The Countdown to the 2021 Travers Stakes Is On

"The Traves Stakes" by Skip Dickstein is licensed under CC BY 3.0

The Travers Stakes is one of the longest-running horse races on North American soil. Inaugurated in 1864, the Travers Stakes is the highlight of the summer race meeting at Saratoga. The 152nd edition is set to run on August 8, meaning there not long to wait to see some of the best 3-year-old Grade 1 Thoroughbreds take to the track.

The race is run on a left-handed track over 1 ¼ miles (10 furlongs). A $1,250,000 purse ensures trainers prepare their horses for the biggest race of their fledgling careers. Of course, every horse trainer worth their salt wants to get their hands on the Man o’ War trophy and see their horse draped in the famous blanket of red and white carnations.

Travers Stakes Record Time Almost Broken

Tiz the Law won the 2020 Travers Stakes, doing so in a time of 2:00.95. Only General Assembly in 1979 (2:00.00) and record holder Arrogate in 2016 (1:59.36) have run this course faster. Tiz the Law was the overwhelming favorite with all the major online sports betting sites, setting off at odds-on. The stallion sure lived up to the hype, winning by five-and-a-half lengths.

Organizers of the Travers Stakes are yet to announce the 2021 field, but there is a trio of spectacular horses who should be there to stake a claim for Travers Stake glory.

Look Out For Essential Quality

Essential Quality is a Godolphin-owned colt trained by Brad Cox with a phenomenal record in its relatively new career. Essential Quality has featured in seven races, winning six and coming fourth in the other.

Its fourth-place finish came in the Kentucky Derby in May 2021. Essential Quality ran the 1 ¼ mile in 2:01.02 but still finished behind Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun, and champion Medina Sprint.

Last time out, Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes ahead of Hot Rod Charlie and Rombauer.

Midnight Bourbon is another up-and-coming horse that is listed as possible for the Travers Stakes. Owned by Winchell Throughbreds and trained by Steven Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon. The colt does not have as good a record as Essential Quality, but it is much-fancied among those in the know.

Nine races to date have seen Midnight Bourbon win two races. It finished a disappointing sixth in the Kentucky Derby and second behind Rombauer in the Preakness Stakes in mid-May, finishing ahead of Medina Spirit in the process.

Mandaloun is listed as probable for the 2021 Travers Stakes. The 3-year-old colt comes out of the stable of Brad Cox and is owned by Juddmonte Farms. Three wins from Mandaloun’s first four races put the horse on everyone’s rade. A second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby was equally as impressive.

“The Traves Stakes” by Elsa Lorieul/AP is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Baffert Suspension Means Life is Good Probably Will Not Run

Life is Good is one horse that is extremely unlikely to compete at the Travers Stakes unless it moves stables in the next couple of weeks. Bob Baffert trains the WinStar Farm-owned colt, and Baffert recently received a two-year ban.

Baffert was delighted to have trained the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Sprit, but his joy soon turned to despair when Medina Spirit produced a positive drug test. Churchill Downs suspended the Hall of Fame trainer for two years after they confirmed Media Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone. The ban covers all state racetracks.

The legal team of Baffert is in the process of suing the horse racing authorities, claiming he did not dope his horse, but the steroid found its way into Media Spirit’s system after the application of cream to ease a rash.

Medina Spirit is the fifth of Baffert’s horses to fail a drug test in the past year alone. No decision has yet been made about stripping Media Spirit of the Kentucky Derby title.