August 3rd 2017
This coming Saturday we have another high-profile “Win and You’re In” race with the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Inaugurated in 1928, the Grade 1 “Whitney Handicap” carries a $1.25 million dollar purse. A field of seven horses are vying for an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gun Runner is the morning odds favorite at 4/5.
Below are the post-positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:
The Whitney Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 5th at 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC
1. War Story (121) – Castellano/Navarro – 6/1
2. Breaking Lucky (117) – Contreras/Baker – 8/1
3. Cautious Giant (117) – Bracho/Quartarolo – 30/1
4. Tu Brutus (117) – I. Ortiz Jr./Contessa – 8/1
5. Keen Ice (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 3/1
6. Gun Runner (124) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4/5
7. Discreet Lover (117) – Franco/St. Lewis – 25/1
Race Analysis: Gun Runner is the deserved favorite and you could make a great case that he is now the top thoroughbred in the world on dirt with the surprising recent loss by Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap. I am very high on Gun Runner and normally I would recommend placing a nice, big fat win bet on him here. However, Saratoga has lived up to it’s name as the “Graveyard of Champions” with the number of upsets that the track has seen here already this year.
Keen Ice is the second favorite at 3/1 odds and he holds the distinction as the only living horse to beat a Triple Crown champion when he upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Is another Keen Ice upset in store? Closers have fared well at Saratoga, but I feel that the son of Curlin prefers 10 furlongs over 9.
I am very interested to see how the Chilean-bred horse Tu Brutus performs in this race. He has produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) for in this field (and third best in 2017) when he earned a 118 BSF with his 2nd place finish in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct back in early April. However, in his North American racing career, he has raced a the following distances: 1 1/4 mile, 1 3/8th mile and 1 1/2 mile. So I am not sure how he will take to cutting back in distance.
War Story and Breaking Lucky have never won a Grade 1 race. From looking at their workout history, Breaking Lucky seems to be training better of the two. However, he has been beaten by Gun Runner twice in the Clark Handicap last November and in his most recent start in June in the Stephen H. Foster Handicap. I don’t see an upset coming from either of these horses or the two longshots: Discreet Lover and Cautious Giant.
At any rate, Gun Runner is a fighter and I think a nice Place bet on him would be the safest bet to make here since strange things have been happening at Saratoga. Betting aside, this should be an interesting race and “must-see” TV.
On the Docket…
My next blog will rank the Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders and then I will preview the 2017 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar which is scheduled for Saturday August 19th. Arrogate and Accelerate are expected entries. If both are entered, this would provide a rematch of Arrogate vs Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap. Like the Whitney Stakes, the TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
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