Much Ado About... Saratoga

Recently in The Travers Stakes Category

When he died at the age of 67, the New York Times proclaimed William R. Travers "may have been the most popular man in New York."

He was, in a word, adored.

0014post-William Riggin Travers.jpgWe know Travers as a founder and the first President of the Saratoga Racing Association, and the namesake for the single longest actively running sporting event in America - The Travers Stakes.

We know him as the owner of Hall of Famer Kentucky, that race's first winner.

We know him as a brilliant financier on Wall Street.

But what you may not know, in spite of his wealth and success, Travers was arguably better known for his wit, charm and self-deprecating way.

A New York Times article published two years before his death noted his "wit never screens malice but it frequently stings, being at times near the truth." In his obituary, it added "his defect of speech, which is well known, added to the effectiveness of his utterances."

The former piece, published March 15, 1885, applauded Travers apologetic humor.  One could easily get the impression it made him more approachable and more endearing.
 
In short, Travers wasn't just another stuffed shirt with money.  Travers was a funny guy ... and he could take a hit too.

Take, for example, the story of him running into an old Baltimore acquaintance while walking on a street in New York City.

"Why, Bill, you stutter worse now than when you were in Baltimore," his friend said.
"H-h-have to," answered Mr. Travers.  "B-b-bigger city."

One day Travers saw John Morrissey, the man who built Saratoga Race Course, standing by a horse.  Morrissey fancied himself the type who could spot equine talent however his results on the track begged a different argument.

"W-w-what have you g-got there, John" he asked.
"A race horse" he replied with an air of satisfaction.
"A race horse!" Travers exclaimed.
"Yes, Sir, a race horse.  Are you going to bet on him?"
"Yes, I'll b-bet on him," Travers replied decidedly.
"How?" Morrissey asked, somewhat in doubt.
"I'll c-c-copper him.

0014post-traverssayings2.jpgOne can only imagine the look on Morrissey's face, mouth gaping and stunned at Travers shot across the bow.

Then there was the time he traveled to Brooklyn for the wedding of a friend's daughter who lived on Montague Street.  Travers apparently took a wrong turn somewhere in his travels and got lost.  He stopped a gentleman and asked for directions.

"I desire to reach M-m-montague Street," he said to a passerby.  "W-will you be k-kind enough to p-point the w-way?"
"You are g-going the wr-wrong w-way," he stuttered in his reply.  "That is M-montague Street."
"Are you m-making fun of m-me, m-mimicking me?" Travers asked sternly.
"N-no, I assure you" the man replied, with all due haste to repair an apparent lack of good manners.  "I-I am b-badly af-flicted with an ob-stru-struction of speech."
"Why d-don't you g-get c-cured?" Travers asked with mischief in his eyes.  "G-go to Dr. --- and g-get c-cured.  D-don't you see how w-well I talk?  He c-cured m-me."

Poor fella.  Probably had no idea what to make of him.

Enter Henry Clews, a banker who often boasted he is a self-made man.  Travers overheard him speak of this and fixed his eyes on Clews bald crown in a sort of daydream like state.

"Well, what's the matter, Travers?" he asked somewhat impatiently.
"H-henry," Travers inquired "d-didn't you say you we-were a self m-made m-an?"
"Certainly, I made myself" Clews replied warmly.
"Then, w-when you were ab-b-about it, w-why didn't you p-put m-more h-h-hair on the t-top of your h-head?"
 
Insert a well time DOH here.

Travers had been approached by Clews as he sought advice for the famous Vanderbilt ball; an affair of full costume dress.  Travers suggested:

"Clews, w-why d-don't you s-s-sugar coat your h-head and go as a p-pill?"
Travers, clearly, was not your run of the mill, well bred snooty sort.  Remember, he was quite capable of being on the other end of the jibe.

He was walking along the street with a bunch of brokers in tow.  He spots a man in front of St. Paul's church selling parrots.

