The Saratoga Race Course has the nickname “Graveyard of Champions” or “Graveyard of Favorites.” At Saratoga in 1919, Man O’War lost for the first time to Upset in the Sanford Stakes. At Saratoga in 1930, Jim Dandy defeated Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the Travers Stakes. At Saratoga in 1973, Triple Crown winner Secretariat finished second to Onion in the Whitney Handicap.
“After the three starters had completed the running, form players were going around with their heads down mumbling something about Saratoga being aptly named the ‘Graveyard of Favorites’” was cited in The Saratogian newspaper in 1933. The nickname “Graveyard of Favorites” was frequently used for Saratoga in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
However, other racetracks were popularly called “Graveyard of Champions” before Saratoga. Suffolk Downs (East Boston, MA) and Arlington Park (Arlington Heights, IL) were both called the “Graveyard of Champions” in 1942. Saratoga has been called the “Graveyard of Champions” since at least 1961.
Wikipedia: Saratoga Race Course
Saratoga Race Course, which has a capacity of 50,000, is a thoroughbred horse racing track in Saratoga Springs, New York, United States. Opened in 1863, it is the third oldest racetrack in the US (after 2nd oldest Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack & oldest Freehold Raceway), though it is often considered to be the oldest sporting venue of any kind in the country.
History of the Saratoga Race Course (Saratoga Racetrack)
In fact, it was the Sanford Stakes in 1913 that added the word, “upset” to the English lexicon, meaning an unexpected defeat of an opponent that’s considered to be more formidable. Man O’War went into the race with 21 wins-and lost to a horse named Upset. Ironically, Upset’s name now is invoked every time there’s a surprise victory-whether that’s in horse racing or another sport-even business and politics.
When another Triple Crown victor, Gallant Fox, was defeated by a horse with 100-1 odds, Saratoga gained the ominous nickname “The Graveyard of Champions.”
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
28 August 1933, The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, NY), “C. V. Whitney’s Roustabout Wins Grand Union Hotel Stakes at 8-1,” pg. 11, col. 4:
After the three starters had completed the running, form players were going around with their heads down mumbling something about Saratoga being aptly named the “Graveyard of Favorites.”
29 March 1938, Chester (PA) Times, “Form Players Hit at Saratoga Meet,” pg. 10, col. 4:
NEW YORK, Aug. 20—Graveyard of favorites Saratoga did itself proud in the meeting just closed, taking a dive from the normal percentage of 41 for winning first choices last year to the lowest, 31, ever seen on any course in the Metropolitan district.
Such Was Saratoga
By Hugh Bradley
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead
So were Lucky Baldwin’s bay Emperor of Norfolk as well as his Los Angeles, who won the Foxhall and Kenner stakes in addition to, in 1891, the Saratoga Cup. Even then, Saratoga was earning the reputation as “the graveyard of favorites.”
16 July 1942, Canton (OH) Repository, “Whirlaway to Seek $500,000 Goal” by Tom Noonan (United Press), pg. 25, col. 6:
The ‘Biscuit (Seabiscuit—ed.) had been the only favorite ever to win in seven previous runnings of this stake (Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs—ed.)—the “graveyard of champions.”
3 August 1942, Evansville (IN) Courier, “Whirly Victim of Poor Ride In Arlington Handicap” by Charles Dunkley (AP), pg. 9, col. 3:
In the last four years there have been four major upsets in important stake races at Arlington Park, called the graveyard of champions.
28 July 1946, Kansas City (MO) Star, “Assault Is Last” (AP), pg. B1, col. 5:
A throng of 45,000 witnessed The Dude’s triumph which broughthome, with stunning effect, the fable that Arlington Park is the graveyard of champions.
1 August 1948, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Arlington Jinx Again Holds,” pg. 2-B, col. 6:
Chicago, Ill. (AP)—Arlington Park, the graveyard of champions, buried another short-priced favorite in the Arlington Classic Saturday.
The Story of Saratoga
By Mel Heimer
New York, NY: Holt
His name was Upset, appropriately enough, and naturally he did the trick at the graveyard of favorites — Saratoga.
