by Dustin Fabian
August 2, 2018
Saturday is a big day in horse racing and no stakes race is bigger than the $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga. Looking to separate the contenders from the pretenders? Here are the pros and cons of each horse, along with some 'bottom line' thoughts.
By the way, Xpressbet is offering a Money-Back Guarantee on the Whitney. Bet your horse and get your cash back into your account if they finish 2nd or 3rd.
Bet the Whitney as Race 9 at Saratoga at 5:46PM ET. Watch the race on the NBC Sports Network from 5PM - 6PM ET.
Here's the field:
1. Tapwrit (6/1)
Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta, Bridlewood Farm, Gainesway Stable and Whisper Hill Farm LLC
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Biggest Win: 2017 Belmont Stakes (Gr 1)
2017 Belmont Stakes winner obviously has a high ceiling and makes his third start of the year which is often a good angle…Combo of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez have teamed to win the Whitney three times (2013 – Cross Traffic, 2007 – Lawyer Ron, 2002 – Left Bank)…Is a four-year-old, a trait he shares with seven of the last eight Whitney winners.
Zero-for-two on the season including a very underwhelming performance in the G2 Suburban last out when beaten nearly 10-lengths by Diversify…Has recorded only one career 100-plus Beyer figure and that came in the Belmont…0-for-2 at Saratoga including 8-lengths behind West Coast in last year’s Travers…Regular rider, Jose Ortiz, who has been aboard for his last eight starts, opts to ride Good Samaritan today.
Let him beat you. He’s never proven he can run with horses like Diversify, Mind Your Biscuits and Backyard Heaven and it’s a good time to remind you that his two biggest wins came with Irish War Cry, Patch, Gormley, State of Honor and Wild Shot in tow. He needs to do better.
2. Backyard Heaven (9/2)
Owner: Ken & Sarah Ramsey
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Biggest Win: 2018 Alysheba Stakes (Gr 2)
Showed immense talent winning the Alysheba in just his fourth career start…Has recorded a pair of 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in five starts, including a 108 in a first level allowance at Aqueduct on March 17…His sire, Tizway, won the 2011 edition of this race…Javier Castellano, who on the 2015 Whitney with Honor Code picks up the mount…Displays strong tactical speed and will use it to stalk the pace and get a jump on the closers…Beat Good Samaritan by more than 5-lengths in the Alysheba…Conditioned by leading Saratoga trainer, Chad Brown.
Finished a distant sixth, beaten nearly 11-lengths, in the G1 Stephen Foster last out at Churchill Downs…That was his only race at today’s 1 1/8-mile distance…Regular jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., opts to ride favored Diversify…His five career starts are eight fewer than any of today’s rivals…Hard to back with confidence on the heels of his most recent poor start.
Toughest call in the field, but you have to trust that Brown wouldn’t be back here with him if he didn’t think that Foster performance was a fluke. If he can run back to his Alysheba – and with a little luck (say Diversify bounces and Mind Your Biscuits hits a wall) – he should be in a great position at the quarter pole.
3. Dalmore (30/1)
Owner: Loooch Racing Stables, Inc., Ashley Quartarolo, Raquel Ritchie, Cristina Ritchie and Bob Hess Jr.
Trainer: Bob Hess Jr.
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Biggest Win: 2016 Affirmed Stakes (Gr 3)
Finished second, beaten 1 1/2-lengths in the G3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows on July 6…Has strong early speed and projects to sit second behind Diversify…Without much other speed entered, he may hang around longer than anticipated…Was runner-up in his only previous Saratoga start, a 2015 maiden claiming race…Finished second in two-of-three prior tries at today’s 1 1/8-mile distance.
Just 1-for-13 in stakes races…Finished 5th (2016 Pacific Classic) and 8th (2016 Wood Memorial) in only prior G1 tries…Lone stakes win came at the G3 level…Career top Beyer Speed Figure is 102, but has not eclipsed 97 since…Simply appears a cut below the top four or five horses in this field…Finished fourth, beaten 6-lengths, in Oaklawn’s Essex prior to the Cornhusker.
He’ll give you some cheap thrills and he’s a solid horse when he’s atop his game. But ultimately his stakes record is atrocious and this is a horse that has dropped decisions at tracks like Zia Park, Louisiana Downs, Oaklawn and Golden Gate. Hard to envision him factoring at Saratoga.
4. Mind Your Biscuits (2/1)
Owner: Shadai Farm, J Stables LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Scott M. Summers, Daniel Summers, Chad Summers and Michael Kisber
Trainer: Chad Summers
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Biggest Win: 2018 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1)
Finished second, beaten just a nose, in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap last out…Has eclipsed 100-Beyer Speed Figure plateau in 5-of-7 US starts since 2017…Earned a career high Beyer of 109 in Met Mile…Two-time winner of the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen…Finished in the Exacta in 16-of-22 career starts...Other stakes wins include the G1 Malibu, G2 Belmont Sprint Championship and G2 Amsterdam…He an Joel Rosario have combined for four victories since December 2016...117lb impost is 7lbs less than Tapwrit an Diversify.
