Updated on 08/28/2012 10:38AM

Saratoga: Travers ends in Alpha-Golden Ticket dead heat

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Golden Ticket (inside) dead-heats with Alpha in the Travers.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A race that lacked significance in terms of year-end divisional honors became historic Saturday afternoon at Saratoga when favored Alpha and longshot Golden Ticket dead-heated for win in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

It was nearly a triple dead heat, as Fast Falcon, last of 11 through the first six furlongs, came with a flying finish to finish third, beaten only a neck.

Atigun, who like Golden Ticket is trained by Ken McPeek, finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Nonios, Neck 'n Neck, Stealcase, Speightscity, Liaison, Five Sixteen, and Street Life. Street Life, pulled up after the wire by Jose Lezcano, was vanned off and later found to have a soft tissue injury in his left front pastern, according to trainer Chad Brown. It's a non-life-threatening injury.

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In the 143 runnings of the Travers, the only other recorded dead-heat occurred in 1874 between Attila and Acrobat. In that instance, a run-off was held that was won by Attila.

There would be no such resolution Saturday.

Instead, there were two camps that had mixed emotions when the infield board flashed dead heat, much to the delight of the crowd of 46,528, which burst into applause.

While Alpha was sent off the 2-1 favorite, and expected to win, he was a length behind inside the sixteenth pole. Under a persevering Ramon Dominguez, Alpha kept coming and though his head was coming up at the wire, it landed on the line at the same time as Golden Ticket, whose head was bobbing down under jockey David Cohen.

"I thought we were second-best at the sixteenth pole," said Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Alpha. "I didn't think we were going to get there, and then the last lunge or two I thought maybe we got there. The photo indicated a tie, and we'll take it."

Said McPeek, "First I thought we won, then I thought we lost and I looked at it again - nobody could tell. I was happy for Kiaran too. We've known each other since we were kids."

It was a huge win for Golden Ticket considering he wasn't even being pointed to this race. Unraced since losing an allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 5 - Kentucky Derby Day - Golden Ticket ran in the Travers only when two other races he had entered in at Saratoga didn't fill.

Meanwhile, Alpha was looking to add the Travers to his earlier victories in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, Grade 3 Withers and Count Fleet.

Alpha won the Jim Dandy on the lead. In the Travers, he was third and three wide as Speightscity set the pace while being chased by Stealcase. Speightscity went fractions of 23.51 seconds for the quarter, 48.06 for the half-mile and 1:12.62 for six furlongs.

Golden Ticket, meanwhile, was kept on the rail by Cohen and in fourth position, inside of Alpha.

Turning for home Cohen shot Golden Ticket inside of Speightscity, and he came to the eighth pole with a one-length lead that grew a bit larger approaching the sixteenth pole.

"At the eighth pole I thought, 'Wow he's going to draw off, he's gone,' " said McPeek, who said that his instructions were to "never leave the rail, don't leave it, stay there. If you get stopped, it's my fault. He rode a beautiful race."

Dominguez said he kept his horse behind Stealcase while awaiting challenges from Neck'n Neck and Nonios that never came.

"I kept my options open and kept him on the outside," Dominguez said. "David rode a great race and got through on the rail and opened up two on me. I really felt that made a difference for him to also become a winner. Either way I'm very proud of my horse. At the sixteenth pole it looked like it was probably lost because the other horse had some separation. He kept coming to the end. I'm very, very happy."

Cohen said he had "no clue" who won the race when the two horses hit the finish line.

"It was obviously very tight, when they announced it was a dead heat we accepted it as a great victory for both of us," Cohen said.

At 33-1, Golden Ticket, a son of Speightstown owned by Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenker, who race as Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, was the third longest shot on the board. He returned $26.80 to win. Alpha, a son of Bernardini owned by Godolphin Racing, returned $4.10.

Final time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:02.74.

Junior Alvarado, the rider of Fast Falcon, said the dead heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket might have been for second if he hadn't gotten stopped behind Street Life at the three-eighths pole.

"He stopped in front of me when I thought he was going to try and kick off, so I had to check a little bit and move outside and start to pick it up again," Alvarado said. "I'm pretty sure that cost me the race."

For trainer Nick Zito and owner Richard Pell, this was the second hard-luck result in the Travers in three years. In 2010, they sent out Fly Down to a nose loss to Afleet Express.

"I would have taken a dead heat," Pell said.