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Whitney Handicap 2014 Picks; Gritty Field Of Nine Take On The Spa

Whitney Handicap 2014 Picks; Gritty Field Of Nine Take On The Spa: The 87th running of the 2014 G1 Whitney Handicap, or as it’s often referred to as the “Whitney Stakes,” takes place this Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at Saratoga Race Course near Saratoga Springs, New York. The race is for 3 year-olds and up running 1 1/8 miles on the dirt for a pot-of-gold worth $1,500,000 and is a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for an automatic paid start in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run Saturday, November, 1st, 2014. (See Updated Race Results & Replay)

Whitney Handicap 2014

Itsmyluckyday, pictured above, and Moreno are Kari & Sigi’s top picks for their 2014 Whitney Handicap plays.
Photo: Trixie Hammer

The race is named for the Whitney family, who have and remain very active and prominent participants and supporters of our wonderful sport. The inaugural running was won by two-time champion filly, Black Maria for Willliam R. Coe and was run at Belmont Park from 1943-45 during World War II and once again in 1961.

Some of the big-names in American racing history have won the Whitney including Kelso, who won it 3 times, the last in 1965 at eight years of age. The biggest upset was when Secretariat was beat in 1973 by Onion and six fillies have won the race: Black Maria (1928); Bateau (1929); Esposa (1937); Gallorette (1948); Lady’s Secret (1986) and Personal Ensign (1988). Last year the Whitney was won by Cross Traffic for Todd Pletcher in 1:47.89. He won that gritty race gate to wire and it was fantastic to watch.

Be on the lookout for some great racing Saturday at Saratoga as there are 5 stakes races on the card for “Whitney Day” and it looks quite loaded. The Whitney Handicap is the 10th race of the day on a card of 11 with a start time of 5:46 pm, EST following the (GI) Test Stakes. I’m not sure where to begin on some plays so Sigi and I will try to break this down as simple as possible.

As much as this race has Palace Malice written all-over it, he’s a complete play against for me. Starting out as the morning line even money, I’m guessing he’ll get bet down further so I’ll try to beat him. There are two in this race I think could spring the upset, so let’s take a look so I can make a case for both.

Kari’s Picks and Plays:

I’m going with the horse I don’t necessarily feel is the best; however, the race could shape up in his favor and that’s Itsmyluckyday. With his strong early speed and the ability to sit, he holds a major advantage . I like that Plesa, his trainer, is taking a shot here to show they are confident and ready. Last year the 4 year-old son of Lawyer Ron won the Gulfstream Park Derby, the (GIII) Holy Bull, was 2nd in the (GI) Florida Derby and the Preakness before being hurt running in the (GIII) Pegasus last June at Monmouth. After being off with a stress fracture for 9 months, his first race off the layoff he ran 4th to Palace Malice in the (GII) Gulfstream Park handicap on March 8th. After that, throwing down three consecutive stakes wins, most recently in the (GIII) Salvator Mile July 6th at Monmouth. He has a nice breeze of 4f in 49.40, galloping out five-eighths in 1:02 on this track. Itsmyluckyday departs from post #4 with his regular rider of late Paco Lopez who is shipping in from Monmouth. Hope Plesa and Paco are feeling lucky Saturday.

The 4 year-old son of Unbridled’s Song Will Take Charge could also post the upset. He is the leading money winner and only one in this field with 5 graded stakes wins. He returns to Saratoga where last year he won by a nose over Moreno, who he faces here again, in the 2013 Travers. He also won the (GI) Clark Handicap as well as the (GII) Rebel and Pennsylvania Derby, following that up with a tough loss to Mucho Macho Man in the (GI) Breeders’ Cup Classic. This year the Lukas trained boy has started in five major races, winning the (GII) Oaklawn Handicap and finishing 2nd in the (GI) Stephen Foster, Donn Handicap and the Santa Anita Handicap.

According to trainer D. Wayne Lukas: “Will Take Charge has thrived on his rigorous schedule. He has an affinity for this racetrack and he’s had a really good month.”

The rail has been winning at a 24% clip and the more I look at the race, the more I realize he may have less of a problem here. I think they hang him back and let the speed prevail, stalk and pounce. He gets his regular rider back up, after Stevens piloted the last two, with Saez in the irons from #1.

The key to this race, pace-wise, will be if Itsmyluckyday presses or tries to steal it from Moreno. If Moreno sets a hot pace, there is a lot of long-shot closing speed in this race like Prayer for Relief and Last Gunfighter.

Here’s my cheap two-cents for this race. I think Will Take Charge is the best horse in the race. However, graphics favor Itsmyluckyday if he doesn’t race to the lead. If they let him stalk Moreno to get first run on the field, he wins. If the race were 1 1/4 miles I think Will Take Charge would most likely win. The shorter distance makes Itsmyluckyday very live here and hopefully some decent odds.

My play will be a $1 pick 3 starting Race #8 5,7/3,5/1,4 and a small ladder bet (win/place) on #4 Itsmyluckyday. Good luck and thanks Sigi for adding your Pingos.

Sigi’s Picks and Plays:

I must admit, Palace Malice will be the vedette and probably the heavy favorite of the race, but I don’t want to buy a soda with my winning ticket. I’m going to try to beat him with Moreno, a really dangerous horse playing as the rabbit as well as the horse that can run near the lead, Itsmyluckyday. This time I’m playing a Daily Double starting in Race #9 2,3,5/3,4. Race #9: 2,3,5 and Race #10 3,4.

2014 Whitney Handicap Post Positions & Odds
1. Will Take Charge 4-1 L. Saez/D.Wayne Lukas
2. Prayer for Relief 20-1 J.Rosario/D.Romans
3. Moreno 10-1 J.Alvarado/E.Guillot
4. Itsmyluckyday 12-1 P.Lopez/E.Plesa Jr.
5. Palace Malice 1-1 J.Velazquez/T.Pletcher
6. Departing 6-1 R.Albarado/A.Stall Jr.
7. Romansh 10-1 J.Ortiz/T.Albertrani
8. Golden Ticket 20-1 J.Leparoux/K.McPeek
9. Last Gunfighter 15-1 J.Castellano/C.Brown

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