Saratoga Preview 8.6.22: Whitney, Saratoga Derby Invy
Happy Whitney Day!
This is a fantastic card with four graded stakes races including three Grade 1s – the Test, the Saratoga Derby Invitational, and the Whitney.
I’ll dive into the Saratoga Derby and the Whitney Stakes – both of which sport a $1 million purse. Belmont Stakes day is the only other day on the New York racing calendar when there are two million dollar races – the Met Mile ($1 million) and Belmont Stakes ($1.5 million).
Race 10 – The Whitney Stakes – Grade I
One Mile and One Furlong On the Dirt, For Four Year Olds and Upward
The Whitney is arguably the most important dirt route race for older horses in North America. But like a lot of the top stakes races at this meet this renewal of the Whitney Stakes has a compact field of six. The broader theme of this year’s meet appears to be – short Grade 1 fields that produce excellent performances. Nest in the CCA Oaks, Clairiere in the Shuvee, Kamari in the Honorable Miss, Epicenter in the Jim Dandy, and the great Jackie’s Warrior in the Vanderbilt. Like a lot of the other short Grade 1 fields so far this meet – the Whitney has the right ones entered and you can make good cases for five of these six runners.
- Americanrevolution: How many New York Derby winners at Finger Lakes have won the Whitney – the answer is zero. Then again how many Cigar Mile winners also won the New York Derby? This winner of last year’s Cigar Mile comes in off of a decent second in the Stephen Foster (108 Beyer) where he was full of run in the stretch but couldn’t close down Olympiad. Two back he may have needed a race off of a seven month layoff in the Blame Stakes when he was leading at the quarter pole but was swamped by the field mid-stretch and finished fourth. He has a persistent habit of lugging in in the stretch and that impacts his ability to close out a race. Versatile stalk and pounce type who fits this group. Connections (who also own Life is Good) are contemplating a scratch here. Possible upset candidate if he goes.
- Hot Rod Charlie: Lost a head bob to Mind Control in the Salvator Mile at Monmouth last out (104 Beyer). The mile may have been a bit sharp for him and that was his initial effort after shipping back from Dubai where he was first and second in his two efforts at Meydan. In the Dubai World Cup he was a very good second and made up a lot of ground on the rail in the stretch to catch leader Life Is Good in the final 100 yards, but Country Grammar had more momentum on the outside to get the win. Blinkers go ON – look for him to run with Life Is Good from the start today. Potential slice.
- Zoomer: 30-1 Mark Casse claimed this one for $50k from Linda Rice July 17th out of a race that Zoomer won going nine furlongs with a career best 97 Beyer. That day he pressed the pace and kicked away with more than a quarter mile to go and was straight and true in the stretch to win by five lengths. That was the sixth time this horse was claimed over the past year. It’s quite a jump to go from $50k claimers to Grade I company. Zoomer’s only graded stakes attempt was three back in the Westchester Stakes where he was a very distant third, beaten by better than ten lengths on a sloppy surface. Lasix comes off. Overmatched.
- Olympiad: Bill Mott has this one in very good form with wins in three Grade 2s and a Grade 3 while going undefeated during 2022 in five starts since he has been stretched out to two turns. Last out he was much the best in the Stephen Foster earning a 111 Beyer. That’s the highest dirt route Beyer of the year. He paired up 103 Beyers in his two prior efforts including a very game performance in the Alysheba where he just refused to lose. He has good tactical speed and uses that to get position just off the early leaders and rolls by them in the stretch and no one can seemingly get by this one. He will need to be in top form to deal with Life is Good, but he looks ready to roll – bullet work over the Oklahoma track last Sunday. The Pick.
- Happy Saver: He has finished second in four consecutive races – albeit behind some good ones. Last out he picked up the pieces behind Flightline in the Met Mile to get the place money (102 Beyer). Two back in his first start of the year in the Alysheba – he stalked the pace, got to the lead but Olympiad refused to lose and re-rallied to get the win. Last win against graded stakes company was in October 2020. Has hit the board in all ten starts. Minor award candidate.
- Life Is Good: Seven wins from the nine career starts for this Todd Pletcher trained colt. Last out going seven panels in the John Nerud Stakes at Belmont he buried a four horse field that included Carter winner Speaker’s Corner while under a hand ride by Flavian Prat (112 Beyer). Two back in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan he led the whole way and was only caught very late. That ten furlong distance may have been a bit too much ground. Three back he took the field gate to wire in the Pegasus Invitational (100 Beyer) going today’s mile and an eighth with a loose on the lead trip. Super dangerous if he gets loose up front. Using on all tickets.
Race 11 – The Saratoga Derby Invitational – Grade I
One Mile and Three Sixteenths on the Mellon Turf, For Three Year Olds
This $1 million race for three years olds is the second leg of the NYRA Turf Triple Series. That series includes last month’s Belmont Derby Invitational and the Jockey Club Derby that will be run on September 17th at Aqueduct. The distances of the Turf Triple races match those of the Triple Crown. Today’s distance of the one mile and 3/16ths mirrors the distance of the Preakness Stakes.
