SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Favored Epicenter stormed down the stretch past his rivals and won the 153rd running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
The runner-up in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Epicenter, with Joel Rosario aboard, won his second stakes in a month at Saratoga and covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 0.72 seconds, easily beating Cyberknife and Zandon to capture the $1.25 million Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds on a picture-perfect day. Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike was fourth.
Epicenter began to close on leader Cyberknife as the field neared the top of the stretch and then took control, pulling away by 5 1/4 lengths at the finish to give trainer Steve Asmussen his first victory in the so-called Midsummer Derby.
Gilded Age, Artorius, Ain’t Life Grand, and Early Voting completed the order of finish.
The eight-horse field was stacked with Preakness winner Early Voting and Haskell winner Cyberknife, who set the early pace. Chad Brown, leading trainer at Saratoga with 34 wins entering the day, saddled three horses — Early Voting, Zandon, and Artorius — in his bid to win the Travers for the first time.
This was the first race for Rich Strike, the stunning Kentucky Derby winner at 80-1 odds with jockey Sonny Leon, since he finished sixth in the Belmont Stakes in June.
Early Voting did not run in the Derby and skipped the Belmont, making the Travers the first time he had raced against Rich Strike. Both were far behind the winner, who staked his claim as the top 3-year-old in the country.
A month ago Epicenter, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds , won a four-horse stretch duel that included Early Voting and Zandon in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, the tradtional prep race for the Travers. Epicenter charged along the outside as the field of four was bunched together across the track at the top of the stretch, then pulled away to hold off Zandon by 1 1/2 lengths.
The Travers culminated a customary big day of racing at the venerable track in upstate New York. In other stakes races: even-money favorite Technical Analysis led the entire way and held off Fluffy Socks by a half-length to win the Grade 2 Ballston Spa for fillies and mares 4 years old and upward on the turf; Cody's Wish overtook overwhelming favorite Jackie's Warrior in the final strides to capture the Forego by 1 1/4 lengths, handing runner-up Jackie's Warrior his first loss in five starts this year and depriving him of his fourth Grade 1 triumph at Saratoga in his final race at the track; Jack Christopher held off Gunite to take the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial; Malathaat charged past Search Results to win the Grade 1 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares 4 years old and up; and Gufo came from far back to beat Mira Mission in the 1 1/2-mile Grade 1 Sword Dancer on the inner turf course.