08/16/2012 12:39PM

Travers history: Fifty years ago, a showdown for the ages

Jaipur (foreground) beats Ridan by a nose after the two dueled for the entire 1 1/4 miles of the 1962 Travers Stakes.

Tracing to 1864, the history of the Travers Stakes is filled with many of racing’s greatest stars as well as its most memorable and exciting moments.

As for the greatest Travers winner, that honor probably goes to the immortal Man o’ War, who won the 1920 running in 2:01.80, a stakes record that lasted more than four decades.

There might be more candidates for the most memorable moment, but the one most mentioned is the Travers Stakes run 50 years ago this month.

In 1962, Jaipur and Ridan both were leading candidates for the 3-year-old championship when they met at Saratoga in the 93rd Travers on Aug. 18. Bill Shoemaker rode Jaipur, and Manual Ycaza rode Ridan.

Almost from the outset, both horses were at each other’s throats. For the entire 1 1/4 miles, the two were never more than a half-length apart for the lead, and for the last mile, their heads were bobbing side by side.

Someone had to win, and Jaipur prevailed by a nose only because his head was down and Ridan’s was up at the wire.

Writing for The Jockey Club, historian William Rudy called the race “an epic of the turf.”

With the 143rd Travers scheduled Saturday, test your knowledge of America’s oldest stakes race for 3-year-olds.

1. The Travers Stakes was named for William R. Travers, one of the founders of Saratoga and the first president of the Saratoga Racing Association.

It was only fitting that in 1864 Travers would own the winner of the first running of the race branded in his honor.

The horse was named Kentucky, and he would go on to a Hall of Fame career.

Riding Kentucky was a jockey who in the decades leading up to the Civil War was arguably the most well-known sports figure in America. Three years after the first Travers, he rode the winner of the inaugural Belmont Stakes. Name him.

2. Samuel Riddle, owner of Man o’ War, would later say that the 1920 Travers was the only time he was really nervous before a race in which his big chestnut competed.

Only two other horses were entered in the 51st Travers, and both were owned by Harry Payne Whitney and conditioned by future Hall of Famer James Rowe. The trainer’s plan was well known – use his speed horse to soften up Man o’ War for one mile and then pass him with his stretch-runner.

Adding to Riddle’s unease was the fact that Man o’ War did not have his regular jockey up.

Name the two Whitney horses and Man o’ War’s substitute rider in the Travers.

3. The New York Racing Association, operators of Saratoga since 1955, has had its share of difficulties and negative publicity over the years. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped in to, in his words, “clean up NYRA.”

But controversy is nothing new to a sport that is nearly 350 years old in America.

Until 1940, there was no parimutuel racing in New York. Betting was with bookmakers, and the shrewdest gamblers were always trying to outfox the bookies. One of the more infamous incidents involved the Travers Stakes in 1921 – just one year after Man o’ War won the event. What happened?

4. The Travers is often referred to as the “mid-summer Derby.” In fact, Saratoga officially called the race the “Travers Midsummer Derby” from 1927 to 1932.

For much of the last century, competing in at least one of the Triple Crown races has been an important prerequisite for success in the Travers. In the last 25 years, only seven Travers winners have not competed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or Belmont – and just one of those came in the current century.

Surprisingly, however, only one of the 11 winners of racing’s Triple Crown added the Travers to his victory résumé. Name him.

5. Before their appointment with destiny in the 1962 Travers, Jaipur, and Ridan had built impressive records. Jaipur had won the Flash, Hopeful, and Cowdin stakes at age 2 and the Gotham, Withers, Belmont, Whitney, and Choice stakes, and Jersey Derby at age 3. Ridan won all seven of his starts as a juvenile, and the Hibiscus Stakes, Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Arlington Classic at age 3.

Neither horse, however, made it to racing’s Hall of Fame. But the runner who finished last, almost seven lengths back of the duo in the Travers, was inducted into the Hall of Fame just three years after retiring. Name the horse.

Get the answers HERE.