SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – The 2019 Travers Stakes (G1) champion Code of Honor returns to Saratoga seeking to add another legendary local score to his resume in Saturday’s $750,000 Whitney Stakes (G1).
If Code of Honor accomplishes victory, he will become the first horse to win the Travers at age 3 and the Whitney at 4 since Lemon Drop Kid completed the double in 1999 and 2000.
The winner of the Whitney will receive an automatic position in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Whitney is a 1 1/8-mile dirt route open to horses ages 3 and up that attracted a field of five for the 2020 edition.
Let’s take a look at the full field:
#1 By My Standards – The 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner began his 2020 season hot, winning the New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) and the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) to assert himself as one of the nation’s top older dirt males. He suffered his first calendar year defeat last time out in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2), finishing second to familiar rival Tom’s d’Etat, but with a distance record of 4-3-1-0, he remains a formidable threat here.
#2 Improbable – Trainer Bob Baffert returns to defend the title that he won with McKinzie in 2019, bringing the multiple Grade 1 winner Improbable to New York for the first time. The City Zip colt conquered the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita Park last time out and should be fit as he tries to win back-to-back races for the first time since his juvenile season in 2018.
#3 Code of Honor – He returns to Saratoga for the third time after finding success over the local strip in each of the past two seasons – along with his 2019 Travers score, he broke his maiden on debut in 2018. The Shug McGaughey trainee relishes longer distances and stands to improve off of his most recent effort, a third-place finish in the Met Mile (G1) on July 4.
“He’s always liked it up here and liked training over the track, but it’s a different main track up here than it was in the Travers,” McGaughey said. “How much different, I’m not sure. I think that Code of Honor has always liked it up here. He trained well here as a 2-year-old and he ran well. He trained well here as a 3-year-old and ran well. He’s been training well since we’ve come up here this year, so hopefully, he runs well again.”
#4 Mr. Buff – Trainer John Kimmel will try to give the locals something to cheer for when this New York native enters the gate as the longest shot on the board. He has been a tour de force on the state-bred circuit and has proven time after time that he loves this distance (9 wins from 13 starts), but he has not finished better than fifth in 4 prior graded stakes attempts.
“We’ve got a racetrack here now with the crushed stone base that’s very similar to the Aqueduct track, where he’s been phenomenal,” Kimmel said. “The other thing is, there are no more New York-bred races this year, so basically, this horse was going to be sitting on the fence for the whole summer unless we ran in this race. He’s out of conditions, obviously. The horse is a very good horse and someday, maybe … they show up on the right day at the right time and knock the hell out of the odds.”
#5 Tom’s d’Etat – The morning line favorite has done little wrong in the past year, winning 5 of 6 starts including the 2019 Alydar Stakes over this exact course and distance. He is the highest-ranked male in the most recent NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll thanks in part to his last-out victory in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2), which provided him with a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic.
“Some horses just take to (Saratoga),” said trainer Al Stall, Jr. “I can tell, in the couple weeks he’s been here, his hair is great and his eye is just what you want, and it seems like he knows just where he is. He’s been here at (ages) 3, 4, and 6. He took off just one year and this will be his fourth year here, and he seems to know his way around.”
The Whitney Stakes serves as race 9 on the Saturday card at Saratoga that features five stakes total, including the $500,000 Personal Ensign (G1), a qualifier for the Longines Distaff.
The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue this weekend at Del Mar, with one challenge race each day: the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) (Sprint) on Saturday and the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) (Longines Distaff) on Sunday.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.