The oldest race in America is set for Saturday and it looks to be a real dandy of a race. And in fact, from the desk of the Track Philosopher it pencils out to have the same end as the story about Jim Dandy earlier this summer. And that story, as we all know, was just “A Little Warm”.
I’ve often wondered about who this race was named and here’s a capsule of some of that information:
William Riggin Travers was born in Baltimore, Maryland in July of 1819. He became an American lawyer and made a fortune on Wall Street. Along with John Hunter, in 1863 he founded Saratoga Race Course and served as its first president. Saratoga’s Travers Stakes is named in his honor and is the oldest major Thoroughbred horse race in the United States. In 1884, William Travers also became one of the backers of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track on Coney Island.
Travers was also a partner in Annieswood Stable with John Hunter and George Osgood. The operation had considerable success both in racing equines and with breeding at their Annieswood Stud farm in Westchester County, New York. Their horse, the Hall of Famer “Kentucky” won the first running of the Travers Stakes in 1864. One of their most famous horses was “Alarm”, considered one of the best sprint race horses in American Thoroughbred horse racing history.
Travers was a long-time president of the New York Athletic Club. On January 13, 1887 the club purchased Hogg Island in Long Island Sound and Pelham, New York shoreline from the estate of John Hunter and renamed it Travers Island in his honor.
It has been written that Travers was a well-known socialite and a member of 27 private clubs.
William R. Travers married Maria Louisa, the daughter of Reverdy Johnson. They had nine children, 3 sons and 6 daughters.
Travers died in Bermuda on March 19, 1887 from complications of diabetes. In his obituary, The New York Times wrote that he was “probably the most popular man in New York.”