"H-hold on b-boys," Travers said mysteriously.  "W-we'll have some f-fun."
Hailing the parrot seller and indicating one of the birds Travers asked "Can that p-parrot t-talk?"
"Talk?" the man replied with a contemptuous sneer.  "If he can't talk better than you I'll wring his blasted neck!"
"C-come on, b-boys," Travers called out; "th-this f-fun is p-post-p-poned until another day."

Naturally it is only fitting that the last of Travers' anecdotes shared here deal with a gambler in the Spa City.

A plunger named Walton was introduced to Travers at The Spa in the midst of his best two years playing the horses.  He suggested that he and the financier do business together.  Walton told him of how he has earned over $350,000 these past two years, and with Travers being a whiz in the stock market he thought they could share a couple of points to help each other out, and add to their fortunes.

"You m-made three hu-hundred and fifty th-thousand on h-horse racing?" Travers repeated.
"Yes, sir. $350,000 in two years," Walton said again.
"And you want m-me to g-give you a p-point on st-stocks?" Travers continued.
"Yes, if you please.  In return for my points on horses," Walton said.
"Well, I'll g-give you a first r-rate p-point," Travers said.  "You m-made three hu-hundred and fifty th-thousand d-dollars in t-two years.  Then st-stick to your b-business.  Th-that's a f-first r-rate p-point."

0014post-williamtraversdead.jpgTravers made a fortune on Wall Street.  He was one of the founders of Saratoga Race Course and it's first President.  He was a long-time President of the New York Athletic Club, a member of 27 private clubs, a backer of Sheepshead Bay Racetrack on Coney Island and he made up one-third of Annieswood Stable, racing champions such as Kentucky and Alarm.

All this barely scraped the surface of what he accomplished.

But above it all, above his fortunes, keen financial acumen, racing accomplishments, all those club memberships and elite status, William R. Travers was best known for his good nature and wit.

Ain't a bad way to go out, is it?


Sources:
New York Times, March 15, 1885 Stories of Wm. R. Travers
New York Times, March 28, 1887 William Travers
Picture of Travers located at Barker Family Tree website

It's Travers Week at Saratoga and this week I'll take a look back at those - for various reasons - I find particularly memorable.

My childhood heroes have always been my Mom and Dad.  The list of reasons why could fill a book.

But in the world of sports, no one held a candle to Eddie Maple.

As a Yankee fan I loved Dent, Nettles and Munson.  In football, Phil Simms was amazing to watch.  Oh the beatings that man took Sunday after Sunday.  And he always got up and went back at 'em again.  The man just refused to quit.

But racing was my game and Maple was my jock.  I can't explain exactly why.  It might have been because I always liked Woody Stephens and he was his go-to guy.  It might have been because he rode Secretariat in his last race, a win in the 1973 Canadian International.  It might have been because you could always rely on Maple to give 100% every time he got a leg up.  Maybe it was because I made a lot of money on him, playing well priced horses on the grass at Saratoga.

But mostly I think it was because he was underestimated as a rider.  In a time when Cordero and Velasquez ruled the NY racing roost, Maple didn't always get the same calls to ride and had to work a little harder than some others.  But that's just the opinion of a kid at the track.

000015post-temperancehillBelmont.jpgIn 1980 he rode Belmont Stakes winner Temperance Hill in the Travers.

He was dead last in a first quarter that went in :22 3/5; then again at the half:45 4/5 and still trailing the field after three quarters in 1:10 1/5.

The leader through most of the going was Amber Pass.  As they head to the top of the stretch Amber Pass went wide.  Maple and Temperance Hill had the perfect ground saving rail trip.  When I watch the video it looks like he gained two or three lengths with every stride.  A hard left turn at the quarter pole and the Belmont winner was full of run.  Maple, under strong right handed whip, passed the leaders and crossed under the wire in 2:02 4/5; a length and a half to the good of his foes.  They would go on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont that fall, too.

My favorite jock just won my favorite race.  What could be better than that?