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
25 May 1961, The Hudson Valley Times (Amenia, NY), “Of People and Things” by John Anthony, pg. 5, col. 3:
TALE OF A HORSE
Arthur J. McCann, enterprising merchant of Dover Plains, hails from Saratoga, N. Y., oftimes referred to, says Art, as the “graveyard of champions,” for it was here, in 1920, that the great Champion, “Man-O-War” was beaten by a horse named, appropriately enough, “Upset,” and the fast but lesser known Jim Dandy outran the gallant “GallantFox,” and “Which One,” in 1930.
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
Summer 1968, The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, NY), pg. 43, col. 2:
Saratoga, so generously robed in tradition, is even more famous as the “graveyard of champions.” THe classic upset of American racing history, of course, was when 100 to one Jim Dandy beat triple crown winner, Gallant Fox in the 1930 Travers.
8 August 1973, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “Sportview” by Chauncey Durden, pg. B-7, col. 1:
SECRETARIAT’S LOSS TO Onion in the Whitney Stakes was the most shocking race upset since the 100-to-1 longshot tortoise beat the hare, and added belief to the old saying that Saratoga is the “graveyard of champions.”
21 January 1978, Lexington (KY) Leader, pg. B-4, col. 3:
It doesn’t matter who was at fault;
‘Graveyard of champions’ wins again
By JOSEPH DURSO
New York Times News Service
NEW YORK—They call it “the graveyard of champions” and racing people are saying they told you so.
Saratoga, the oldest track in the land, is whereMan O’War lost his only race, where Gallant Fox got beat after winning the Triple Crown, where mighty Secretariat ran second best.
Google News Archive
22 August 1982, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, pg. 12B, col. 1:
‘Graveyard of Champions’
claims another victim
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP)—Conquistador Cielo, the sensational 3-year-old, set a blistering pace with Aloma’s Ruler that in the end sent them both to the “Graveyard of Champions.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Graveyard of champions : Saratoga’s fallen favorites
Author: Bill Heller
Publisher: Lexington, Ky. : Eclipse Press, 2002.
Edition/Format: Print book : English : 1st ed
Saratoga Racecourse: “Graveyard Of Favorites”
Published on May 15, 2013
Produced in the early 80s and narrated by Harvey Pack.. a look at a few of the great upsets at the Spa..
CBS New York
5 Reasons American Pharoah May Want To Skip The Travers
Saratoga’s ‘Graveyard Of Champions’ Could Be Bad News For Triple Crown Winner
August 21, 2015 8:18 AM
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Travers, or not?
1. GRAVEYARD OF CHAMPIONS
It’s a topic Baffert all but refuses to discuss. His “Onion” remark reveals he’s well aware of Saratoga’s reputation. Three of racing’s biggest upsets have occurred at the Spa.
— Upset did just that by handing the great Man ‘o War the only loss of his 21-race career in the 1919 Sanford Stakes.
— Jim Dandy stunned 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the Travers at odds of 100-1, winning by eight lengths.
— Onion, a winner in just seven of 141 career races, pulled off his shocker with a wire-to-wire win over Secretariat in the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 4, 1973.
And consider this piece of history: Only one of the first 11 Triple Crown winners — Whirlaway in 1941 — went on to win the Travers.
CBS New York
American Pharoah Overwhelming Favorite In 10-Horse Travers
Triple Crown Winner Ready For Next Test At Saratoga’s ‘Graveyard Of Champions’
August 26, 2015 10:03 AM
But it won’t be easy at the aptly nicknamed “Graveyard of Champions.”
American Pharoah will try to become only the second Triple Crown winner to go on to win the prestigious Travers. Whirlaway won the 1941 Travers after sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The Huffington Post
Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah Upset At Saratoga Springs
The champ was defeated at the Graveyard of Champions!
Posted: 08/29/2015 06:33 PM EDT
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Triple Crown winner American Pharoah came up short in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes on Saturday, losing to Keen Ice by three-quarters of a length before a sold-out and stunned crowd at Saratoga Race Course.
The upset solidified Saratoga’s reputation as the “Graveyard of Favorites.” Only one of 12 Triple Crown winners has been able to go on and win the Travers — Whirlaway in 1941.