The first Travers I attended was with my father in 1982 when Runaway Groom beat the three horses that won the Triple Crown races — Gato Del Sol (Kentucky Derby), Aloma’s Ruler (Preakness Stakes) and Conquistador Cielo (Belmont Stakes).
The five-horse field was small, but the quality was high.
Conquistador Cielo, who was syndicated for $36 million before the Travers, was 2-to-5 that day and showed up in front bandages for the first time. Angel Codero, riding Aloma’s Ruler, pinned Conquistador Cielo on the bad rail in a two-horse speed duel.
The race caller didn’t recognize Runaway Groom until midstretch when the Canadian invader was within two lengths of rolling by the two leaders. I was watching the race on the track apron and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Like everybody else, I believed Conquistador Cielo couldn’t lose.
Since that day, I’ve been to the Travers maybe 10 times and I can’t recall ever having the winner. But I keep coming back because, as I quickly found out in 1982, the atmosphere is tremendous.
This year, my results were no different, as I keyed Quality Road on top in the tri while putting both Charitable Man and Kensel on top in my exactas. Summer Bird, I deduced, was being overbet at 5-to-2 so I didn’t use him much.