Whitney Stakes 2019 Analysis

August 1, 2019

Saratoga Race # 9, The 92nd Running of the Grade One Whitney Stakes,  Purse $1,000,000.00

9 Furlongs (One Mile & 1/8th) for horses 3 & up. Estimated Post Time: 5:46PM.

Coverage Live on NBCSN FROM 5:00pm To 6:00pm EST.

Saratoga

Whitney Stakes Analysis

by Geo Sette. 

It’s that special time of year as the entire racing industry is filled with great anticipation and intrigue as the very best thoroughbreds from each division are entered in Grade One races across the country and across the globe to position themselves for the Breeders’ Cup Championships on November 1st and 2nd  at Santa Anita.

This historic race is no different. Inaugurated in 1928, it is arguably one of the best races of the calendar year, and each year, along with the Travers Stakes, one of the most anticipated. 

What is always fascinating is that the Whitney is for all horses 3 years-old and up, and is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. Simply said: “Win & You’re In”. The target? The $6,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

There will be heavy hearts in Saratoga Springs this year as the Legendary socialite, horse owner and philanthropist, Marylou Whitney, passed away on July 19th at the age of 93.  

The Whitney Stakes is named to honor C.V. and Marylou Whitney, titans of the sport in the Saratoga Springs area and nationwide. Marylou Whitney, was  graceful and elegant, so much so that when her colt Birdstone beat Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes, denying Smarty Jones the Triple Crown, she was openly apologetic. 

I’m certain there will be great tributes and homage spread around the track for Mrs. Whitney, as she will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (already scheduled prior to her death) on Friday, the day before this year’s race. 

The induction will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. The ceremony is open to the public and free to attend.

Of course this race over the years has had its share of dynamic results. Who can forget back in 2017 when Gun Runner almost effortlessly blasted away from the field or the absolute thrilling finish in 1999 when Victory Gallop closed powerfully throughout the stretch to emerge victorious. 

This year’s field is quite unique, especially when considering the age of each horse and the collective paths they took to be part of this race.

As you might expect, I took added time to dissect their careers’ past performances, dug deep into their bloodlines and watched numerous hours of their behavior and raw ability with film study. 

The following is my precise order of finish.

As I often share, I hope my thoughts provide you with a useful “guide” for you to make an informed decision for yourself at the betting window. I will say that over the years, I have had a great measure of success handicapping this race.  Ok, are you set? Let’s Go! 

# 5 Vino Rosso 

This 4 year old Chestnut son of Curlin, who was purchased for $410,000 as a yearling, is my top choice.

He began his career back in 2017, winning both starts as a two-year-old.  Although he won the Wood Memorial last year as a three-year old, for the most part he was a disappointment. Winning just 1 of his 7 starts, he came up short in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and the Grade 1 Travers over this same Saratoga soil.  Now as a four-year-old, he’s been impressively more professional, and has developed greater tactical habits in his races. Hall of Fame rider Johnny Velazquez is up once again ( he has ridden him in all of his twelve career starts) and Johnny is a 4-time winner of this race, so obviously he knows how to win in this spot. Saddled by Todd Pletcher, who is one of the best trainers in the business, has won this race three times.  They now have rested him for 2 months in preparation for this race. He comes off a dead game thrilling win over Gift Box in the Grade One Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He has proven to run well fresh off the bench as he won the Stymie at Aqueduct after a 7 month layoff. He’s been working well with moderate breezes over this same Saratoga Strip, and I feel this 9 furlong distance may be his best. He is undoubtedly facing some seasoned older horses, as well as some just as dynamic his age, but I feel he could be sitting on a big race and you simply cannot argue with the success of his connections. Look for him to be evenly tactical early on, perhaps sitting a closer 4th or 5th, then with the careful guidance of Velazquez, mount what could be a powerful close to get up at the wire and emerge victorious. In all 3 of his 2019 four year old starts, I have seen greater heart displayed, a true sign of guts and maturity. 

# 6 McKinzie    

This guy comes into this race with the most consistent Beyer speed ratings and is a Three-Time Grade One winner. He’s 10 for 11 lifetime in the money ( winning 6 and running 2nd 4 times) with his only lemon, an absolute major disappointment in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic where he faulted terribly and ran 12th in a field of 14 at Churchill Downs. This effort ( or lack of) still talked about today because he came into that race winning 4 of 5 and improving to a greater extent with each. Like my top choice, he’s been dead game as a four-year old, winning only 1 of 4 races, but only coming up short to great talents like Gift Box and Mitole.  His connections of course are as good as they get in the Sport of Kings.  In the saddle is the ageless Mike Smith (who won this race Circa 1993 with Brunswick)  and trained by Bob Baffert, who strangely enough has NEVER won this race.  When you consider Baffert’s level of championship success, it is quite perplexing how he’s never saddled a Whitney winner.  This colt has been a hard luck loser and a dynamic winner so he must be considered on many, if not all, of your betting exotics. He is working well in his AM drills; albeit all on the West Coast and his form simply cannot be questioned by anyone. Look for him to somewhat press the lead with his raw tactical speed as he’s likely to allow # 8 Preservationist (my 4th choice) to set the pace from his outside post. I am fully expecting Mike Smith to make smart decisions throughout the race.  With McKinzie’s natural ability to stay close, along with his Grade 1 class, even though facing some very talented older horses, he should be mounting a menacing stretch run, and perhaps once again just fall short.  This is one talented colt, maybe one day we’ll finally know why he was so bad on Breeders’ Cup Classic Day (perhaps he really had to go to the bathroom) .

