One of the biggest races during the Saratoga meeting takes center stage on Saturday afternoon.
The $1 million Grade 1 Whitney Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward drew eight horses bidding for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2 with a victory.
McKinzie, a 4-year-old son of Street Sense, was established as the 7-5 favorite by morning line oddsmaker David Aragona at Tuesday evening’s draw at Sperry’s Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs.
The other horse in the race are currently in the NTRA Top Ten Thoroughbred rankings is Thunder Snow (3-1), Vino Rosso (6-1) sits one spot outside the top 10. The other big challenger is Preservationist (3-1), who is cutting back in distance from his win in the G2 Suburban.
Saturday’s card also includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Troy Stakes, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint. 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.
The Test looks to be a competitive contest with Bellafina (2-1) shipping in from the west coast, Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress (7-2), and Miss Preakness winner Covfefe (5-2).
Saratoga Live will be broadcasting live on FS2 beginning at 3:30 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 92nd running of the Whitney (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds and weight in parenthesis):
1 – Imperative (Quartarolo, Bracho, 30-1, 118). The old war horse will be running in his 50th career race. The 9-year-ol gelded son of Bernardini has won over $3 million over his career, but looks to be slowing down based on the last few graded stakes efforts. Seems to be up against it.
2 – Forewarned (St. Louis, Bisono, 30-1, 118). Trainer upset last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, so you have to take a look before dismissing. He’s run competitively at Parx in his last two races, but the waters get deep at Saratoga. Would truly be a candidate for Graveyard of Favorites storylines.
3 – Monongahela (Servis, Lezcano, 12-1, 120). Son of K One King (who?) has never won at the 9-furlong distance. Comes in off a solid win in the Iselin at Monmouth Park and could be useful underneath in the exotics. Has never run at Saratoga, picks an interesting spot for his debut.
4 – Thunder Snow (bin Suroor, Soumillon, 3-1, 124). Comes off a fine losing effort in the Met Mile off his second straight Dubai World Cup win. Has been moving smoothly over the track at Saratoga since his arrival and ready to make his mark as the best horse currently in training. The pick.
5 – Vino Rosso (Pletcher, Velazquez, 6-1, 1). Only career race at Saratoga he failed as the favorite in last year’s Jim Dandy. Has improved greatly as a 4-year-old winning the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. To step up in the division he needs a victory here to propel him the Classic on a high note. Pletcher looking for his fourth career Whitney title. Not quite ready to give him the nod, but he should be in the mix.
6 – McKinzie (Baffert, Smith, 7-5, 124). The morning line favorite will try to give trainer Bob Baffert his first ever Whitney win. Was second as the favorite in the ultra-competitive Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day. He’s only missed the board once in his 11-race career, in last year’s Classic. He’s been working well at Del Mar and is the horse to beat. Looks ready to roll.
7 – Yoshida (Mott, Rosario, 10-1, 124). Has struggled since last year’s Woodward win, finishing no better than fourth in his last four efforts. Jockey change from Jose Ortiz to Rosario who was aboard in last year’s win at Saratoga on closing weekend. Was not a factor in the Stephen Foster coming off the trip back from Dubai. Not the same horse as last year. Pass.
8 – Preservationist (Jerkens, Alvarado, 3-1, 122). The 6-year-old son of Arch comes off an impressive win over favored Catholic Boy in the mile-and-a-quarter Suburban at Belmont. Comes into the race third off the form cycle and could be sitting on another big race. Only his ninth career race, he’s as lightly raced at six as you will ever see. Has posted solid workouts in the morning. Dangerous.
Outlook: Tough race to forecast the winner with four quality horses capable of winning. Thunder Snow seems to be the most talented and has shined on the big stage before, he's the pick.
Post Time Selections: 1 –Thunder Snow; 2 – McKinzie; 3 – Preservationist; 4 – Monogahela
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.