92nd Whitney Draws Talent-Filled Field Of Eight
California Shipper McKinzie Slight Favorite Over Locals, Dubai World Cup Winner
By Margaret Ransom
Four grade 1 winners highlight Saturday’s 92nd running of the $1 million Whitney (GI) at Saratoga, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), set to be run at Santa Anita on November 1.
The term “legends” is often tossed about recklessly in racing, but when it comes to the Whitney it’s fair to say that legends of the turf have either contested the now nine-furlong main-track test or returned victorious. Either way, the race named for one of the most prominent names in the history of thoroughbred racing and this year holds a special meaning with the recent passing of grand dame Marylou Whitney, has seen a tremendous amount of talent reach the winner’s circle since it was first contested in 1928. Hall of Famer Discovery won the Whitney three times in the 1930s and since then, names like War Admiral, Stymie, Tom Fool, Kelso (also three times), Carry Back, Gun Bow, Dr. Fager, Key to the Mint, Ancient Title, Alydar, Slew o’Gold, Easy Goer, Criminal Type, In Excess, Colonial Affair, Awesome Again, Blame, Fort Larned and Gun Runner in 2017 are Whitney titleholders, as are the ladies Galorette, Lady’s Secret and Personal Ensign.
It’s hard to separate McKinzie, Thunder Snow, Vino Rosso and Yoshida as all have had standout careers so far, but Pegram, Watson & Weitman’s McKinzie is the 7-5 morning line favorite off of his very troubled second-place finish in the Met Mile (GI) on Belmont Stakes (GI) Day. His Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, has amassed an impressive resume, including two Triple Crown winners, but has yet to send out a Whitney winner, but may have his best chance with this well-named son of Street Sense. The 4-year-old colt has some tactical speed that jockey Mike Smith can use to his advantage depending on how the race sets up and all they may need is a clean trip to claim the win.
McKinzie has finished first or second in ten of his 11 career starts, the only blemish being a uncharacteristic 12th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, so he’s consistent and clearly well-placed here. He will break from post position six.
“He breezed (at Del Mar Sunday) and we thought it went really well,” Baffert said. “We’re excited and really looking forward to running in this race. He’s trained forwardly since the Met Mile and he’s come out of that race really well. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the trip we really wanted there, but now going a mile and eighth hopefully will give him a little more time to work out a better trip.
“It’s certainly a prestigious race and it would mean a lot to have it on McKinzie’s resume. It looks like a very good, competitive field, so we’re hoping we can run our race and get a little bit of racing luck as well. It’s certainly exciting. I’ve only run in the race once previously, and that was with a horse we were just hoping we could finish in the money with. It’s nice to come in here among this good field with a shot at winning it.”
Godolphin’s two-time Dubai World Cup (GI) winner (2017 and 2018) Thunder Snow was third in the Met Mile last out in his first start since his hard-fought win in Dubai and may benefit from the extra furlong here. He currently is the richest thoroughbred in training with $16,511,476 in earnings and before his World Cup victories was mostly known to American racing fans as the horse who gave his best impression of a bucking bronco out of the gate in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Clearly long past his bad behavior, he makes a formidable opponent here. He is also a two-time group 1 winner over the turf in France and has logged more miles than any of his opponents.
Regular jockey Christophe Soumillon has the call on the 5-year-old son of Helmet, who is trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso hasn’t raced since his three-quarter-length victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) two months ago, but hasn’t missed a beat in the mornings, consistently logging nice workouts at Belmont Park and over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Curlin spent the last half of last year on the sidelines and now makes his fourth start since his return to action in March. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has ridden the a Whitney winner four times – Left Bank (2002), Lawyer Ron (2007), Commentator (2008) and Cross Traffic (2013) – is back aboard and a victory will tie him with fellow Hall of Famers Pat Day and Jerry Bailey for the most wins.
China Horse Club International, WinStar Farm and Head of Plains Partners’ Japanese-bred Yoshida is a Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt but has struggled in four dirt starts since taking last year’s Woodward Stakes (GI) here at Saratoga. The imported son of Heart’s Cry, who won the Turf Classic Stakes (GIT) last year at Churchill Downs, was most recently sixth in the Dubai World Cup in March and sixth in the Stephen Foster (GI) at Churchill Downs. Jose Ortiz will again be aboard the Bill Mott trainee.
Centennial Farms’ Preservationist takes a step up in class off an impressive 4 ½-length victory in the Suburban Stakes (GII) a month ago. Jimmy Jerkens trains the 6-year-old son of Arch, who is riding a three-race win streak into this event. Junior Alvarado, who won the Whitney aboard Moreno in 2014, will ride again and the pair will break from post position four.
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith’s Iselin Stakes (GIII) winner Monongahela, a Pennsylvania son of K One King, has done well against mostly fellow state-breds and this is a huge jump up in class for him. Trainer Jason Servis rolls the dice anyway and Jose Lezcano will ride. Jose Lezcano, aboard for the Iselin score, will leave in search of his first Whitney win from post 3 at 12-1.
Uriah St. Lewis’ Forewarned captured the Cleveland Gold Cup last year at Thistledown but has done most of his best running against fellow Ohio-breds. Jockey John Bisono will ride the son of Flat Out from post position two.
Loooch Racing Stables, Inc. and Imaginary Stables’ Imperative will make his 50th career start in the Whitney though the 9-year-old son of Bernardini hasn’t been competitive in graded stakes company in years. He has earned $3,277,810 in his career, mostly by virtue of win sin the Charles Town Classic (GII) in 2014 and 2017. This will be his last start as owner Ron Paolucci has decided to send him to Old Friends Farm after this race. Jose Bracho will ride from the innermost post.
Post time for the Whitney has been set at 5:49 p.m. ET.