Since the final leg of the Triple Crown, racing fans were hoping for a Travers featuring the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, despite Oxbow's injury, fans were treated to one of the most talented Travers fields in recent memory.
SARATOGA RACE COURSE -- Hours before the call to the post, fans packed Saratoga Race Course for Saturday's Grade I, $1 million Travers.
"This is like being at the Derby without having to go to the Derby, I mean, this is incredible," said Jane Currie, who rode the train from Ohio to attend the race.
In what can best be described as a true racing fan's delight, the 144th running of Travers offered one of the most talented trifectas ever to grace the Midsummer Derby.
"You've got Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, Palace Malice, the Belmont Stakes winner and you've got Verrazano, who was the Derby favorite and ultimately the big winner of the Haskell," said NYRA racing analyst Richard Migliore, a retired jockey.
"I was so excited to watch and see these horses come out," said Latham resident Michael Brehm. "I can't wait for the race. I'll be here three races early just to be on the fence."
Lest we forget, six more of the top colts in the country rounded out the field, with all aiming to take down the "Big 3." With so much class at the top, handicapping proves tricky for even the most seasoned horseplayers.
"It's a tough chore, it's very, very difficult," said Johnny Crayton, who flew in from San Diego. "My wife is probably the best handicapper I know and she goes by the name and the color and she hits better than I do!"
"I think it could be anybody if you get a great trip but the classy horse usually wins this race," said Brehm, who said he was planning to bet Palace Malice.
Even so, many fans came in with their minds made up. Whether they were willing to share it is something different entirely.
"That's a personal choice," Currie joked.
"I figure John Velazquez with Verrazano is going to be the winner," said Israides Flores, who flew in from Puerto Rico to cheer on his fellow countryman.
"Palace Malice, absolutely," Crayton said.
"I think Will Take Charge might come up in the top three," Maryland resident Maryjo Clark said.
Excitement for this grand affair seemed to build the moment the final leg of the Triple Crown was run in June. With two of those classic winners, Orb and Palace Malice, and perhaps their top rival, Verrazano, making it all the way to the gate, it set up a Travers for the ages.
"The racing gods are truly smiling on us," said Migliore. "This is the best all around Travers card I can ever remember."
"We love having these horses here, it's really exciting," Brehm said.
"Absolutely phenomenal," Currie said. "I can't believe I'm here."