SARATOGA SPRINGS – One of the biggest races during the Saratoga meeting takes center stage on Saturday afternoon. The $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward drew eight horses bidding for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3 with a victory.
The big matchup is between two New York-breds, last year’s New York-bred of the year in Mind Your Biscuits and the morning line favorite Diversify. The son of Posse is looking for his first win of the year in North America after winning the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March. He is co-owned by UB grad Dan Summers.
— Chad Summers Racing (@CSummersRacing) August 2, 2018
Diversify, the 5-year-old son of Bellamy Road, was established as the 7-5 favorite by morning line oddsmaker David Aragona 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 the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya for turf fillies and mares. Saturday will also feature two additional turf stakes: the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure and the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for fillies and mares. Post time for the Whitney is 5:46 p.m. which is slated for Race 9 on the 11-race card.
A special edition of Saratoga Live will be broadcast on FS2 beginning at 2:30 p.m. NBCSN will air live coverage of the Longines Test and Whitney beginning at 5 p.m. The Whitney is scheduled to go to post at 5:46 p.m.
Here’s a look at the entries for the 91st running of the Whitney (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds and weight in parenthesis):
1 – Tapwrit (Pletcher, Velazquez, 6-1, 124). Along with the favorite, the 2017 Belmont Stakes winner will carry the highweight of 124 pounds, giving up seven pounds to Mind Your Biscuits, McCraken and Dalmore. His last three races since his classic win at Belmont have been lackluster. Tough to be carrying that much weight because of a race he won 14 months ago. Seems to be up against it.
2 – Backyard Heaven (Brown, Castellano, 9-2, 121). After three wins in a row, including the Grade 2 Alysheba, this son of Tizway (a former Whitney winner) he failed to fire as the 4-5 favorite in the Stephen Foster in June at Chuchill. Red hot connections since the meet started at 6-for-21 through Wednesday. Speed should have him as part of the mix early. Contender.
3 – Dalmore (Hess, Jr., Santana, Jr., 30-1, 117). Long shot will be on the engine early and the likely pacesetter. Loooch Racing always likes to take a shot in the big races. Ran a respectable race in the Grade 3 Cornhusker, but will find deeper waters here. Speed and fade.
4 – Mind Your Biscuits (Summers, Rosario, 2-1, 117). The first step in efforts to stretch out in route races. Was beat a dirty nose in the Met Mile by Bee Jersey and will try nine panels for the first time. Will the weight break be the difference? He seems to want to keep going longer according to the conditioner and will enjoy the early pace set by the inside horses to close into. Dangerous.
5 – Discreet Lover (St. Lewis, Franco, 30-1, 119). Hasn’t won since April at the Big A and was thumped by the top two in respective races in his last two. Son of Repent has over $800K of career earnings, but only six wins in 41 career starts. Clunking up for a piece of the super seems only realistic shot.
6 – Diversify (Violette, Ortiz, Jr., 7-5, 124). The morning line favorite was a late entry into the race and figures to be the one to beat. Came out of the Suburban well, so Violette decided to give it a go rather than wait for the Woodward later in the meet. Workouts look lights out and comes into the race on a high note. Will need to not get cooked early with Dalmore on the engine, but has a viable rider in Irad Ortiz, Jr.
7 – Good Samaritan (Mott, Ortiz, 12-1, 121). Last year’s Jim Dandy winner hasn’t been a factor since winning the Fair Grounds Handicap in New Orleans in his 4-year-old debut. Tried shortening up in the Met Mile, but was beaten convincingly that day. Backyard Heaven took him to the woodshed in the Suburban and nothing showing that would convince me he can crack the tri.
8 – McCraken (Wilkes, Hernandez, 15-1, 117). Still looking for his first Grade 1 victory after being nosed out of one in last year’s Haskell. Was well off the board in his one race last year at the Spa, the Travers, where he finished seventh. Weight break may be enough to be part of the mix in the exotics.
Outlook: Tough to get past the strong favorite at the distance, and he’s handled many of the horses in here. If he can stay off the early speed he’ll be tough to beat. Not discounting MYB, who has surprised in tougher conditions than this and gets the favorable weight break. Top two just a little better than the rest.
Post Time Selections: 1 –Diversity; 2 – Mind Your Biscuits; 3 – Backyard Heaven; 4 – McCraken
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.