The historic Grade 1, $1,200,000 Whitney Stakes is set for this Saturday at Saratoga. As usual, the race will feature a stellar field. Last year, the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner dominated this race on his way to winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Horse of the Year honors. This year’s headliner is Mind Your Biscuits, fresh off of a tremendous second-place effort in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, where he lost by a nose. Mind Your Biscuits was third in the Breeders’ Cup TwinSpires Sprint last season but will now stretch out to a two-turn race for the first time in his career. The son of Posse is the leading New York-bred money earner of all time.
“I expect him to be much closer with Diversify coming drawn out in the sixth (post),” said Biscuits’ trainer Chad Summers. “And like Rick (Violette, Diversify’s trainer) said, giving us seven pounds, it’s a short run into the first turn, and if Diversify gets hung wide, he gets hung wide.
“I’m as confident as I can be,” Summers continued. “It hasn’t been done before, but everything he’s always shown me over his entire career is that he can do it, and until he can’t, I’m not going to think he can’t. He’s doing super. We can’t wait for Saturday. Every day, he’s training better and better. We love how he galloped this morning, and we just can’t wait to go.”
The winner of the Whitney will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. 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.
This Saturday, the Whitney will be part of a live broadcast on NBC Sports that will air from 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern Time. The NBC team will provide live on-site coverage from Saratoga. The full field from the rail out: Tapwrit, Backyard Heaven, Dalmore, Mind Your Biscuits, Discreet Lover, Diversify, Good Samaritan, and McCraken.
#2 Backyard Heaven – This Chad Brown trainee looked well on his way to becoming a superstar after a huge win on Kentucky Oaks Day in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes. He was able to beat quality horses in that race and looked set up well for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap next time out. However, he struggled to a sixth-place finish in what was by far the worst race of his career, which makes you think that something had to have gone wrong with him physically. He should bounce back and be tough at Saratoga, where he has been training well.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#6 Diversify – This is one of the best New York-breds in training and comes into this race off of a powerful win in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap where he took the lead from the start, set very fast fractions, and still completely dominated that field to win by over 6 lengths. The scary thing for his Whitney competition is that there is a serious lack of speed entered. If he is allowed to go out on his own and set soft fractions, then they may not be able to catch him on the front end. He is 1-for-1 at Saratoga when he had an eye-popping 11 1/2-length score in the state-restricted Evan Shipman Stakes.
#4 Mind Your Biscuits – We know this guy can be brilliant, but can he be brilliant going this distance? Mind Your Biscuits has only raced in one-turn events during his illustrious career, and his biggest wins have come at 6 furlongs. That could make this 1 1/8-mile test extremely difficult, and he has also struggled in the past at Saratoga. However, his talent is immense, and when he stretched out to a mile in his last start, he finished a very good second by a nose in the Met Mile. This is the all-time leading money earner for a New York-bred, so if he can indeed get the distance, then he will be hard to hold off in the end.
#7 Good Samaritan – Last time out, his connections cut his distance back in the Met Mile, but that is just not his game and he struggled to a seventh-place finish. He is much more effective going longer, so the Whitney will set up much better for him. Two races back, he was third in the Alysheba, and three races back, he won the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. Perhaps the biggest win of his career came over this track in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, so we know that he can run well here. He will drop back and make one big run at the end.
#1 Tapwrit – The 2017 Belmont Stakes winner will look to regain that old form in his third start of 2018. His Belmont Stakes win was the highlight of his career, and he followed it up with a so-so fourth in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes two months later. After that race, he was put on the shelf until June of this year, when he finished third in an allowance race at Belmont Park. Last time out, he was fifth in the Suburban, where it was widely thought that he would show improvement. He will give it another shot in a spot that seems logical for him.
#5 Discreet Lover – This horse continues to run well in big races and even hit the board at a big price last time out in the Suburban. Although he did not threaten the winner in any of those big races, his consistency makes him an on-the-board threat no matter what race he enters. At the age of 5, he seems to be running better than ever.
#8 McCraken – As a 3-year-old, he was considered a major Kentucky Derby contender, but those dreams fell short when he finished eighth in the big race. However, he did go on to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes and gave a strong runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. He then kicked off 2018 with a nice win against allowance company before disappointing in stakes efforts in his last two starts. His class has earned him a spot in this race and could carry him to a solid performance.
#3 Dalmore – He is no stranger to races like this, having competed in multiple stakes events throughout his career, and there have been times when he has performed well. Last time out, he had a nice runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows. If he can improve off of that effort and continue to progress, then he could run well in this race.