SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Life Is Good and Olympiad are set to battle for sovereignty amongst the older horse division in Saturday’s 95th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 6 at Saratoga Race Course.
The Whitney, which will air live on NBC as part of a one-hour broadcast from 5 p.m. Eastern, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifying event for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 at Keeneland.
Whitney Day also features two other Grade 1 events with the $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles over the Mellon turf and the $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs over the main track. Also featured on the card are the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls for older fillies and mares travelling 1 1/2 miles over the inner turf and the $135,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure for 4-year-olds and upward over the Mellon turf.
As one of the most important races in the North American handicap division, the Whitney has been won by subsequent Champion Older Horses Knicks Go  Improbable , Gun Runner , Honor Code , Blame , Lawyer Ron , Invasor , Left Bank , Lemon Drop Kid , Victory Gallop , Criminal Type  and Slew o’ Gold .
Prominent Whitney victors during the early years of the race include all-time greats Equipoise , Discovery [1934-36], War Admiral , Stymie , Tom Fool , Carry Back , Kelso [1961, 1963, 1965], Dr. Fager , Easy Goer  and Alydar .
A cumulative 26 triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures make up this year’s edition of the Whitney, with Life Is Good bragging the field-best 112 from a last-out victory in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud on July 2 at Belmont Park.
One of three entrants for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, a three-time Whitney winning conditioner, CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good was a five-length winner over Grade 1 winner Speaker’s Corner in the seven-furlong Nerud, which came after a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March – his only off the-board placing in nine career starts.
“In the Nerud last time, Speaker’s Corner was coming off some big races and he just took it to him,” said Pletcher, who won this race with Left Bank , Lawyer Ron  and Cross Traffic . “He’s got so much natural speed and such a high-cruising speed. His ability to carry it over a distance of ground is what makes him so unique and so successful.”
Pletcher said Life Is Good, a 4-year-old son of Into Mischief, benefitted from having a start between the Dubai World Cup and the Whitney.
“We just felt like coming back from Dubai and going to the Whitney without a race under his belt, we might not be taking out best shot at it, so I’m glad it worked out,” Pletcher added. “He ran a super race in the Nerud and has trained really well into the race.”
The appropriately-named Life Is Good’s natural speed has carried him to in-hand scores in six graded stakes races, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar as well as the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup two months later at Gulfstream Park.
He made his lone start at the Spa last August in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, where he engaged in a memorable stretch battle with Jackie’s Warrior, only to lose by a neck.
Life Is Good, made the favorite in all eight of his North American starts, boasts a consistent 9-7-1-0 record with $3,551,700 in earnings. He has been tabbed the 6-5 morning line favorite by NYRA oddsmaker David Aragona and will emerge from post 6 under three-time Saratoga meet leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr.
“I don’t think post position was hugely important here, but it was nice to not draw the one hole for a change,” Pletcher said. “He’s typically a good gate horse with a lot of natural speed, so I imagine he’ll be in the first turn in good order.”
Pletcher also will saddle Grade 1-winner Americanrevolution for the same ownership group as Life Is Good. Bred in New York by Fred W. Hertrich and John D. Fielding, the 4-year-old son of Constitution will attempt to join Diversify and Commentator as recent New York-bred Whitney winners.
The Whitney will serve as a homecoming for Americanrevolution, who makes his first start in the Empire State since taking last year’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on December 4 at Aqueduct.
A stakes winner at all four thoroughbred racetracks in the Empire State, Americanrevolution easily defeated his state-bred counterparts at stakes level during his sophomore season with victories in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes and Saratoga’s Albany. He registered his largest winning margin to date in the Empire Classic in October at Belmont Park, scoring by 11 3/4 lengths.
Americanrevolution made both his 2022 starts against open stakes company at Churchill Downs. He last raced when second to returning rival Olympiad in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster on July 2.
“He’s already a Grade 1-winner and he’s a son of Constitution, who we’re a big fan of,” said Pletcher, who also conditioned Americanrevolution’s prominent sire. “For him to have a horse like this is important and Americanrevolution is an important stallion prospect in his own right.”
Pletcher said Americanrevolution is training forwardly at the Spa, recording a half-mile breeze in 49.75 seconds over the main track on Saturday in company with Happy Saver.
“We wanted to make sure he breezed like he normally does and he did,” Pletcher said. “He’s always been a solid workhorse and he seemed to be getting over the ground well. It was a good solid gallop out.”
Luis Saez, last year’s leading rider at the Spa, will pursue his first Whitney victory when piloting Americanrevolution from post 1 at 5-1 morning-line odds.
Rounding out the Pletcher trio is Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver, who has been a model of consistency throughout his career with a perfect in-the-money record in 10 starts.
The 5-year-old Super Saver chestnut was unbeaten during his 3-year-old season, defeating eventual Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide and multiple graded stakes winner Tacitus in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, then conducted at Belmont Park. The victorious Grade 1 debut came on the heels of a triumphant stakes debut in Laurel Park’s seven-furlong Federico Tesio.
Happy Saver, second at Grade 1 level twice last year, has kept his consistent ways against quality company intact in both of his starts during his current campaign. He was second to Olympiad in the Grade 2 Alysheba in May at Churchill Downs and in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 11 at Belmont Park to Flightline.