Fast forward a year and Maple gets the call on Willow Hour, with whom he won the Jim Dandy two weeks prior.

000015-postschottcolors.JPGThey break well and take a stalking approach, about four lengths off the leader up the backside.  When they reached the far turn Maple and Willow Hour take to the front.  A surge from Pleasant Colony - winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness that year - moves alongside.

Together they race through the muck like their mothers were ducks and when they reached the wire, Maple earned his second straight Travers by a desperate neck.

Then came 1982.  Maple is going for his third straight Travers Stakes and his chances look fantastic.

Riding Belmont Stakes winner Conquistador Cielo, he goes off as the 2/5 favorite.

Graveyard of Champions be damned!  Eddie's gonna ride through the ghosts of Saratoga Stakes Races past with that same strong right handed whip and blow the old roof off this joint.

Derby winner Gato Del Sol with Jorge Velasquez and Preakness champ Aloma's Ruler with Angel Cordero, Jr. are also entered/

But Maple was nearly thwarted before the race began.  He got a suspension for an infraction and had to fight like the devil to get an injunction to ride.  If memory serves it wasn't until that very morning of the Travers we learned Maple got the OK.

They all break well and Conquistador Cielo and Alohma's Ruler were within a length of each other, setting a fast pace of :23 2/5, :46 2/6 and 1:10 3/5.

At the head of the stretch they remained together with Maple and Cordero driving their horses furiously.  Conquistador Cielo puts a long neck in front.

"Yes!  Go Eddie!  Go Eddie!" I am screaming from the second floor of the clubhouse.  I vaguely remember my Mom trying to get me to calm down.  Apparently this screaming maniac is drawing attention to himself.

But out of nowhere comes this longshot.  A gray blur striding beautifully past them.

"Who the hell is that?!" I yelled.

I nearly threw up.

(Seems to be a problem I have here at Saratoga)

It was all I could do not to drop to my knees and hurl.

But instead, like any self respecting New York racing fan, I cried at the top of my lungs "Noooooooooooooooooooo!"

I was sick. Absolutely sick to my stomach.

Runaway Groom, a Canadian invader, just upset three classic winners.

Runaway Groom.jpg
I threw a bloody fit.  I had never had cause to be angry in my life like this - not up to that point anyhow - and I believed this was just cause.

Mom, on the other hand, saw it a bit differently.

Maple then served his suspension and alas, so did I.

Mom banned me from the track until I could learn to behave myself.

To this day I can't see how she didn't throttle me right then and there in the Clubhouse.  But, like most Moms she knew how to really get me for my behavior.  Keep her kid from the track.

Damn.

What I would have done for a whoopin' instead of missing a day or two of races at The Spa.

That was 28 years ago and I cannot say still haven't gotten over it completely.

I tried to find blame everywhere I could.  There was none.

Maybe they went to fast.  Maybe, it was Canada's idea of revenge for him winning the '73 Canadian International.  Who knows?

Maybe it's just time to move on.  

000015post-eddiemapleinduction.jpgTruth be told, I have ... but it wasn't until last summer that I felt I could.

It was then - at long last - that Eddie Maple was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame.  With 4,398 wins and over $105mm in purses, Maple rode from 1965 through 1998.

Deservedly, he reached the pinnacle of his sport.

My childhood sports hero made it to the Hall of Fame.

I couldn't have been happier for him if I were his own son.

But make no mistake; my Mom and Dad are still dead-heated for the win as far as heroes go.

Big Stakes on Sure Things
Arnold Rothstein's Saratoga and the 1921 Travers Stakes

KingoftheJewsNickToschesEccoHarperCollins06-25-2005.jpgA. R.

The Fixer.

The Big Bankroll.

The Great Brain.

You can call him what you please. But if gambling rackets, crime, and murder stories of years gone by are the skewed ideology of romance, then fellas like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper were the silver screen's pale imitations of leading men.

