Saratoga, N.Y. — Saratoga is drenched in rich tradition. 150 Travers champions have beat their rivals to the wire, and yet this year’s race will be different than any other.
Seats will be empty. The rail free of fans. Their thunderous cheers replaced by the pounding of hooves as the field charges down the stretch.
“It’s weird coming out here in the morning,” Sakatoga Stables operating manager Jack Knowlton said. “Usually there would be 100, 200 people in front of the food shack, watching the horses, and you know, none of that is happening.”
Knowlton felt the buzz in 2003, when his horse Funny Cide was set to run in the Mid-Summer Derby. The colt got sick and never made it to the starting gates, but the race course still drew a record attendance of more than 66,000 people.
“I’ll tell you, I was thinking about that,” Country Grammer trainer Chad Brown said. “Finally win and nobody’s here. If it counts, feel like, I’ll take it.”
Mechanicville native Chad Brown is trying to win his personal crown jewel the first year it’s being run in the middle of the Triple Crown.
“The Travers will be a little different,” Brown said.
For the first time ever, Kentucky Derby qualifying points are up for grabs, and there’s a question mark as to which of these horses will enjoy the added furlong, since none of them have run a mile and a quarter yet in their careers.
So there’s no question 2020 will go down as one of the oddest Travers we’ve ever seen. But there’s one thing that won’t change.
“Even with all that’s going on right now, it still feels special,” Caracaro trainer Gustavo Delgado said.
That’s because it is special. So much so, that if Tiz the Law can win the Travers, and continues on to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, some are coining that accomplishment as a Quadruple Crown.