SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) – A bit of Travers history unfolded at the finish line at Saratoga Race Course when Alpha caught Golden Ticket at the wire and the two finished in a dead heat for the win Saturday.
It was the first dead-heat finish in 143 runnings of the $1 million Travers, and had the crowd wondering who won for several minutes as the photo finish sign flashed on the infield toteboard. A few minutes later, the numbers of Golden Ticket and Alpha appeared, with the words dead heat alongside.
Fast Falcon finished third, a neck behind the winners. Atigun was fourth, followed by Nonios, Neck `n Neck, Stealcase, Speightscity, Liaison, Five Sixteen and Street Life.
A Travers missing most of the top 3-year-olds, including retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another and Belmont winner Union Rags, turned into a race to remember on the 50th anniversary of another great finish. In the 1962 Travers, Jaipur and Ridan dueled the entire race before Jaipur won by a nose.
This was far from a two-horse race – until the stretch. Speightscity shot straight to the lead from the rail as expected. Alpha, under Ramon Dominguez, was third and Golden Ticket well back in the field of 11. When the field turned for home, jockey David Cohen moved Golden Ticket inside and he took a clear lead.
But Alpha fought back and kept closing the margin as the two neared the wire and pulled even just as the two hit the finish together. Kiran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha, and Ken McPeek, who trains Golden Ticket, stood next to each other in the owners’ boxes and high-fived after the final result was posted.
The winning time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:02.74.
Alpha, the 2-1 favorite, returned $4.10, $5.10 and $3.90, and 33-1 long-shot Golden Ticket paid $26.80, $26.40 and $11.80. Fast Falcon, trained by Nick Zito, returned $13.60.
Alpha came into the Travers off a win in the Jim Dandy, while Golden Ticket was a last-minute entry by McPeek and had won only one of nine career starts.
In earlier races:
- Willy Beamin ($24.80) ran down the leaders in the stretch for a surprising win in the $500,000 King’s Bishop just three days after the colt trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. won the Albany Stakes.
- Even-money choice Contested ($4) took the lead with an eighth-mile to go after losing her footing at the start and won the $500,000 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by two lengths over Gypsy Robin. Trained by Bob Baffert, Contested won for the fifth time in her last six starts.
- Zagora ($5) took charge in the final eighth-mile and won the $250,000 Ballston Spa for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Hungry Island.