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Saratoga Weekend Wrap Up – Travers Weekend

Saratoga Race Course’s 144th meet hit its unequivocal peak this weekend, with five Grade Ones, a Grade Two, a host of other great races, and quite simply a have-to-see-it finish in the crown jewel of summer racing – The Travers.

Joe Bianchino, 1045theteam.com

Whenever a Grade One, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race is reduced to a mere prelude of that which would follow, you’ve had one hell of a weekend.  Such has been the scene these past few days at Saratoga, as while Turbulent Descent’s burst away from the two frontrunners with whom she bumped and jostled into the stretch was exciting, it was pushed to the outer recesses of our memory when Chad Brown’s 2011 Diana winning Zagora ran past them all to not only win Saturday’s Grade Two Ballston Spa, but destroy a course record in the process.

And of course, it moved further from mind as we watched Contested break poorly, but simply outclass them all for a win in the Grade One Test Stakes; and it was largely forgotten when Willy Beamin made a stirring, gritty stretch run from near the back to half a length on top to win the Grade One King’s Bishop, his second stakes race of the week - the Rick Dutrow trainee had cruised to a six length win in Wednesday’s 150K Albany Stakes.

But in a way, I guess each of these ended up nothing more than an exciting opening act, as the 2012 Travers was on deck, and was about to cement itself as the irrefutable lasting memory of the weekend and the meet.

Indeed, when the eleven horse field turned for home all 46,000 of us in attendance were forced to watch in stunned disbelief as the 33-1 Golden Ticket broke away from the pack, forcing the favorite to try and run him down in deep stretch.  Disbelief turned to awe when Alpha answered the call and hit the wire with the long-shot in what we knew would be the closest of photos.  And disbelief became astonishment when the Stewards finally announced the result – a dead heat.  Alpha and Golden Ticket had finished together, both being named the 2012 Travers champion – a result which hadn’t been seen since 1874, when the racing industry was without the comforts of modern technology.

The weekend was rounded out by Sunday’s Grade One Personal Ensign, which fell apart at the start with the race’s second choice and assumed pace-setter, It’s Tricky, stumbling onto her face out of the starting gate.  With little pace to run at, even-money favorite Royal Delta managed only second, as upset winner Love and Pride sat near the front throughout and stayed up to win. It’s Tricky was likely the most impressive horse in the race, however, managing a third place finish despite the disaster of the race’s first steps.

And so Travers weekend has come and gone, and though the Forego and Woodward remain, the 144th Saratoga Race Course Meet has waxed to its fullest and now wanes to its finish – but it is not without an unbelievable set of memories and a lasting bit of history.  After all, when was the last time a Grade One ended with a dead heat?  And when was the last time a horse won two stakes races in one week?  We were given both in one day this Travers weekend.

Follow me on Twitter for news, notes, and handicapping advice for the rest of the meet.  Good luck!

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