Saratoga Race Course has a vivid history in all things horse racing.
But perhaps The Spa is most well-known for this: it’s the racetrack where favorites lose and longshots score the biggest Victories of their lives.
MAN O’ WAR and SECRETARIAT lost at Saratoga. A horse named JIM DANDY Won the 1930 Travers Stakes over that year’s Triple Crown Winner GALLANT FOX at amazing odds of 100-1.
After that feat JIM DANDY had both a race and tavern named in his honor at Saratoga.
The Travers is specifically prone to upsets with favorites losing in over 56% of the race’s editions.
So, along with JIM DANDY, which horses have sprung the biggest upsets in the history of the Mid-Summer Derby?
Since the advent of pari-mutuel wagering at Saratoga in 1940, these are the horses who sprung the largest upsets at The Spa.
It’s worth noting that four of the 10 biggest payouts came in the last decade, so this could be the year that the trend continues.
In 1945, PAVOT was a heavy favorite to Win the Travers; however, it was ADONIS who came home 1st to pay $53.50 for a $2 wager, the biggest price in the modern era.
1981 saw favorite PLEASANT COLONY, that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winner, come close to Victory, but it was longshot WILLOW HOUR who got the W to pay $50.20 for a $2 Win bet.
CREWMAN pulled off the upset in 1963, beating favorite CANDY SPOTS to pay $41.90 for the Win.
In modern times, V. E. DAY bested WICKED STRONG and TONALIST in the 2014 Travers to earn $41 on a $2 bet for his backers.
In perhaps the most memorable upset in recent times, Triple Crown hero and overwhelming favorite AMERICAN PHAROAH finished 2nd to KEEN ICE in 2015, which rewarded his supporters with a $34 payout on a $2 wager.
The 1968 Travers saw CHOMPION defeat favorite FORWARD PASS to bring back $31.20 for each $2 win bet.
How does a $27.80 return for a $2 bet sound? RUNAWAY GROOM delivered just that in the 1982 Travers Stakes, a race in which 2-5 favorite CONQUISTADOR CIELO ran 3rd.
HOLDING PATTERN sprang the upset in the Travers, paying out $27.40 in the 1974 edition of the race. Preakness and Belmont Stakes Winner LITTLE CURRENT finished 2nd as the even-money favorite.
2012 was an incredibly memorable year, since both a favorite and a longshot Won the Travers: ALPHA and GOLDEN TICKET crossed the wire at the same time, with ALPHA paying out $4.10 for a $2 Win bet while GOLDEN TICKET paid $26.80. Golden indeed!
Last, but certainly not least, in 2016 a gray colt named ARROGATE came out of obscurity to Win the Travers Stakes to pay savvy bettors $25.40. ARROGATE set a new Saratoga track record for 1 1/4 miles, completing the Travers in 1:59.36, and went on to Win over $17.4 million in a career that included Victories in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup in 2017.
So, come Saturday don’t be afraid to bet a longshot in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga– also known as the graveyard of favorites.