Seven of today’s runners are coming out of the Belmont Derby Invitational including the top six finishers – who were separated by less than two lengths. It’s a great betting race with a nice full field of eleven going to post.
The shocker here is that there isn’t a Chad Brown trainee amongst the eleven entries.
- Main Event: Last out in the Grade 2 Kent at Delaware Park he took them all the way making every pole of the nine furlongs a winning one (84 Beyer). He does his best running on the front end but will certainly have company up there today. Inside draw will force his hand. I think he gets cooked in a pace duel. Lasix comes off. Trainer Stat: George Weaver is 3/46 (7%) in graded stakes turf routes. Looking elsewhere.
- Grand Sonata: Pletcher trainee was also part of the calvary charge that finished just behind Classic Causeway in the Belmont Invitational (87 Beyer) at 32-1. He ran well that day sitting just off the leaders and came running in the lane. Two back he got pinched at the start and had to rally from last – he ran well enough to get third, but he is best when he attends the pace. Look for him to stalk the leaders. Longshot possibilities.
- Emmanuel: Started his three year season on the Derby trail with a fourth in the Fountain of Youth and a third in the Blue Grass. Pletcher switched him to grass last out, and he used his early speed to grab the lead and take them all the way in the Pennine Ridge. He got away with a slow pace that day with the half mile in 51.3. He should be contesting the pace with Main Event and Classic Causeway. Gets the acid test today. Too tough a group for this one.
- Nations Pride: Charlie Appleby shipped this one over from England for the Belmont Invitational and he ran well getting second as part of the blanket finish about a length off of Classic Causeway (88 Beyer). He appeared to be going the best of the rest that day and with a bit more pressure put on the front runner he may have turned the tables. Should get the right set up with a better contested pace today. Stayed stateside after the Belmont Invitational and had four maintenance works over ten days leading into this. Live runner with William Buick shipping in for the mount. The Pick.
- Stolen Base: Mike Maker trainee was mid-pack in the Belmont Invitational but faltered on the far turn when the running got serious. There just may been too much ground that day for this one who appears to be more of a miler type. Gets a slight turnback today – but I don’t see how he turns the tables on this group. Passing.
- Annapolis: Nice colt is three for four in his career with his only loss on soft going. Won over this track closing weekend last September to break his maiden. Last out in the Manila Stakes at Belmont – he sat a trip and briefly was stuck behind a wall of horses – but once he got in the clear he showed a quick burst of speed in the stretch to win by open lengths (91 Beyer). That was his second start off an eight month layoff. Should be ready to roll here for Pletcher but he is going farther than he has previously attempted. Legit contender.
- Royal Patronage: Last time he went out with Classic Causeway in the Belmont Invitational dropped to stalk the leader after the first quarter and finished a decent fifth but made no headway against the winner (87 Beyer). That was his first effort on this side of the pond after a very good year two year old season and a more mixed three year old spring campaign in England. Rosario retains the mount – and he is riding great. Potential to press the pace again here today. Minor award possibilities.
- Sy Dog: In the Belmont Invitational last month he was off the pace set by Classic Causeway and was part of the calvary charge that came running inside the eighth pole (87 Beyer) to finish a close up fifth. Went last to first in his most recent win in the Transylvania Stakes (82 Beyer) at Keeneland. He could use some pace to run into and hasn’t really gotten it in his last two efforts. He should get a better set up today. Bottom side of exotics.
- Classic Causeway: Won the Belmont Invitational Derby at 27-1 in his first turf effort (89 Beyer). He got to the hedge and established position early, got loose on the backstretch by about five lengths while setting a moderate pace and held off a calvary charge in the stretch to score. He is by Giants Causeway – so we shouldn’t be surprised that he is proficient on the turf. He’ll look to be the controlling speed again today but should have company. He’ll be overbet and is play against for me. He had it all his way last time – that won’t happen again. He’ll beat me if he wins.
- Stone Age: Aiden O’Brien trained colt ran well in the Belmont Invitational coming from last to finish third less than a length from winner Classic Causeway after being fanned wide on the first turn. Johnny V takes the mount from Ryan Moore. Should be live here today but gets another tough outside draw – and Aiden O’Brien’s results in North America are quite poor in recent years. Trainer Stat: Aiden O’Brien is 6 for 100 (6%) in turf routes in North America over the past five years – 34% have finished in the money. Use underneath.
- Ethereal Road: Lukas had this one on the Derby trail in the Spring, but he was a cut below. Last out he was a non-factor in the Ohio Derby and Lukas now tries him on turf. The dam won on the turf and Quality Road has had his share of turf winners. But this move is not a productive one for this barn. Trainer Stat: Lukas is zero for thirty-nine first time dirt to turf starters over the past two years with only six runners hitting the board. Not today.