Alpha and Golden Ticket were neck and neck in the finish of the 143rd Travers on Saturday, but the canoes painted in their colors will likely never realize the same fate.
The five-decade tradition of painting a canoe for the colors of the winning horse in the Travers and putting it into the pond in the middle of the track at Saratoga Race Course continued Wednesday morning. This year, though, two canoes were loaded into the pond as the result of the first dead heat in the race since 1874.
Launched into the water first was the canoe for Golden Ticket, with its green, blue and orange stripes of the jockey’s silks. It was followed by, and tethered to, the blue canoe with two white chevrons that represent Alpha’s colors.
“These two horses are inextricably going to be tied to Travers and Saratoga history for the rest of time,” said New York Racing Association spokesman Dan Silver. “And so we think it is just fitting that these two canoes are tied together out there.”
Because they’re tied together they will likely never recreate the famous tie from the race. “One will probably always be in front of the other one, but hey, you never know,” Silver said.
The canoes floating in the pond escape the attention of many casual fans, as they’re impossible to see from certain angles because of impediments. But for fans who anticipate the new canoes each year or people who glimpse them by accident, Silver said having two canoes is a special treat until they’re replaced by a new canoe with the colors of next year’s winner.
If there is a tie again, track officials will be prepared to paint two canoes, as they had to purchase a second one this year because of the unique situation. They actually had a backup canoe, but that canoe was purchased by the winner of last year’s Travers. Proceeds of the sale benefitted backstretch workers.
Although there was a tie in 1874, this is the first time there have been two canoes in the water. “We didn’t have a canoe back in 1874,” Silver explained. The tradition began in 1961.
The canoes are painted by NYRA facilities department.
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