Travers Stakes Card Sets Betting Record at Saratoga, Epicenter Posts Big Win

Posted on: August 28, 2022, 11:39h. 

Last updated on: August 29, 2022, 01:35h.

Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course is always one of the bigger days in horse racing, and on Saturday, the annual summer event enjoyed one of its best days ever.

Epicenter, ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, routs the field and earns a 5-1/4-length win in Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY. The race was the main event on a 13-race card that generated a $55.6 million handle, a record at Saratoga for a Travers Day. (Image: NYRA)

The New York Racing Association announced the 13-race card produced a record all-sources handle of $55.6 million. That’s 6.6% higher than the previous record of $52.1 million set in 2019.

In addition, the paid attendance of 49,672 was the best showing for the Travers Stakes since 2015. That led to an on-track handle of $10.4 million, more than 10% higher than the $9.4 million wagered at Saratoga last year when 44,507 came for the Travers.

Wagering on the prestigious race generated $16.3 million of the handle. It was the main event in a card featuring six stakes and five Grade 1 races.

Epicenter Dominant in Travers

After a spring of bitter disappointments, Epicenter has enjoyed a tremendous summer at Saratoga. He won the Travers Saturday in commanding fashion as the even-money favorite in the 1-1/4-mile race.

With Joel Rosario aboard, Epicenter stalked pacesetter Cyberknife for most of the first mile. That’s before making a commanding move around the final turn to pull away to a 5-1/4-length win in 2:00.72.

Cyberknife, coming off a win in the Haskell Stakes, held off strong closing efforts by Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon and Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike to claim second.

Epicenter raced well in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes back in May. But each time, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt lost the lead in the final strides.

“I think that’s what makes racing so great,” Asmussen told NYRA after the race. “You’re bet on by what you’ve done, but what you’ve done previously doesn’t get it done for you. For Epicenter to have competed in the Derby and the Preakness and still have this much horse now, we’re extremely proud of that. That’s what makes racing great.”

Epicenter paid $4 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.30 to show. Cyberknife, the bettors’ second choice at 7-2, paid $4.10 and $3.30, while Zandon paid $2.90.

With the win, Epicenter is now the likely favorite to win the Eclipse Award for the champion 3-year-old. He’ll likely prepare now for the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, and Asmussen said the colt may race one more time before then.

Rich Strike Finishes Fourth

Rich Strike just missed the board Saturday. But after a disappointing showing in the Belmont back in June, the Derby winner may have gained a measure of respect after an 11-week layoff.

While not the 80-1 shot he was in the Derby, Rich Strike was still the sixth choice on the board at 10-1. But on Saturday, he and Sonny Leon were within a head of finishing second, battling two other Grade 1 stakes winners to the wire.

“He just got a little tired in the last 50 yards,” Leon told NYRA. “He did a good job coming back after the layoff. He’s doing better every single time. I think, mentally, he’s growing up.