You just never know  

# 4 Thunder Snow  

Let’s just call this guy one tough “World Traveler” and by far the richest earner in the race with $16,511,476.00 in purse money (no other starter has $4 million)

I call him a world traveler because he has won the Dubai World Cup Twice (that is pretty ridiculous). His Jockey, Christophe Soumillon knows the horse like the back of his hand, and he seems to always respond to his urging. He’s a championship runner on Turf and Dirt, finishing in the money in ALL of his 10 lifetime starts on the soil (winning 4, placing 4 and showing the other two). Overall he’s 19 for 24 lifetime in the money, his speed figures and overall race times are Grade One compatible with everyone else in the field. Although it’s his debut at Saratoga, I simply find it too difficult to dismiss him entirely so I am suggesting him as my 3rd choice in this field of 8.  He is one tough Five-Year-Old who has the propensity to do his best running late and usually he begins tactically sound too. He is facing a tough field of hard hitters, but I feel he must be considered as a contender to take it all with his best. Last note: His owner team won this race back in 2016 with Frosted, so that’s added success to consider. 

# 8 Preservationist  

Talk about a late bloomer, this guy is an extremely lightly raced Six-Year old who possesses high speed and boat loads of talent. He’s won his last 3 and 5 of his last 6. With his 8 lifetime starts, he’s never finished out of the money. In his last race, he had a huge class hike into the Grade 2 Surburban.   He proved to be worthy of the challenge as he completely dominated the field of 11, beating Grade 1 stakes winner Catholic Boy.  Now once again he is ambitiously entered in this Grade One Whitney and to take on some of the better older horses in training ( and younger ones for that matter). Junior Alvarado ( who won this race in 2014 with Moreno)  is up again for James Jerkens who has also had his share of success, but not at the level of Bob Baffert or Todd Pletcher. The Owner group (Centennial Farms) won this race back in 1994, so you can understand their optimism with the chance they are taking. This late developing son of Arch will certainly make his presence felt early in the race. He is likely to have the lead for as far as he goes, especially if he has a clean, alert break from the gate. His career earning are only above $500,000, so I am placing him as my 4th choice, respectfully of course because he’s been so good in 2019. When you handicap colts like this, it is always tough to consider over horses like my top 3 selections who are consistently proven warriors.  Lastly, he will likely take in money at the windows, so you won’t get much value with him.  He certainly has the ability to better my rating if one of my top 3 falters because they really needed to go to the bathroom.  He will be interesting to watch.

I will use him in many of my bottom gimmicks and superfecta wages, it’s always nice to have a horse out on the lead. 

# 7 Yoshida 

This guy scares me some.

Yeah, I know he’s my 5th choice ( for all reasons I listed above) but he’s a Grade One winner on both Turf and Dirt. He’s trained by Bill Mott, someone I have great respect for, yet, just like Bob Baffert, he’s never won this Whitney Stakes, and over the years he’s had a ton of great horses.  There’s a jockey switch to Joel Rosario, a big move considering he is replacing the mega talented Jose Ortiz, but this is happening because Rosario is an exceptionally strong armed closer who won this race aboard Frosted back in 2016. He’s 0-3 in 2019 which is why I have him ranked 5th in the field of 8, but he has shown some flashes of brilliance before, mostly however on the turf which I believe is his better surface. His connections are bringing him back to Saratoga where he won the Grade One Woodward with a smashing and rather powerful close, and yes, you guess it, Joel Rosario was aboard.  I have said this for a long time, one of these days a Japanese Bred horse is going to come in and win a huge race. I am expecting him to race well, but considering the current form of my top 4, the best I can offer is a 5th place finish and if someone collapses in front of him, perhaps a nice filler to your bottom gimmicks and extended Trifecta and Superfecta Wages. 

# 3 Monongahela  

This guy is a crafty Five-year-old who is a steady check earner, who comes to the race with the solid connections of Jose Lezcano and Jason Servis.  While watching numerous races on film, I was impressed with his willingness to run, and finish races, even when he’s had bad trips. He’s 19 for 24 lifetime in the money which demonstrates his ability to overcome obstacles and finish well.  His last at Monmouth Park in the Grade 3 Iselin was his career best, that is why he is in this race. You should warrant some generous odds if you choose to play him, but clearly he’s “Cheaper” than many in the field with earnings career earnings at $381,00+ with 19 placings in the money.  If he runs back to his last effort, he could threaten late to perhaps fill a bottom ticket.

I simply cannot endorse him for a Lion’s share. 

# 2 Forewarned   

This Four-year-old son of Flat out has been a consistent and reliable check earner over the last 2 years. He gets a positive switch to the talented hands of Dylan Davis who I feel has a nice future. But this is an Ohio bred horse who has not only been facing inferior competition, but his Beyers are substantially lower than all of the horses I have listed above him, He has shown a nose for the wire in dirt races, winning 5 of his 10 starts, but even still, he is simply up against it in a field packed with racing warriors. He should be taking in little money at the windows, expecting him to go off in the area of 50-1,  My apologies in advance for those that will consider him.

I am tossing him. 

# 1 Imperative  

 Yep, a Nine-Year Old gelding is starting in this Whitney. He’s got 49 Lifetime starts, and over 3.2 Million in lifetime earnings.  Congratulations to him. For the most part, this is his best distance, but just like  my 7th choice listed above him, his race times and speed figures are simply inferior to this group. I feel good for Jockey Jose Bracho as he gets to have a mount in this great race, something he can tell his grandchildren. With Imperative’s only recent win in the slop at an Ohio local Track vs cheap allowance company, I would be in great shock, perhaps worse if this horse won this race. I’m expecting him to potentially scratch.  If he actually runs, he’s almost a cinch to be either 6th, 7th or 8th,  I’m guessing it’s 8th and last. 

Tossing him too, rather passionately. 

Ok, so there you have it, as always I want to thank you in advance for reading my analysis and for any and all comments you may share.  Good Luck and Let’s go Get-Em.

~Geo 

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