Whitney Stakes Post Draw Quotes

July 29, 2020

Here are what some of the players had to say following the draw for the 2020 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. The race drew a small but select field of five headed by Tom’s d Etat.

Al Stall, Jr., trainer of 6-5 favorite Tom’s d’Etat (No. 5): “Everything is on schedule. He’s his normal laid-back self. He does everything comfortable and at his own pace. That’s what we’re accustomed to seeing and he’s giving us every indication he’s sitting on a good race.”

On competing in a compact five-horse field: “You can see from his PPs that when the pace is fast, he comes from off the pace and if it’s slow, he’s right on top of it. That’s a good thing for us. That’s [a compact field] not my problem. That’s for [jockey] Joel Rosario and it’s 100 percent in his hands. Joel is undefeated on him. The way he rode him in the Fayette, Mr Freeze was the lone speed and he was right on him. He came back a month later in the Clark and there was a big old scrimmage on the front end and he eased right out of it. The same thing happened at Oaklawn [in the Oaklawn Mile] and then Miguel [Mena] came back and got a slower pace in the Foster. So, we’ll see what happens.”

On his success at Saratoga, winning races here at age 3, 4 and 6: “Some horses just take to it. I can tell in the couple weeks he’s been here, his hair is great and his eye is just what you want and it seems like he knows just where he is. He’s been here at 3, 4 and 6. He took off just one year and this will be his fourth year here and he seems to know his way around.”

On the importance of races for older horses: “He had some minor setbacks early in his career and that forced us to give him some time, but I am a fan of older horses. I’m just as happy to run in the Whitney as I would be to run in the Louisiana Derby. I’ve never run in the Kentucky Derby but I have no problem with waiting around for nice older horse stakes races. It’s fun to run in races like the Whitney, the Foster and the Fayette.”

On the importance of the older horse division for the sport: “There’s no doubt about it. He’s certainly a popular horse and he’s loved by one and all. It’s also because he’s been around. He’s run at a lot of tracks over the years, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Keeneland, Churchill and Saratoga, so the people get to know him and he also delivers, and that helps.”

Shug McGaughey, trainer of 5-2 Code of Honor (No. 3): “It won’t be easy, but I just hope Code of Honor runs a monster race. It will be kind of interesting to see what the tactics are with only five [horses]. I know where I’m going to be, but I’m not sure what the others are going to do or how much they’re going to press. [Jockey] Joel [Rosario, aboard Tom’s d’Etat] isn’t going to do anything stupid. Hopefully he’ll be up there fairly close, as he was in the Stephen Foster.

“He’s always liked it up here and liked training over the track. But it’s a different main track up here than it was in the Travers. How much different, I’m not sure. I think that Code of Honor has always liked it up here. He trained well here as a 2-year-old and he ran well. He trained well here as a 3-year-old and ran well. He’s been training well since we’ve come up here this year, so hopefully he runs well again.

“Two turns going a mile and an eighth is what he wants to do. I do think that last year, the Dwyer was one of his better races. But now that he’s gotten older, and gotten stretched out, two turns going a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter is where he’ll run his better races.”

John Kimmel, trainer of 12-1 Mr. Buff (No. 4): “We know this place has been known as the “Graveyard of Favorites,” but Mr. Buff is stepping into some deep water in this race. People might look at his last race and just kind of think that he’s a little bit off form. But this horse has run commensurate numbers with all the horses in this race when he’s been running against New York-bred company. People obviously think he can’t do it against open company. “This horse in his last race actually had a little bone bruise in his foot. We went into it thinking he was OK, but I definitely think it bothered him. The blacksmith after that race cut out a little area and he had a little area of blood and some damage and since we have re-shod him he has been a very happy horse here. He’s had two very nice breezes over the racetrack. “We’ve got a racetrack here now with the crushed stone base that’s very similar to the Aqueduct track, where he’s been phenomenal. The other thing is, there are no more New York-bred races this year so basically this horse was going to be sitting on the fence for the whole summer unless we ran in this race. He’s out of conditions, obviously. The horse is a very good horse and someday, maybe just like Bar of Gold, they show up on the right day at the right time and knock the hell out of the odds.” “I was hoping that Improbable [No. 2, 5-2] was going to be improbable to enter this race, but he’s obviously got some tactical speed. He’s to the inside of us. We’re going to come out forward. He does run his best races, it seems, on the front end, and we’re going to make sure there’s that opportunity for him in here. [Jockey] Junior [Alvarado] has gotten to know him. He has sat off a horse before and won the race, but considering the way this race is so light with horses, he’s going to come out forward and make sure that the pace is legitimate.” Note: Bar of Gold upset the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2017 at odds of 66-1 for the same connections as Mr. Buff.

The Whitney for 4-year-olds and up will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

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