SARATOGA SPRINGS – One of the biggest races during the Saratoga meeting takes center stage on Saturday afternoon. The $1.25 million Grade 1 Whitney Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward drew six horses bidding for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a victory.
The horse to beat, Frosted, is coming off a monumental win in the Metropolitan Handicap, fondly known as the Met Mile, on the Belmont Stakes undercard. The 4-year-old son of Tapit was established as the clear 3-5 favorite by morning line oddsmaker Travis Stone at Tuesday’s draw at Sperry’s Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Saturday’s card, described by the New York Racing Association as the Whitney Festival of Racing includes another Grade I, the Test Stakes, and three non-graded stakes. Fox Sports 2 (Time Warner, channel 402) and MSG+ (DirecTV, channel 635) will carry the races live starting at 4 p.m.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Whitney (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – El Kabeir (Terranova, Santana Jr., 20-1). The Scat Daddy colt was on last year’s Derby trail before being scratched the morning before the Derby due to a foot bruise. He returned later in the year to win a non-graded stake at Laurel, but has yet to win since then. He sports a good workout on July 30, and finished fourth in the Stephen Foster by only two lengths. Could catch a piece underneath.
2 – Comfort (Pletcher, Velazquez, 8-1). He’s an interesting son of Indian Charlie, who has steadily improved during his 4-year-old campaign. He won the $100,000 State Dinner coming from behind in impressive fashion and has quietly put together a 3-race win streak. His connections certainly know how to win big races and he could be under the radar and big value by post time. Contender.
3 – Upstart (Violette, Ortiz Jr., 10-1). Won the Grade 3 Razorback, two races back and then struggled in the Oaklawn H. before getting torched by Frosted in the Met Mile. Certainly has the hot rider in Irad aboard, but the son of Flatter has struggled in distances longer than 8 ½ furlongs and the deep Saratoga track could get the best of him.
4 – Frosted (McLaughlin, Rosario, 3-5). His dynamite performance in the Met Mile was a thing of beauty. The 14-length romp came after a three-month break after a less than stellar performance in the mile-and-a-quarter Dubai World Cup. Not convinced he is as much as a threat going two turns, and his 3-5 morning line price could go even lower by post time. Will look elsewhere for value, but still have to respect.
5 – Noble Bird (Casse, Leparoux, 10-1). Which Noble Bird will show up? Does his best running at Churchill Downs and finished a woeful ninth in last year’s Whitney. Strong win in the Pimlico Special two back which earned a huge fig. He was as beaten 18 lengths by Frosted in the Met Mile last out. The Jekyll and Hyde of horse racing has the stamina and breeding to win the race, and will likely be on the front end.
6 – Effinex (Jerkens, Smith, 7-2). If you throw out his Foster under the Twin Spires, he’s probably the most consistent horse in the race, finishing in the exacta in four of his last six races. He is 7-3-1-0 at the distance and comes in third off the layoff for Jimmy Jerkens. His early speed should have him tracking Noble Bird early and in position to be in the mix coming down the stretch.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Effinex; 2 – Comfort; 3 – Frosted; 4 – El Kabeir
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.