Eng: Free-for-All Triple Crown Season Sets Up Exciting Summer Ahead

Several leading 3-year-olds this year will target the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes at historic Saratoga in upstate New York, which is annually a highlight of the racing season. (Eclipse Sportswire)

In the summer of 1982, I had the thrill of working one of the most unique Travers Stakes in race history. Do you recall what that was?

That year, there were three different winners of the three legs of the Triple Crown. Gato Del Sol won the Kentucky Derby. Aloma’s Ruler won the Preakness. And Conquistador Cielo won the Belmont Stakes.

One would think this happens a lot. But it doesn’t.

Those three colts all came to Saratoga Race Course for a championship summit in the Travers. It was the first time this had ever occurred in horse racing history (the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont met in the 1918 Travers, one year before Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner and several years befrore the series became known as such).

To make a long story short, none of the three won the Travers. The winner was a gray New York-bred by the name of Runaway Groom. He had done most of his racing at Woodbine near Toronto. Thus he was kind of an unknown factor to the upstate New York crowd.

Now, turn the time machine forward to 2019. Once again, we have three different winners of the three Triple Crown races. Even though Maximum Security crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Country House was placed first via disqualification. War of Will won the Preakness Stakes. And lastly, Sir Winston won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets.

There is a possibility that two of these horses could meet in the Runhappy Travers Stakes on Aug. 24 (Bill Mott said on June 15 that Country House would probably take the rest of the year off, and on June 19 Mark Casse said that Sir Winston would miss the major summer races for 3-year-olds with an ankle injury). That would be a race I would pay to see.

Before they get to the Travers though, these horses will likely prep in either of two races. One is the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 20 at Monmouth Park and the other is the Jim Dandy Stakes up at Saratoga on July 27.

Tacitus (Eclipse Sportswire)

Thus, a lot of things will need to go right to make this matchup a reality.

The Triple Crown is a grueling series of races, but of the aforementioned horses only War of Will ran in all three legs.

Maximum Security ran only in the Kentucky Derby during that span. Although he recently lost in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, overall he may have a little more tread left on his tires, so to speak.

And here’s how my mind works. I already have a candidate to play the role of Runaway Groom. How about Tacitus? He ran well in the Derby and was second in the Belmont Stakes. He clearly has the ability to match up with these other animals.

So knock on wood, let’s sit back and see how the next two months go for these talented 3-year-old horses. But, believe me, it would be a marketer’s dream to have all of them show up for the Travers.

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies," an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at rich_eng@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.

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