Golden Ticket rode the inside rail to battle to finish on even terms with favorite Alpha in the Grade 1 Travers S. Saturday at Saratoga, the first dead heat finish since 1874 in the “Midsummer Derby”.
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For the 3-year-old Speightstown colt bred by WinStar Farm, the victory was the first marked the first stakes win in his career and boosted his bankroll to $536,035. Golden Ticket is the 15th stakes winner of 2012 for Speightstown, tied for best on the North American Sire list. He is also one of only three sires with progeny earnings of more than $6 million this year.
With direction from trainer Kenny McPeek to keep Golden Ticket on the fence, David Cohen established an inside position almost immediately, settling into fourth going into the first turn. Cohen kept to his task the entire way, and when a hole opened at the quarter pole, he urged Golden Ticket to the lead. He opened up by a bit more than a length at mid-stretch, with Alpha closing on the outside. The duo couldn't be separated at the wire as they finished the 1 1/4- miles in 2:02.74.
"At the eighth pole I thought, 'Wow he's going to draw off, he's gone,' " said McPeek, who said that his instructions were to "never leave the rail, don't leave it, stay there. If you get stopped, it's my fault. He (Cohen) rode a beautiful race."
Added McPeek, as he looked at the replay, “I thought we were beat at first, then I thought we won. I couldn’t tell. I’m thrilled we finished in a dead heat. It couldn’t work out better for the two of us.”
The winners each received $400,000 for the victory. Golden Ticket races in the colors of Magic City Thoroughbred Partners. Unraced since finishing second in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs on May 5, Golden Ticket’s previous best effort in a stakes was a second in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March.
Golden Ticket was a $100,000 purchase at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is one of 12 Grade 1 winners sold at auction by WinStar Farm.