James Bond hasn’t made many starts in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), but when he does, you had better stop and take notice.
In 1997 Bond won the Whitney by a nose with Will's Way, who defeated arch rivals Formal Gold and Skip Away. Then, in 1999, he was beaten a nose with Behrens, who was just nipped by Victory Gallop. Behrens returned in 2000, but could finish no better than third.
Now Bond is back in the Whitney with Met Mile (gr. I) winner Tizway , owned by longtime client William Clifton Jr., who also was part-owner of Will’s Way and Behrens. The race will be run Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
Though Tizway’s best races have been at one mile, he did manage to finish third in the 2009 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and fourth in the 2009 Whitney. That gives Bond a Whitney superfecta, having finished first, second, third, and fourth in the prestigious nine-furlong event.
The Whitney will enable Bond to see just where he stands with Tizway and in which direction to go with the son of Tiznow .
“The distance is a question, but Saratoga is his home base,” Bond said. “Personally, I believe he’ll get the mile and an eighth or he wouldn’t be in there. This will serve as a barometer and tell us whether to go to the (Jockey Club) Gold Cup and hopefully on to the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic (gr. I) or stay at a mile.”
Bond had good luck working Tizway in company before the Met Mile, and he has used the same strategy once again.
“Since the Met he has been on almost the same training pattern, maybe just a little stronger,” Bond said. “He has been training on (the Oklahoma training track) and doing very well. Before the Met, we put another horse with him the last three-eighths to keep him honest, and I did the same thing this time.”
Bond knows the importance of the Whitney, which is expected to draw a deep, talented field. But he wants to get by this race before thinking about championships. He is well aware that the fillies Blind Luck and Havre de Grace are going to be tough to beat out.
“Both fillies put on great, great entertainment (in the grade II Delaware Handicap),” Bond said. “But it’s not about who’s is front in August. It’s about who’s in front in November. If we have a good run it’ll show everyone how good he is.
“He ran the second-fastest Met Mile in history out of the 11 post. And that race has had quite a roster of winners. I’m very proud of him, but I admit I’m biased. I’ll sit here all day and tell you he’s number one.
“Winning the Met Mile was more about redemption. I really like this horse. He has shown me so much brilliance and I called Mr. Clifton and told him I think I have him right again. No shoulders, no knees. When you can train regularly without interruption, it moves a horse up in my opinion.”
“This is a really good bunch of older horses, and tactics will play a big part in the race,” Bond said. “Hopefully at the end I’ll have the fastest horse with the most luck.”