Barnstormers, Part Five: Two horses would break the Travers record books

September 25, 2023

The 2023 Travers blanket. (Janet Garaguso)

The Race

By Maribeth Kalinich

In 1938, there were three different winners in each Triple Crown race and no clear leader in the 3-year-old class.

In 2023, there were three different winners in each Triple Crown race and no clear leader in the 3-year-old class.

The Travers, held in late August, is the halfway point between the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup in modern times. Results can determine Eclipse Awards and Horse of the Year.

There was no Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 1938 to solidify Horse of the Year. Every win, every race was crucial. A colt who was the bride’s maid over and over desperately needed a victory to move up in the rankings. 

A ridgling who achieved one of the three Spring Classics needed to prove he was a consistent champion. 

The road to Horse of the Year traveled past the Travers Stakes. 


Thanksgiving, Eddie Acaro up, about to win the Travers at Saratoga August 13, 1938. (Keeneland Library Cook Collection)

With Bull Lea as the favorite, the 1938 Travers lined up with Fighting Fox, Stagehand, Nedayr, a 4-1 Thanksgiving and a 60-1 longshot Jolly Tar. 

Thanksgiving broke well and led the field around both turns, but the fans weren’t convinced he could keep the lead. 

Stagehand was known as a deep closer, frequently rallying from the back of the pack, which is exactly where he was at the top of the stretch. 

Thanksgiving after his Travers victory under Eddie Arcaro. (Keeneland Library Morgan Collection)

Thanksgiving never let up setting such a fast pace for the first five furlongs, but Arcaro knew that Thanksgiving wasn’t finished running. Urging him forward, they picked up the pace in the stretch to the spectators’ amazement.

As the excitement in the stands swelled Stagehand began a late rally and was joined by Jolly Tar coming up the rail with Fighting Fox still in hot pursuit. As the horses tired Thanksgiving flew to a six-lengths victory going gate-to-wire. 

Jolly Tar was a gallant second with Fighting Fox a half-length back in third. After a belated rush Stagehand would finish fourth. Nedayr failed to get into contention and finished last. 

Thanksgiving won for owner Anne Corning completing the 1-1/4 miles in 2:03.60. Corning received half of the $14,400 purse ($303,522 in 2023 money). 

Arcangelo second from the left coming around the field about to take the lead in the Travers. (Dom Napolitano)

Going off at 8-1 against some of the top 3-year-olds in the country including Preakness winner National Treasure at 9/2, Arcangelo would also have to beat Angel of Empire (Risen Star and Arkansas Derby), Forte (Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby), Tapit Trice, (Tampa Bay Derby and Toyota Blue Grass), Hit Show (Withers) and Red Route One (West Virginia Derby). That was a pretty tall order.

The break was less than clean as Arcangelo got brushed at the start by Forte and then got pinched back after the start along with Mage as Forte and National Treasure came together, 

Meanwhile, Scotland who had broken first from post 7 set the pace with an opening quarter of 23.46 under Junior Alvarado. Arcangelo with Javier Castellano in the irons finally settled into fourth after getting through the traffic.

National Treasure (John Velazquez) took over second with Tapit Trice (Jose Ortiz) just behind and Forte in fifth trailing Arcangelo. Derby champ Mage was in sixth with Disarm trailing the field.

Not much changed until the one-mile mark with Scotland still in the lead as Castellano began to move Arcangelo up, National Treasure began to fade back to fifth with Forte in sixth. Mage, unable to muster a rally was last.

To the cheers of the crowd, Arcangelo notched up gears at the top of the stretch and took the lead by three lengths as Disarm rallied up to challenge the leader as Tapit Trice held steady in third. Scotland had faded to fourth and National Treasure to sixth. 

Arcangelo and Javier Castellano after their Travers victory. (Janet Garaguso)

There was no catching Arcangelo that day. With a mild kick Disarm came up to finish second a length behind with Tapit Trice 2-1/2 back. 

