Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Midsummer Derby

The Travers is a great race with a wonderful aura of tradition and prestige. Some have called it the second best race for three year olds behind only the Kentucky Derby. Very few horses have managed to sweep both races in the last 20 years. In fact only Thunder Gulch, Sea Hero and Street Sense did. Oddly enough only Thunder Gulch managed to win the 3yo Male Eclipse Award from that trio.

Whenever the 3yo Eclipse Award comes up in discussion the dominant Triple Crown horse is always the first name to emerge but supposedly savvy contrarians will always chime in with the caution that another horse might sweep the Travers and Breeders' Cup and wrest the title away. It is perhaps an overlooked bit of trivia that no horse has actually managed to win the Travers and the Classic in the same year.

Travers winners are often well bet in the Classic. If you exclude Thunder Rumble (40/1) the average odds of a Travers winner in the Classic is 4.20/1. Yet they are 0 for 15 overall. They have managed 5 second place finishes but no other placings. Kentucky Derby winners on the other hand are 10-2-2-0 in the Breeders' Cup with an average starting price of 5.20/1. Although it has been quite a while since a Derby winner was successful. In general Derby winners have had more success in the year end championships and have presented a bit more value.

Another interesting comparison I've noted between the Travers and Kentucky Derby is the records of the respective winners after reaching the pinnacle. Since 1996 Travers winners have gone 18-3-5-0 in the remainder of their starts during the same campaign. Kentucky Derby winners went 31-10-7-5 during the same period. Although the perception, often, is that the Derby produces some wild results because of the field size it is rather justified as a benchmark for quality. Derby winners won just about 30% of their post Derby starts and finished in the money 70% of the time. Travers winners were only half as effective.

Draw from this whatever conclusions you want. For my part I won't be holding my breath for any horse to win the Travers then upstage Big Brown for the 3yo championship. It could theoretically happen but it would be unprecedented.

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