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Dead Heat in Travers Stakes: Alpha and Golden Ticket

In literally the least predictable result in race history, Alpha and Golden Ticket finished in a dead heat, both claiming the 2012 Travers Stakes.

Joe Bianchino, 1045theteam.com

As I’ve said before, horse racing, is a fickle game.  We study, we debate, we ponder, and prognosticate.  And then, for all our posturing – stuff just happens and who the hell knows why?  Coming into this 143rd Travers, everyone had an opinion.  Some loved the favorite, others liked a few long-shots.  Most saw it slow, others saw pace – ain’t nobody saw this.

As the field broke from the gate, to the roar of over 46,000 Saratoga patrons, it was Speightscity taking the early lead.  Favorite Alpha sat close, with long-shot Stealcase in front of him, and challenger Neck ‘n Neck sitting just behind, with Golden Ticket along the rail.  As the honest, yet decidedly mediocre, fractions clicked by, the favorite pushed his way long side Speightscity and Stealcase at the front leaving Neck ‘n Neck and Golden Ticket to lead a second pack of horses down the back stretch.

Around the far turn it was Stealcase who moved first, but the long-shot was no match for Alpha, who turned on his run – sweeping three wide to strike the lead as the field turned for home.  And just as the favorite looked ready to break away from them all and claim the Mid-Summer Derby, it was David Cohen and Golden Ticket skirting the rail and bursting to a one length lead.

Three sixteenths of a mile to run left to run and the 2012 Travers had become a stretch duel with one question to be answered: Could Alpha answer yet another bell and run down the long-shot?

With only half a furlong to go, the answer looked to be no.  But with Alpha finding a late kick, suddenly it seemed as though it would be yes.  Turns out?  It was both.  Though Alpha claimed the lead by the slightest of head bobs within the race’s final steps, that same measure that had given him the lead cost him it as well, with Golden Ticket nudging his nose along side, and the two hitting it together.  A dead heat.  Alpha and Golden Ticket had won the Travers stakes.

“They were worried about it not being exciting, I think they got their money’s worth,” said Alpha trainer Kiaran McGlaughlin – commenting on experts who noted that the field was without interest.  Asked if, when watching the replays, he thought he’d been beat, he said “First time yes, second time no, then it was just pray for a dead heat.”  Golden Ticket trainer Ken McPeek said the same thing, both noting that they were happy to take the dead heat and be part of something that hadn’t happened since 1874 – and even then was decided after the fact with Attila winning the race via run-off.

Of the race, Golden Ticket jockey David Cohen said, “We were 20-1 on the morning line, in my mind we were 2-1.”  Turns out, they were a million to one – a dead heat in a Grade One?

Let no one ever wonder again, why anyone bothers with horse racing.  Let them stand in the crowd, hear the building crescendo of it’s fervent voice as the stretch duel develops, hear the exasperated cry as the horses hit the wire too-close-to-call.  Let them soak in the tenuously held breath as we await a verdict, then bask in the explosion of energy when the result is posted.  Let them experience all that, and not even the most jaded could ignore the breathtaking ride it can be – with today, the most glaring example in history.

Golden Ticket and Alpha, your 2012 Travers Stakes Champions.

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