3-year-old hopeful scratched from the Kentucky Derby, Forte, Preakness champ National Treasure, Scotland and Derby winner Mage completed the order of finish that day. 

This was Arcangelo and Javier’s race. 

This time the purse they would split was worth $1.5 million.

Arcangelo ran the mile and a quarter in 2:02.23. It was his father, Arrogate who set the Travers Stakes record at 1:59.36 on August 27, 2016.

1938 was a very odd year, starting with the Kentucky Derby

Lawrin, owned by Herbert M. Woolf, won the 1938 Kentucky Derby. He was the son of Insco. He is the only Kansas-bred winner of the Kentucky Derby and the first Kentucky Derby winner ridden by the great jockey Eddie Arcaro.

1938 Preakness Stakes

Dauber was the 1938 Preakness Stakes victor in what was called the wettest Preakness ever. So wet that Dauber, draped in a blanket that was not made of flowers, refused to don the then traditional horseshoe shaped winner’s wreath for photos. His rain-soaked jockey Maurice “Moose” Peters wore it instead. 

Royally bred by Sonny Whitney, he was sired by Harry Payne Whitney’s 1913 Futurity Stakes winner, Pennant, out of Ship of War, a daughter of Man o’ War.

Dauber was purchased by William du Pont, Jr. and campaigned by his Foxcatcher Farms. 

Under trainer Richard Handlen, his best result in a major race for two-year-olds was a win in the 1937 Nursery Handicap and a third in the 1937 Pimlico Futurity. 

At age three, Dauber notably earned a second-place finish to Stagehand in the 1938 Santa Anita Derby. 

He went on to compete in all three of the U.S. Triple Crown races. Dauber finished second to Lawrin in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths, and was second to Pasteurized in the Belmont Stakes. Following the Triple Crown, Dauber never won another significant race.

Pasteurized (foaled 1935 in Virginia) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse best known for winning the 1938 Belmont Stakes.

Pasteurized was bred in Virginia by and campaigned by Carol Harriman Plunkett, daughter of E. H. Harriman, a prominent New York railroad executive. 

He was trained by former jockey and future Hall of Fame inductee, George Odom.

At age two Pasteurized’s most important win came in the East View Stakes at Empire City Race Track in Yonkers, New York which is now Aqueduct. That was a follow up to a third in the Christiana. 

Going into his three-year-old campaign the colt wintered in Florida where he was a disappointment; his best result was the run-up in the 1938 Kentucky Derby and a third in the Flamingo Stakes. 

Bypassing both the Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Pasteurized earned an impressive win on May 21st in the Commando Handicap at Belmont Park and then followed up with a victory in the one and one-half mile Belmont Stakes over Preakness Stakes winner Dauber by a neck with third-place finisher Cravat another neck back. Pasteurized came out of the race with an injury and did not race again that year.

Wintered again in Florida, in early February 1939 Pasteurized made his first start since winning the Belmont a successful one at Hialeah Park Race Track, capturing a prep race for the Widener Challenge Cup Handicap. 

However, in the March 4th Widener Challenge, he was never a contender and finished off the board as was the case in the ensuing Santa Anita Handicap. Sent to Jamaica Racetrack in New York, in the April 25th Neptune Handicap, Pasteurized ran only a few strides before bolting to the outside rail and never finished the race.

Pasteurized raced in early 1941 without winning and was retired to stud in Devon, Penn., where he met with only modest success. Two of his progeny were multiple handicap winners; Bordeaux in steeplechase racing and Woodchuck in flat racing.

While all of this was happening there was a little match race brewing for November 1, 1938, between the previous year’s Triple Crown winner and the champ of the West Coast. That would be War Admiral and Seabiscuit’s showdown at Pimlico Race Course. 

1938 was a very odd year for horse racing.

And, 1938 American Horse of the Year honors went to Seabiscuit (beating War Admiral by 698 points to 489.)

To read Part Four of Barnstormers in Past The Wire click here.

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