SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing’s Improbable built an insurmountable lead in the stretch and strode home victorious in Saturday’s $750,000 Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Improbable receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Classic at Keeneland this November.
Improbable was fractious in the gate before breaking from post 2 at 3/1 odds under Irad Ortiz, Jr., but he soon settled and tracked early leader Mr. Buff through opening fractions of :25.12 and :49.74.
Improbable gradually slid up alongside the pacesetter and challenged for the lead, then took command near the top of the stretch.
Kicking away impressively in the stretch, Improbable crossed 2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:48.65 for the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route.
It was trainer Bob Baffert’s second straight Whitney victory, having taken it for the first time last year with McKinzie.
“Finally, he’s grown up a little bit,” said Ortiz, Jr., who was aboard when Improbable placed fourth in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1). “He turned into a nice horse. Mr. Baffert did a great job with him. He broke really good today. Honestly, I just took a little hold. I know Mr. Buff, he’s the speed of the race and I sat second. Last time, (the jockey) rode him second in the clear and he ran so good, so I just tried to do the same thing.”
By My Standards fought hard to keep up in the stretch, and though he proved unsuccessful, he was able to secure second by a 1/2-length.
Tom’s d’Etat, the even-money favorite, stumbled badly leaving his gate and trailed early before closing ground in the stretch for third over Code of Honor.
Mr. Buff completed the order of finish.
Improbable’s win was his second straight following the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita Park on June 6. The 4-year-old City Zip colt improved his overall record to 13-6-3-0 with $1,529,250 earned.
“He’s a high-energy horse and it’s not as surprising when you’ve seen it a few times,” said WinStar Farm CEO Elliot Walden regarding Improbable’s gate antics. “It is something that’s cost him a couple races. The Pennsylvania Derby (G1) is a race he was compromised in because he broke in the air. He typically has one little episode in him and it’s just a question of getting that out of the way and then he settles down. Bob’s done a lot of work with him and the way he broke, I felt really good about him once he got out of the gate.”
Improbable returned $8.50 to win, $4.50 to place, and $2.70 to show. By My Standards brought back $5.40 to place and $2.60 to show, while Tom’s d’Etat paid $2.10 to show.