By: Heather Pettinger
Attracting all three winners of the year’s Triple Crown races for the first time since 1982, and only the second time in the Mid-Summer Derby’s storied tradition, Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont Stakes hero Tapwrit will step into the starting gate in the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Despite their lofty resumes, recent losses and an 11-week layoff for the Triple Crown winners have laid this year’s sophomore division wide open, leaving the Classic winners to overcome not only a full field of 12 but a less than favorable history of Travers matchups, as well.
The last time three individual winners of the Triple Crown races faced each other, Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and 2-5 favorite Conquistador Cielo, the respective winners of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, lined up in the 1982 Travers to contend for the title of top 3-year-old, only to have their dreams of supremacy dashed by a last-to-first surge by the Ontario-bred Runaway Groom.
The 1918 class didn’t fare much better against each other in that summer’s hotly contested Travers when Sun Briar, the reigning 2-year-old champion, handed defeat to Belmont winner Johren, Preakness winner War Cloud, and stablemate Exterminator, the upset winner of that year’s Derby.
On Saturday, though, this year’s Triple Crown race winners will try to write a new, and hopefully more fruitful, chapter in Saratoga history, led by Tapwrit, installed as the tepid 7-2 favorite for his ownership group comprised of Robert LaPenta, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Bridlewood Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, and Gainesway Farm.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray colt by Tapit will be making his first start since the Belmont, where he raced near the pace and dug in to post a two-length victory over the pacesetting Irish War Cry in the 12-furlong ‘Test of the Champion’ on June 10.
Prior to the Belmont, Tapwrit was second in his season opener to McCraken in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February before notching a 4 ¼-length score in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby one month later. He was firmly established on the Kentucky Derby trail as the 2-1 second choice in the Blue Grass in April when he finished fifth behind the 31-1 upset winner Irap.
“Everyone was in agreement that the Travers was the race for him,” said Pletcher, who won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley and in 2011 with Stay Thirsty.” We felt like if we ran in either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell, we’d leave a little something on the table that we wanted to save for the Travers. I think he’s been training exceptionally well and has put in some good breezes and I feel good that we have him fit enough and fresh enough to fire his ‘A’ race.