Published on: August 28, 2022, 11:39 am.
Last update: August 28, 2022, 12:13 p.m.
Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course is always one of the biggest days in horse racing, and on Saturday, the annual summer event enjoyed one of its best days ever.
The New York Racing Association announced that the 13-race card produced an all-source record $55.6 million. That’s 6.6% higher than the previous record of $52.1 million set in 2019.
In addition, the paid attendance of 49,672 was the best performance for the Travers Stakes since 2015. This led to an on-track value of $10.4 million, more than 10% higher than the $9.4 million wagered at Saratoga last year when 44,507 came for the Travers.
Betting on the prestigious race generated $16.3 million from the handle. It was the main event on a six-stakes, five-race Grade 1 card.
The dominant epicenter in Travers
After a spring of bitter disappointments, Epicenter enjoyed a tremendous summer at Saratoga. He won Saturday’s Travers in commanding fashion as the even-money favorite in the 1-1/4-mile race.
With Joel Rosario aboard, Epicenter chased Cyberknife on the best pace for most of the first mile. That was before making a commanding move around the final turn to pull away to a 5-1/4 length victory in 2:00.72.
Cyberknife, coming off a win in the Haskell Stakes, held off strong closing efforts by Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon and Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike to finish second.
Epicenter raced well in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in May. But each time, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt found himself losing the lead in the closing stages.
“I think that’s what makes racing so great,” Asmussen said at NYRA after the race. “You bet on what you’ve done, but what you’ve done before doesn’t carry you through. For Epicenter to have competed in the Derby and Preakness and still have that much horse now, we’re extremely proud of that. That’s what makes racing great.”
Epicenter paid $4 to win, $2.80 to place and $2.30 to present. Cyberknife, the punters’ second choice at 7-2, paid $4.10 and $3.30, while Zandon paid $2.90.
With the win, Epicenter is now the likely favorite to win the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old champion. He will likely now prepare for the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, and Asmussen said the colt could compete once more before then.
Rich Strike finishes fourth
Rich Strike just missed the board on Saturday. But after a disappointing showing in the Belmont in June, the Derby winner may have earned a measure of respect after an 11-week layoff.
Although not the 80-1 shot he was in the Derby, Rich Strike was still sixth choice on the board at 10-1. But on Saturday, he and Sonny Leon were one step away from finishing second, battling two other Grade 1 stakes winners.
“He got a little tired in the last 50 meters,” Leon told NYRA. “He did a good job coming back from the layoff. He gets better every time. I think mentally he’s growing up.