Trainer Rick Dutrow told a national teleconference Tuesday he is expecting a "huge" performance from Saint Liam in Saturday's Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. Not that anyone needs Dutrow to tell them that, as the Stephen Foster (gr. I) winner likely will be an overwhelming favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race.
Of course, that all depends on the condition of the track. If it comes up sloppy, there is a good chance Dutrow will run Suburban Handicap (gr. I) winner Offlee Wild instead.
"We're trying to keep those two apart, but if anything happens, such as a sloppy track, Offlee Wild will be ready to run as well," Dutrow said. "We've had this targeted for Saint Liam for a while, so we're going to give it our best shot with him."
Dutrow said, as of now, he's pointing Offlee Wild toward the 10-furlong Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) Aug. 21, assuming the colt shows a liking for the Saratoga surface.
Dutrow believes if Saint Liam likes the track, he is capable of doing something special in the Whitney.
"His best race is when he has a target," Dutrow said of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.'s 5-year-old horse. "If Saint Liam runs his race and he likes this track, you're liable to see him run the best race he's ever run. He is going to have a target, that's for sure, and that's what he loves. So if he likes that track, you guys are going to see Saint Liam run a huge race."
The Whitney will be Dutrow's first major stakes since returning from a 60-day suspension. When asked what his role was calling the shots during his suspension, Dutrow would only comment, "The rules of the suspension say you can't be involved in any aspect of the business, so I'm going to have to leave it at that."
Dutrow said he is still bewildered by Saint Liam's poor performance in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 5, especially considering the race was sandwiched between brilliant victories in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and Stephen Foster.
"Your guess is as good as mine what happened in that race," Dutrow said. "I was all over him. He trained for the race super and he came out of it super. All we had to do is bide our time and pick our next spot. It's easy to say he didn't like Santa Anita, and I want to believe that more than anybody, but he's run well over every track he's ever been on. It would be great if he just didn't like the track. He showed since then he's capable of running a big one.
"His only issues are his feet, so there is always a concern about his liking Saratoga. He hasn't trained over the main track because of the long walk from the barn and the possibility of stepping on a rock or something. But I don't see any reason why he shouldn't love it."
Dutrow said if all goes well in the Whitney, he'll point Saint Liam for the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), then the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
Saint Liam, a son of Saint Ballado out of the stakes-winning Quiet American
mare Quiet Dance, has earned $1,573,395 in his three years in training. He has a 7-5-1 slate from 17 career starts.
Also pointing for the Whitney are the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Limehouse and Pollard's Vision, as well as Eurosilver, Wiggins, Alumni Hall, and either Commentator or Sir Shackleton, both of whom are owned by Tracy Farmer and trained by Nick Zito. Zito may also run recent allowance winner Dwango.