Epicenter breezes to win Travers Stakes, besting Rich Strike

Epicenter has been considered the best three-year-old in the country since the Kentucky Derby, but something always seemed to get in the way of earning that title. That all changed on Saturday when the Steve Asmussen-trained colt easily won the $1.25 million travers at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

It was Epicenter’s first Grade 1 win and likely ticket to being named 3-year-old Male of the Year at the Eclipse Awards. It was his fourth win in seven starts this year and his sixth win in a lifetime.

“We walked over [Saturday] with tremendous confidence in the horse,” said Asmussen of the New York Racing Assn. media team. “But… that’s exactly how we felt walking over to this year’s derby.

“He was clean and thought he was very comfortable and close enough to the pace and just did a very dominant performance against a very good group.”

Epicenter broke mid-race with eight horses when Haskell Stakes winner Cyberknife moved forward and held a two-length lead at one point on the backstretch. Epicenter was slowly gaining ground and made his move in the long corner and by the end of the stretch he was 2½ lengths ahead. The lead was an undisputed 5¼ lengths in the 1¼ mile race.

Epicenter paid $4.00, $2.80, and $2.30. Cyberknife edged out Zandon with a nose for third place and Zandon beat Rich Strike with a neck for third place. The rest of the field consisted of Gilded Age, Artorius, Ain’t Life Grand, and Early Voting, in that order.

The horse was purchased by Ron Winchell, a family member who made a name for himself selling donuts, for $260,000, a relatively small amount by today’s standards.

“The Travers is always the marquee race,” Winchell said. “Coming here with Gun Runner and finishing third and finishing second at Midnight Bourbon last year just makes it all the more satisfying to win it. That makes winning this race very special for me and my family.”

The race was held in front of a paid attendance of 49,672, the largest crowd since 2015 when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was beaten by Keen Ice.

Epicenter was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and seemed on course for victory before the little-respected Rich Strike flew inside to win by three-quarter length at extremely high odds.

Epicenter was again the favorite in the Preakness but was easily defeated by early voting. Asmussen challenged jockey Joel Rosario’s ride in the race, losing by 1¼ lengths.

But Rosario kept the mount and won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga in a four-horse field.

“I just followed the two horses on a leash,” Rosario said of the travers. “I was in there and just wanted to take my time where he was. It looked like he was a little bit more into the game [Saturday]. He was great.”

A favorite for the 3-year-old Eclipse Award everyone will now see just how great he could actually be, especially when he competes against older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-08-27/epicenter-wins-travers-stakes-saratoga-steve-asmussen-joel-rosario-rich-strike Epicenter breezes to win Travers Stakes, besting Rich Strike

Emma Bowman

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