No one made for a more sinister romantic character of the early 20th century than Arnold Rothstein.

So much so that he was a major influence in Damon Runyon's Guys and Dolls. He was the inspiration for Jay Gatsby's crooked associate Meyer Wolfsheim in the novel The Great Gatsby. And his famous pool playing marathon against Jack Conway inspired the opening scene to the movie The Hustler.

Arnold Rothstein was a well dressed, mild mannered, milk drinking thug.

Born of well-to-do immigrant parents in 1882 he was the second of five children. He grew up in a home wanting for nothing except the affection of his parents. That didn't happen. With the untimely death of his older brother Harry, Rothstein made an attempt to smooth things over with his father. One argument later and it all went to hell.

Rothstein didn't fall into the typical Mob boss stereotype. For one, he was born in the United States; a rarity then. He was never one to smoke cigarettes or cigars or drink booze and women found it charming that he'd choose to drink milk over whiskey.

"His voice was mild and pleasing; his mannerisms graceful; his grammar was not perfect ... And his wit was amazing." (1)

In 1904 Rothstein was 21 when he arrived at Saratoga for the first time via the Cavanagh Special.

Like many (read: all) he fell in love with its charm immediately. And I don't mean just the grand Victorian homes, the large lush pines and the historical brilliance of the village.  I mean the chumps, the hapless and mindless plungers with money to throw away and the poor sucker looking to get a lucky break spinning a roulette wheel.

On August 12, 1909 at 185 Washington Street in Saratoga Springs he married former showgirl Carolyn Green. They celebrated their wedding night by Rothstein making off with his new bride's jewelry, pawning it and using it for bets. His mother and father, a devout couple of the Jewish faith, did not attend because Green refused to convert to Judaism.

"When word of the wedding reached Abraham [Arnold's father], he reacted by donning a prayer shawl and reciting the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for the second of his sons." (2)

During they day Arnold and Carolyn would go to the races. She'd be dropped off and he took action. At night she stayed home while he hit the casinos.

The honeymoon ended, not too coincidentally, as the race meet did. Rothstein made 12 grand at the races that meet and got his wife's jewelry out of hock.

Ever the romantic, Rothstein would take his bride to Saratoga every year to celebrate their anniversary. However, their vacations at the Spa mirrored their honeymoon and were spent separately.

1919 was a busy year for Arnold Rothstein. He opened The Brook; a casino on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs. A couple of months later he was the accused ringleader in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal. But there was never enough proof to grant an indictment on Rothstein.

ROTHSTEIN3-160x334.jpgWhen on the stand during the Grand Jury inquest he professed "he had never in life been connected with a crooked deal [and] he was sick and tired of having his name dragged into every one that made the headlines." (3)

Believe what you want to believe but one thing was certain about Rothstein, when he bet, he bet big stakes on sure things.

Which leads us to the 1921 Travers and one of the more "romantic" (read: notorious) stories of Arnold Rothstein.

The oldest stakes event in North American racing, the Midsummer Derby has drawn some of the greatest three year-old's ever to set foot on dirt.

Back then horses could be entered to run the same day, up until 12 noon. They could even be scratched by a trainer 30 minutes before post time, without cause or explanation. As the owner of Redstone Stable (but more likely because he was a learned gambler) Rothstein was aware of both rules.

The favorite was a filly named Prudery, owned by Harry Payne Whitney. No one figured they could beat her so no one else entered.

Rothstein believed second money is better than no money so his horse, Sporting Blood, was listed to run. With no one else in the race it was the closest thing he'd get to a sure thing in racing, at least second money. It was even rumored that he had no intention of betting on the race.

Until ...

... word got to Rothstein that Prudery wasn't 100%. Typical of the gambler he had spies everywhere, including the backside. He got word from one of Whitney's stablehands that she missed some of her morning works and was off her feed. Information that reportedly cost him ten bucks. A vet that examined her told the notorious gambler that "it didn't appear as though she'd be at the top of her form for the Travers, and Whitney and his trainer were concerned about her." (4)

Rothstein knew his horse was improving in form, and with the information he had on Prudery he began to think he might have had a shot.