Has yet to race around two-turns or beyond one-mile…Has lost five of his last six starts…Is just 1-for-5 at Saratoga, including an 8-length drubbing last summer in the G1 Forego...Breeding (by Posse) doesn’t necessarily suggest he will relish racing this far…Will need a quick pace in order to reel in Diversify.
He has a phenomenal resume, but ultimately he’s going to need some help to win here. I do trust that he can route, but his Saratoga record is concerning and this race is still Diversify’s to lose. On the bright side, he gets a nice weight break and came from the clouds on a speed-favoring track in Dubai to reel in Roy H and X Y Jet, so at least we know he can overcome bias.
5. Discreet Lover (30/1)
Owner: Uriah St. Louis
Trainer: Uriah St. Louis
Jockey: Manny Franco
Biggest Win: 2018 Excelsior Stakes (Gr 3)
You have to be in it to win it and it’s least he’s here…Is a 6-time winner and earner of $821K…Finished third last out in the G2 Suburban…Won the G3 Excelsior at Aqueduct in April…Has paired career-best Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts.
Severe longshot and is just 6-for-41 in his career…Is in his best form and was still beaten 8 1/2-lengths by Diversify in the G2 Suburban and 6-lengths by Bee Jersey and Mind Your Biscuits in the G1 Met Mile…Has yet to finish in the Trifecta in three races at Saratoga…Just 1-for-13 at today’s 1 1/8-mile distance…Likely to run from far back with the ultimate goal cashing a piece of this $1.2 million purse by finishing between 3rd and 5th.
His current form isn’t bad, but he’ll need some of today’s rivals to severely underperform if he’s to be a serious threat. It is worth noting that he closed better than both Good Samaritan and McCraken in the Met Mile, so don’t be afraid to use him at the very bottom of your vertical exotic bets.
6. Diversify (7/5)
Owner: Ralph & Lauren Evans
Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Biggest Win: 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)
Career-best Beyer Speed Figure (110) earned last out in the G2 Suburban when he romped by 6 1/2-lengths…Has won 9-of-14 career starts, including 9-of-12 at New York tracks…Won his only career Saratoga race – last summer’s Evan Shipman – by 11 1/2-lengths…Irad Ortiz Jr. opts to ride him over Backyard Heaven…Frontrunning style appears to be to his benefit in this field…Recorded a massive workout – 5f in :59 – on July 29 (fastest of 48).
Ran a huge race just 4-weeks ago in the Suburban and his connections were on the fence about running him here…He could be a significant bounce candidate…Carries a co-field highweight of 124lbs…Has recorded just one workout since his Suburban win.
Handicapping this race comes down to one question – will Diversify run his race or will he bounce? If the former, he wins for fun. If the latter, they’ll sweep past him. It felt like his connections were looking for reasons to skip this and run in the Woodward in September, but he showed up here instead. That’s a good sign, especially in a race without much speed signed on.
7. Good Samaritan (12/1)
Owner: WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd., SF Racing LLC and Head of Plains Partners LLC
Trainer: Bill Mott
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Biggest Win: 2017 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2)
Get backs to his preferred trip Saturday…Biggest win of his career came last summer at Saratoga in the G2 Jim Dandy against Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing…Also won the G2 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds in March…Career high Beyer Speed Figure of 102 was earned in Churchill’s Clark Handicap last fall…7-2-1-1 record on dirt…Has never finished out of the Exacta in three tries at this distance…Jose Ortiz opts to ride him over Tapwrit.
Disappointing performances in G1 Met Mile (7th) and G2 Alysheba (3rd) in most recent starts…His deep closing running style may be a deterrent in this field…Has just one win in his last six starts…Last two Beyer figures (96) are dwarfed by Discreet Lover and match McCraken…Beaten 5 1/4-lengths by Backyard Heaven in the Alysheba…Beaten 7 1/4-lengths in the Met Mile…Just 1-for-7 in 2017 and 1-for-3 in 2018.
On his best day, he can finish in the Top 2 or Top 3 here, but he’s also a cut below the big ones here on most days. He may well be overbet on the heels of his big Jim Dandy win last summer, but it’s hard to view him as anything more than a fringe challenger.
8. McCraken (15/1)
Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Biggest Win: 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2)
6-time winner and an earner of $836K…Beaten just a nose in last year’s G1 Haskell…Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount and he’s the only jockey McCraken knows…Owner, trainer and jockey teamed to win this race in 2012 with Fort Larned.
He’s 0-for-3 in G1 races and just 3-for-10 in all graded races…Was 3rd, beaten 2 1/4-lengths, last out in the G3 Cornhusker…Previously finished 6th beaten 7-lengths in the G1 Met Mile…Has not won a race away from Churchill Downs since February 2017…Is 0-for-6 away from Churchill and Tampa…Finished 7th, beaten 12 1/4-lengths, in last year’s Travers…0-for-4 at Saturday’s distance…Like Good Samaritan, he appears to be up against it from a pace perspective…Career high Beyer is just 96.
Of the closers, it’s hard to even make a case that he’s better than Discreet Lover, let alone Good Samaritan or Mind Your Biscuits. There’s a G3 at Mountaineer on Saturday that appears to be a better spot, but it’s clear the connections are desperate to get a G1 into him. He’s not for me, though.