Special Whitney Stakes Set for Saturday
Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Racing Dudes
It will be an emotional Whitney Stakes Day at Saratoga this year due to the recent passing of the queen of Saratoga, Marylou Whitney. She accomplished so much for the race track and the town of Saratoga Springs itself, turning it into one of the greatest places in the country to visit. Marylou was passionate about horses and will be missed.
As for the action on the track, there is no doubt that this year’s Whitney Stakes (G1) is shaping up to be a special field. Several of the best horses in division are set to run, including the Santa Anita Gold Cup (G1) winner Vino Rosso for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Met Mile (G1) runner-up McKinzie will ship in for conditioner Bob Baffert, as will the two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow, who returns to the states after finishing third in the Met Mile last time out. These three horses make this a top-heavy event, but you also cannot forget Preservationist, who comes into this off of a win in the Suburban Handicap (G2) last time out. As of now, the Breeders’ Cup Classic division is wide-open, making this race that much more meaningful. The Whitney and the Longines Test Stakes (G1) will be shown on NBC Sports starting at 5:00 PM ET.
The winner of the Whitney Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 Imperative – “He’s as good as he’s ever been right now” is how owner Ron Paolucci described this horse in a recent tweet. He’ll have to be to get the job done in this ultra-difficult spot. According to Paolucci, if he is not competitive in this race, then he will be retired, so this could be his last dance. This horse has been a warrior from Day 1, earning over $3 million in 49 lifetime starts. He’ll at least show up and give it a solid effort.
#2 Forewarned – What a race to try graded stakes company for the first time. The Whitney is one of the top races for the older male division each season, making this challenge seem extremely difficult. He comes into the spot off of a runner-up finish in an allowance optional claiming race at Parx, so he’ll need to step his game up considerably in order to have a shot here. Trainer Uriah St. Lewis pulled the 45/1 upset with Discreet Lover in the 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
#3 Monongahela – An upset win in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) last time out at Monmouth Park earned him a shot here. While that race was not as strong as this one, it was tough for a Grade 3. Trainer Jason Servis has had a tremendous year, which probably gives him confidence to enter his horse in this race. Monongahela has only missed the board twice in his past 10 starts, all at the stakes level.
#4 Thunder Snow – This is the richest active racehorse in the world, thanks to back-to-back victories in the Dubai World Cup (G1). However, this world traveler is still searching for his first win in the United States. In 2017, he infamously shipped to the United States for the Kentucky Derby (G1), where he did not finish after bucking at the start and refusing to run. His last three trips back to this country, however, have been much better. He was second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) to round out 2018. This year, he finished third in the Met Mile (G1).
#5 Vino Rosso – He comes into this race off of the biggest win of his career, which came last time out in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1). The son of Curlin has always been regarded as a late developer, so he might just be getting into his top form this season. After a tough 2018 campaign, he has won twice in three 2019 starts, and the Carter Handicap (G1), his lone loss, was a bit shorter than he likes. His recent workouts suggest that he is rested and ready to go.
#6 McKinzie – Last year, McKinzie was considered a serious threat to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he did very little running in a disappointing effort. This year, he has just one victory, the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. However, he has been a runner-up three times, including a tough-luck loss last time out in the Met Mile. He will likely be the favorite, and deservedly so, considering Baffert’s record in New York.
#7 Yoshida – The 2018 Woodward Stakes (G1) winner is back to take his shot at the Whitney. That win was his first victory on dirt, making him a dual-surface Grade 1-winning horse. Since then, though, things have not gone well: he has missed the board in four straight races. Three of those came on dirt, including a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a sixth in the Dubai World Cup. A return to Saratoga could do him some good.
#8 Preservationist – Patience has paid off with this Jimmy Jerkens runner. The 6-year-old son of Arch has just eight career starts under his belt, yet he is three-for-four this season, including a major win in the Suburban Handicap (G2) last time out at Belmont Park. That was his third win in a row and his first in a stakes race. He has never missed the board, too, adding to his positives. This will be his first start at Saratoga.
The Whitney Stakes serves as the center piece of an amazing weekend at Saratoga. While they are not Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Events, the Saratoga Oaks on Friday and the Saratoga Derby on Sunday are must watch races. There will also be 4 other stakes races on a loaded Saturday card at The Spa. All of these events could have an impact on the Breeders’ Cup as we go along the road to the big event. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on August 10 at Saratoga Race Course with the running of the Fourstardave Handicap (TVG Mile), while Arlington Park will showcase the Beverly D. Stakes (Marker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf) and Arlington Million (Longines Turf).
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com.
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