On Travers day the filly had not improved any from the days before, but she was still going off at odds of 1 to 4. Sporting Blood was a generous 5/2.

Just before the close of entries at noon, a leading trainer named Sam Hildreth entered his top 3-year-old Grey Lag into the Travers.

Hildreth was a very successful trainer who amassed $1.2mm in earnings over four years as a conditioner. He also had a proclivity toward gambling.

Grey Lag rivaled the Alabama winner, Prudery, on the odds board as the Hildreth charge was accomplished in his own right. Sporting Blood was all but ignored at this point.

Maybe, just maybe, Sporting Blood would have a shot against Prudery on his best day and her on her worst.

But Grey Lag? No. Not a chance.

Rothstein contacted his "agents" immediately after learning of the entry and placed $150,000 worth of bets on his own horse. The bookies thought it was easy money, so much so they didn't even make him wire the money to them.

Rothstein, smartly, didn't play his horse at the track knowing he'd manipulate the odds. Besides, there was no information let out he had plunked a hundred and fifty grand elsewhere.

But why would Rothstein lay a hundred and fifty grand on his own horse when a third and markedly better thoroughbred had just entered the fray? This was seemingly the furthest thing from a sure thing imaginable.

With 30 minutes to post for the Travers Stakes, Hildreth "unexpectedly" scratched Grey Lag.

Ah. Now I'm getting' it.

No reason was given for the scratch.

None was needed.

Hildreth's actions fell precisely within the scope of the racing rules. Dazed and confused, racing fans and bookmakers alike didn't know what to make of the sudden entry and then departure of Grey Lag.

Hildreth volunteered no explanation, keeping his reasoning to himself.

And then there were two. Again.

The odds hadn't changed much on track. The Grey Lag money went toward Prudery. And remember, Rothstein's money went elsewhere, secured at odds of 3-1.

nytimes.jpgWhen they broke from the gate Prudery did as she was expected to do. She took the lead. She led for the first mile but never by more than a length. When they hit the quarter pole all the conjecture, speculation and inside information Rothstein received on the filly started to come to fruition.

Slowly and surely Sporting Blood came to terms with Prudery before drawing in front by a head, then a neck, then a length.

When they crossed the wire Sporting Blood was a clear two lengths to the good of the odds-on favorite.

Arnold Rothstein, a notorious gambler and often assumed but never convicted criminal, spent $10 to get inside information on a horse. As a result he won the most prestigious race in Saratoga Springs.

He collected $450,000 in winning bets from bookies.

Lest we forget the $10,275 purse.

Not unlike the Black Sox scandal, there was never any proof - just conjecture and speculation - that tied Rothstein to a scam.

There was never any proof that Hildreth took a dime from Rothstein.

Nor was there any proof that the two conspired.

After all, A.R. had professed, under oath in a court of law how he has never been connected with a crooked deal.

He was under oath, after all, so why not believe him?

A gambler of his status wouldn't lie, would he?

Probably.

Probably because an exorbitant amount of money was wagered on a horse in a race where it didn't seem likely he had much of a shot.

Probably because it was his horse.

Probably because Rothstein stood to make nearly half a million dollars as a result, and did.

Probably because he was the shrewdest, smartest and most successful gambler and criminal of his time ...

... and no one dared to mess with the likes of Arnold Rothstein.

The entry in the history books covering the 1921 Travers is one that will forever be marred by a betting scandal with the notorious Arnold Rothstein.

And with that, he will forever hold his place secure as one of the more infamous, and not to be confused with beloved, characters of Saratoga lore.

# # #

Arnold Rothstein's Saratoga Chronology (5)

from David Pietrusza's: ROTHSTEIN: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series.

