The Best Travers field?

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

The 1987 Travers’ field was one of the best ever assembled.  The only horse without a legitimate shot was Gulch’s rabbit, Gorky.  That’s right, the 1988 Sprint Champion needed a rabbit in a mile and a quarter race.

The field included these winners:  Jim Dandy (Polish Navy), Florida Derby (Cryptoclearance), Whitney Handicap (Java Gold), Wood Memorial (Gulch), American Derby (Fortunate Moment), Kentucky Derby (Alysheba), Santa Anita Derby (Temperate Sil), and Belmont Stakes (Bet Twice).

The first, second, and third runners in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont were all in the field, Alysheba, Bet Twice, Cryptoclearance, and Gulch.

Keep in mind the talented Dwyer Stakes winner Gone West, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby favorite Demons Begone and multiple Derby winner Lost Code were sitting this dance out.

Alysheba and Bet Twice had just put on a great show in the Haskell at Monmouth and came into the race as the most accomplished of the three-year-olds.  The reemergence of Java Gold after an injury setback, produced a win in the Whitney Handicap against older horses.  That race signaled a challenge for Jack Van Berg and Jimmy Croll’s classic winners.

Polish Navy had a win over the track in the Jim Dandy.  Cryptoclearance has put in a disappointing performance in that same race, but his running style and the mile and a quarter seemed to be in his favor.  Charlie Whittingham brought the gray Temperate Sil east for the race and Peter Brant’s son of Mr. Prospector, Gulch, would get a favorable sloppy racetrack.

Here is the 1987 Travers:

After this race, the group kept giving to the sport. Gulch and Polish Navy would each go on to sire Kentucky Derby Winners, Thunder Gulch and Sea Hero.

Thunder Gulch’s 1995 Kentucky Derby

Sea Hero’s 1993 Kentucky Derby

Java Gold sired the sturdy sprinter, Kona Gold. The gelding resides at the Kentucky Horse Park his in retirement.

Kona Gold’s 2000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint win

Cryptoclearance would improve as a four-year-old. The son of Fappiano sired Volponi, winner of the 2002 Breeder’s Cup Classic.

Volponi’s 2002 Breeders’ Cup win

Alysheba went on to give us a thrilling finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in 1987 and would cap his four-year-old season with a redeeming win in the 1988 renewal and garner him the Horse of the Year award.

Alysheba’s 1988 Breeders’ Cup Victory

Temperate Sil was sent to Japan for study duty. Alysheba is living in Saudi Arabia after standing in Kentucky. The son of Alydar has excelled as a broodmare sire. Bet Twice died in 1999 without reproducing himself. Java Gold stands in Germany while Cryptoclearance and Gulch are still in the Bluegrass.

An interesting bit of trivia from this race. Paul Mellon owned Java Gold, yet it was Ogden Phipps’ Polish Navy who would sire Mr. Mellon’s lone Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero.

To read more about the fascinating history of the Travers Stakes, check out the new book by Vic Zast, The History and Art of 25 Travers.

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