second.
- Show: A show bet pays the least, but you win and get paid the show price if your horse finishes first, second or third.
- Exacta: Predict the first two horses in the correct order.
- Trifecta: Predict the first three horses in the correct order.
- Superfecta: Predict the first four horses in the correct order.
The Travers Stakes betting odds are finally determined by the pari-mutuel system at the track which means your potential payout depends on how much money is in the pool overall, divided by how many bets are placed. The odds will fluctuate in the build-up to the race and never more so than in the final few moments before post time.
Travers Stakes FAQ
When is the 2021 Travers Stakes?
The 152nd running of the Travers Stakes will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
How many horses run in the Travers?
The field is limited to a maximum of 14 horses and the 2021 field is projected to include at least 8 runners.
What is the Travers Stakes purse?
The 2021 Travers Stakes purse is $1.25 million, which has been the purse every year since 2014 except in 2020 when it was reduced to $1 million.
How much does the winner of the Travers get?
The winner of the Travers receives $670,000, runner-up $230,000, third place $125,000 and the top eight places are paid.
What kind of race is the Travers Stakes?
The Travers is a Grade 1 stakes race and is restricted to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds.
When is post time for the Travers Stakes?
Post time is approx. 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.
How much are Travers Stakes tickets?
General admission or Grandstand tickets for 2021 Travers are $10 in advance, $15 day-of. Clubhouse admission is $25.
What is the record handle for Travers Day?
In 2018, Travers Day surpassed $50 million in all-sources handle for the first time with $52.08 million. The 2019 handle broke the record with $52.1 million.
Who was the fastest horse to win the Travers Stakes?
Arrogate (2016) raced home a 13-length winner in 1:59.36; breaking General Assembly’s 1979 record of 2:00 flat.