1904 - Makes first trip to Saratoga aboard the Cavanagh Special;strands Abe Attell.
1909 - Marries Carolyn Green at Saratoga Springs; pawns her jewelry (August 12).
1917 - Begins bankrolling Saratoga gambling house owner Henry Tobin.
1919 - Opens The Brook in Saratoga Springs.
1920 - Subway Sam Rosoff loses $100,000 in one night at The Brook (August).
1920 - Rothstein wins between $850,000 and $900,000 on Sailing B (August 27).
1921 - Engages Bill Fallon to defend Jules Hormel on charge of bribing Saratoga
officials.
1921 - Rothstein's Sporting Blood wins the Travers; wins purse of $10,275, plus
$450,000 in winning bets (August).
1922 - Sells The Brook to Nat Evans (alternate date: 1925).
1926 - Saratoga Taxpayers' Association petitions Governor Alfred E. Smith to probe
local corruption.
1926 - Gambler George Formel charges A.R. paid Saratoga County District
Attorney Charles B. Andrus $60,000 in "protection."
1934 - Evans insures The Brook and its contents for $117,000 (November 1).
1934 - The Brook burns down (December 31).

# # #

Footnotes:
1. Arnold Rothstein: What's in a Name?, Allan May, p.2
2. Ibid, p.8
3. Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, George Waller, p.300
4. Ibid, p.301
5. ROTHSTEIN: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, Website held by David Pietrusza for his biography

Bibliographical Sources Used for Research:
 - Bartles, John, Saratoga Stories, Gangsters, Gamblers and Racing Legends, Eclipse Press, Blood Horse Publications, Lexington, KY 2007
 - Waller, George, Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, FTB: Friar Tuck Bookshop,
Ganesvoort, NY 1966
 - Hoatling, Edward Clinton They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY 1995
 - May, Allan Arnold Rothstein: What's in a Name, article on Scribd, 2002
 - Pietrusza, David, ROTHSTEIN: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003

Photographs:
'King of the Jews': The Man Who Fixed the World Series - New York Times  by LUC SANTE Published: June 26, 2005
Prudery is Victim of Saratoga Upset:  Special to The New York Times, August 21, 1921, Sunday, Section: Sports, Page 70, 2462 words
The website of David Pietrusza re: his book ROTHSTEIN: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003




Saratoga Race Course has seen the mighty fall, champions thwarted and punters sick to their stomachs.

It's what she does, folks.  It's who she is.

Take her or leave her.

It is often you will see longtime and novice racing fans go to the track on big days just to see the greats compete.  To see for ourselves just how fast, strong and powerful a creature they are.

They give us a hero for a day, maybe a year, maybe longer.  They can, and have, made us fans for life.

But a part of us recognizes it's just as much of a thrill to see the 1/9 favorite get beat by some high priced horse that we thought had no business being there in the first place.  To watch someone shake off the chalk at a hundred to one.

The big races at the Spa always give us a piece of racing history and a story to tell long after the race has been run.

And ain't it just the coolest thing?

Upset beats Man O War in The Sanford.  Onion tops Secretariat in The Whitney.  It's In The Air beats Davona Dale in the Alabama.  Classy Mirage beats Inside Information in The Ballerina.

These stories could fill a book, and have.  Bill Heller's Graveyard of Champions is a joy to read and cannot be put down.

Then there was my heartbreak.  The 1982 Travers .  The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes winners met.  There was a lot of buildup for this race because we were finally going to see who the best of the lot was.  Belmont winner Conquistador Cielo was the unmitigated favorite at 2/5 and had my childhood hero, Eddie Maple, aboard.   I couldn't wait for Eddie to win his third straight Travers.

Runaway Groom.jpgAs luck would have it, or the ghosts of Saratoga would direct it, none of 'em won.  They all got beat by a gray Canadian import named Runaway Groom.  

Sigh.

She did it again.

I was 13 at the time and perhaps the first (and only) time I cursed Saratoga and her tradition of burying favorites.  

