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 seven horses bidding for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a victory.
The horse to beat is Gun Runner, currently the third-ranked horse in the world and second in North America behind Arrogate in the NTRA poll. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride was established as the clear 4-5 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 Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing includes another Grade I, the Test Stakes, the Grade 3 Waya and two other non-graded stakes. Post time for the Whitney is 5:46 p.m. and is slated for Race 9 on the 11-race card. The race will be televised as part of a national telecast on Fox Sports 2 (FS2) in Western New York (DirecTV - 219; Dish - 149 and Time Warner - 132) and on MSG+ downstate from 4 - 6:30 p.m. It will also be televised by NBC Sports (Ch. 2) from 5-6 p.m.
It’s also Hall of Fame weekend at the Spa, where three jockeys and one horse will be enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Friday morning. Three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldikova will join jockeys Victor Espinoza, Javier Castellano and the late Garrett Gomez as they enter Racing’s Hall of Fame.
Here’s a look at the entries for the 90th running of the Whitney (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – War Story (Navarro, Castellano, 6-1). The Northern Afleet gelding won going long in the Suburban on Belmont Stakes day after just missing in the Charles Town Classic. The owner also entered a second entry to ensure there will be a proper pace for War Story to close into. All eyes will be on Gun Runner early to see if he goes with the rabbit. Dangerous.
2 – Breaking Lucky (Baker, Contreras, 8-1). The 2015 Prince of Wales winner has been facing top competition since leaving Canada. He only has one win at Woodbine since his Fort Erie win in the middle jewel two years ago. Best use of the son of Lookin at Lucky is underneath in the exotics. He would be helped by a fast early pace. Canadian connections include jockey Luis Contreras who won last week’s Prince of Wales aboard Cool Catomine. He’ll be seeking his second graded win this meet at Saratoga after winning on opening day in the Schuylerville.
3 – Cautious Giant (Quartarolo, Bracho, 30-1). He’s likely entered to set the pace for War Story. The 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway will be on the engine and will try to hold on as long as he can. He’s 30-1 for a reason.
4 – Tu Brutus (Contessa, I. Ortiz, Jr., 8-1). The pride of Chile will attempt to rebound from a third-place finish behind War Story in the Brooklyn. It’s his first attempt against Grade 1 company and Contessa has been happy with the way the Chilean-bred has been working at Saratoga. He showed little concern for the rabbit at the draw citing a race in Chile where Tu Brutus rated before exploding at the top of the stretch. Not impossible.
5 – Keen Ice (Pletcher, J. Ortiz, 3-1). The second choice on the morning line, he was the upset winner of the Grade 2 Suburban last month at Belmont, his first win in 10 races. The son of Curlin owns one of the biggest upsets in Saratoga history in 2015 when he defeated Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers. This will be only his second career start at Saratoga. He’s difficult to back due against Gun Runner based on the inconsistency shown over his career, but wackier things have been happening in racing over the past month (see Arrogate).
6 – Gun Runner (Asmussen, Geroux, 4-5). The heavy favorite will look to do what Frosted did last year as the heavy favorite. His only loss in 2017 was to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March. His only race over the Saratoga main track was a third-place finish in last year’s Travers, another loss to Arrogate. He should win for fun against this group, but they don’t run the race on paper.
7 – Discreet Lover (Cancel, St. Lewis, 25-1). The 4-year-old colt is 3-for-28 over his career with a career-high Beyer of 93. He has never placed in a graded race and has his work cut out for him in a Grade 1 at Saratoga. Would be a monumental upset.
Post Time Outlook: 1 –Gun Runner; 2 – War Story; 3 – Tu Brutus; 4 – Keen Ice
|The field for the Grade 1, $1.2M Whitney:|
|1||War Story||J.J. Castellano||J. Navarro||124||6-1|
|2||Breaking Lucky||L. Contreras||R. Baker||124||8-1|
|3||Cautious Giant||J. Bracho||A. Quartarolo||124||30-1|
|4||Tu Brutus||I. Ortiz, Jr.||G. Contessa||124||8-1|
|5||Keen Ice||J. Ortiz||T. Pletcher||124||3-1|
|6||Gun Runner||F. Geroux||S. Asmussen||124||4-5|
|7||Discreet Lover||E. Cancel||U. St. Lewis||124||25-1|
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.