“As a 3-year-old, he went from a seven-furlong maiden to an a-other-than to a stake at Laurel to winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He ascended through the ranks quickly,” Pletcher said. “While he hasn’t won as frequently, recently he’s shown up and run well. He was second to Flightline in the Met Mile and second to Olympiad in the Alysheba and held top class company all along. He’s consistent and tries hard every time. If someone stubs their toe, he’s the type that could pick up the pieces.”
Breaking from post 5, Happy Saver will be ridden by John Velazquez at 8-1 morning line odds. A victory would put the four-time Whitney winning rider on even terms with fellow Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day and Jerry Bailey, who each boast a record five wins.
“It’s the premier older horse race at the premier meet in the country. To me, it’s a huge, huge event,” Pletcher said.
Grandview Equine, LNJ Foxwoods and Cheyenne Stables’ Olympiad has enjoyed an unbeaten 4-year-old year and seeks his first Grade 1 victory for Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
The son of Speightstown had never run two turns prior to this year, but has shown an affinity for route races in all five of his 2022 starts. Following a decisive 7 1/4-length victory in a January 15 Gulfstream Park allowance optional claimer, Olympiad won Fair Grounds Race Course’s Grade 3 Mineshaft and Grade 2 New Orleans Classic in the spring en route to successful engagements in the Grade 2 Alysheba and Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
“It would be very important,” said Mott when asked of the significance of getting a Grade 1 victory. “He’s been rewarding in a lot of different ways and just by seeing him run some very good races. Obviously, he’s proven that he’ll go two turns.”
Junior Alvarado, who piloted 2014 Whitney winner Moreno, will seek his second Whitney victory when guiding Olympiad from post 4. He is the 2-1 second choice on the morning line.
Grade 1-winner Hot Rod Charlie has taken his show on the road worldwide, including to Dubai earlier this year. Trainer Doug O’Neill will give the 4-year-old son of Oxbow his first trip to the Spa for this year’s Whitney.
Hot Rod Charlie, who will race with blinkers on, boasts the highest bankroll in the field, with earnings of $5,151,200. He was a game second to Country Grammer in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup on March 26 at Meydan Racecourse and was a major force on the Triple Crown trail last year when third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and a hard-fought second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
“We were all concerned mid race, thinking he wasn’t going to fire that day for whatever reason,” O’Neill said of the Dubai World Cup. “But Flavien [Prat] was able to get him engaged and going, he really came charging at the end. Just like every race from him, we were proud of him.”
Hot Rod Charlie enters off a narrow defeat to multiple Grade 1-winner Mind Control in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on June 18 at Monmouth Park.
“I think that was a race where maybe he was a little rusty and maybe just a little too short,” O’Neill said. “I think he wants to go farther than that. But I was proud of the effort there and we’re hoping for it to all come together for the Whitney.”
Hot Rod Charlie has prepared for the Whitney at Keeneland, where he launched a breakthrough performance when second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 94-1 odds. Since early July, he has consistently breezed over the Lexington oval, where this year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held.
“We all huddled up and it looked like the race fit him well on the calendar,” O’Neill said. “With the Breeders’ Cup being at Keeneland, we love the opportunity to be able to train at Keeneland and popping up to New York didn’t seem like something that was going to be out of line. We’ll know more after the race, but it’s something that fits his schedule.”
O’Neill said a Whitney victory would be a great addition to Hot Rod Charlie’s already accomplished resume.
“It’s Grade 1 at Saratoga and it’s such a prestigious race,” O’Neill said. “There’s a lot of reasons to be proud just to have a horse in it. I can only imagine if he won it how grateful we would be. It would just confirm his gutsy, hard-fought efforts all over the world to come together for a Whitney victory, it would really confirm his greatness.”
Flavien Prat will ride Hot Rod Charlie from post 2 at 9-2 odds.
Completing the field is Gary Barber’s Zoomer, who will attempt to make a swift ascension from claim-to-fame for Hall of Famer Mark Casse.
The 6-year-old Curlin gelding has passed through the hands of a dozen different connections before being haltered for $50,000 out of a nine-furlong claiming event on July 17 at the Spa. Although Zoomer will make his Grade 1 debut in the Whitney, he is not short in terms of quantity of wins. He is the most seasoned horse in the field, boasting 11 victories in 37 starts.
“Gary liked him and we won an 11-way shake to get him,” Casse said. “He’s a lovely horse and he ran a 97 Beyer last time but even more remarkable is he ran a -2 on the Thorograph, which is a huge number. Obviously, that number would be needed in the Whitney. We realize that it’s a big ask, but we’ve seen some crazy things happen and even if we were able to pick up a small piece of the pie it would pay for him.”
Joel Rosario, the pilot aboard last year’s Whitney winner Kicks Go, will ride Zoomer from post 3 as the 30-1 longest shot on the morning line.
The Whitney is one of Saratoga’s marquee events and pays homage to one of the Spa’s most influential families, who for generations have had a profound effect on horse racing. The prominent Whitney family’s involvement in thoroughbred racing began with Jockey Club co-founder William Collins Whitney, who began owning thoroughbreds in 1898. His son Harry Payne Whitney campaigned horses under the moniker of Greentree Stables, who hold the record for most victories in the family’s namesake race with six winners. Horses owned by members of the Whitney family have gone on to win nearly every major horse race in North America, including all three American Classics. Marylou Whitney carried on the legacy until her passing in 2019.
The Whitney is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 12-race card, which offers a first post of 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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