My open frustration resulted in a one-day suspension from racing.  Not by NYRA, of course, but an entity more powerful.

My Mom.

But few upsets have impacted the tradition and mystique of Saratoga Racetrack like the 1930 Travers Stakes.

gallantfoxsunnyjim.jpgThe hype surrounded Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox (seen left with trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons)  and the prior year's racing standout Whichone.  They met twice before in 1929, each earning a victory over the other.  The Fox went to post as the Travers 1-to-2 favorite.

FDR was there.  So was his bride, Eleanor.  It was a big day and it had the makings of a great duel.  But on this day, neither would claim bragging rights.

The track was messy and the Fox had never raced in the off going before.

Gallant Fox and Whichone went at it from the start.  They raced heads apart as they passed the stands, into the clubhouse turn and up the backside.

At the far turn Whichone carried the Fox wide, opening a huge hole on the rail.

A virtual no-name, Jim Dandy, shot through the opening and raced like a runaway freight train down the lane.  He opened up his lead by two, then three lengths.  Past the sixteenth pole he was in front by six and his lead was widening.

At the wire this horse from California, who went off at 100-1, defeated the winner of the 1930 Triple Crown by eight lengths.

1930_Travers_Headlines0003.JPGThe phrase Graveyard of Champions was cemented in Saratoga tradition and a legion of racing fans were left with their mouths gaping.

They likely all asked the same question:  Who in blazes is Jim Dandy?

He wasn't anything to get excited about during his career.  He broke his maiden at two, racing at Churchill Downs in May 1929.  He didn't win another race until The Saratoga Cup at 50-1 in August on an off going.  He hadn't won another all year.

His Travers upset was the lone victory of his 20 starts in 1930 before fading into a relative obscurity, racing in Mexico at the old Agua Caliente Racetrack.   He competed for eight more seasons, compiling a total of 141 starts, winning seven.

In 1964, the NYRA named a race after him and it has served as a key prep race for the Travers Stakes ever since.  They'll run its 47th edition tomorrow afternoon.

Since then, eight horses have used it as a catapult to victory in the Mid-Summer Derby, nine if you include Affirmed who was disqualified from first to second in 1978.

They were:
1969    Arts and Letters
1978    Affirmed (placed second in Travers thru DQ)
1981    Willow Hour
1984    Carr de Naskra
1992    Thunder Rumble
2002    Medaglia d'Oro
2005    Flower Alley
2006    Bernardini
2007    Street Sense
The day they ran the 1930 Travers people may have wondered who Jim Dandy was.

Today, he and his 100-1 odds are the ideal example of why we run the races.

It's because there are no sure things.  

It's because on any given race day, a champion can fold.  An unknown can shine.  And you and I can make a buck or two in the process.

That is Saratoga.

It's what she does, folks.  It's who she is.  Take her or leave her.

I'll take her.

I'll always take her.


PHOTOGRAPHS:
Runaway Groom, 1982 Travers Stakes - Champions Gallery
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons - Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA;
Headline - The Saratogian, August 18, 1930




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Patrick Kerrison

While most American men of Patrick's generation grew up talking to their Dad about baseball and the likes of Mantle, Ford, Berra and DiMaggio, he and his father covered the racing beat and talked of Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and John Henry.

The son of a newspaperman, Patrick spent his summers a "spoiled" child, but not in the traditional sense. Spoiled because his August months were spent at Saratoga Race Course watching the best the game ever offered.

Breakfast in the mornings, races in the afternoons and the occasional party when kids were welcomed in the evenings, he has lived a privileged childhood. For better than 10 years Patrick worked in varied frontside positions in racing, "living the dream" as he calls it.

Today at age 41, he reverts back to his life as an eight year old with the same passion and love for the town of Saratoga he always had, but with the perspective of an adult. His appreciation for her history and his desire to go back in time revives every summer, while never forgetting the glorious life he lives today. Patrick and Saratoga.com invite you to come back to Saratoga's 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and a little bit about today, too.