Several key contenders for the Aug. 4 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) breezed July 29 on the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga Race Course, and trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Mike Repole's Caixa Eletronica for the 1 1/8-mile event along with WinStar Farm's Rule .
Rule , winner of the July 7 Monmouth Cup (gr. II) by 1 1/2 lengths over Flat Out, posted a five-furlong move in 1:02.35 in company with 2-year-old maiden Palace Malice.
Other Whitney probables turning in works included Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, and Jack Hammer's Stephen Foster (gr. I) winner Ron the Greek and Preston Stables' Flat Out, who ran second to Tizway in the 2011 edition of the race.
Both are conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who supervised Flat Out going five furlongs in 1:02.33 under Neil Poznansky, while Ron the Greek breezed four furlongs in :49.02 with Rodolphe Brisset aboard. Both works on the Oklahoma training track came after the first renovation break.
Stuart Janney III's Hymn Book, who rallied from last to finish second behind Mucho Macho Man in the July 7 Suburban Handicap (gr. II), also turned in his final Whitney drill. He went an easy half-mile in :50.22 after the first renovation break on the Oklahoma training track.
All three trainers of the four top runners had good things to say about the preparations.
"Rule is sort of an old, wiser horse who does what he has to do in the mornings," Pletcher said. "It's typical for him to not 'wow' you in the morning, but it seems like he's doing well."
Pletcher considered running Caixa Eletronica in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 5 before deciding in favor of the 1 1/8-mile Whitney. The son of Arromanches won the $1 million Charles Town Classic (gr. II) going the Whitney distance April 14, then earned a victory sprinting six furlongs in the True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 9. In his most recent try, Caixa Eletronica was fifth in the James Marvin (gr. III) at seven panels on July 20 at the Spa.
"Caixa Eletronica is going to run in the Whitney, but since he is running back in two weeks he will not breeze," said Pletcher. "He's 2-for-2 at a mile and an eighth, he's won a $1 million race at a mile and an eighth, and we felt like the six furlongs here may not set up like the six furlongs at Belmont in the True North. I think it's a little harder to make that deep-closing move here."
Mott professed himself satisfied with the works of both his contenders, and could potentially add a third to the mix.
"Ron the Greek had some company early; actually, he had some company with some other horses that weren't ours," he said of the 5-year-old son of Full Mandate, who this year also won the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). "There were so many horses working, he kind of got caught up, but it worked out all right. Everyone was trying to get the track at its best."
Mott has an additional Whitney candidate in Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) winner To Honor and Serve , but remained noncommittal about whether he would enter the colt.
"I'll never tell," he said.
Scheduled for the worktab is Casner Racing's Endorsement, who could put in his final pre-Whitney work July 30 depending on weather. On July 23, the 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor breezed five furlongs over Saratoga's main track in a bullet :58.86 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.26.
"He loves it here. He's really, really training good here," trainer Eoin Harty said. "I hadn't seen him in a week, and I saw him this morning and he's really in top shape. After a work like he did here last weekend, to be acting like he's acting is a real positive sign."
Harty wasn't pleased with Endorsement's behavior prior to his start in the Suburban, when he acted up in the paddock and the starting gate before finishing last of seven, beaten 37 lengths.
It was the poorest career performance by far for Endorsement, winner of the Texas Mile (gr. III) and third by a length in the Pimlico Special (gr. III) this year. He has been off the board just twice in 10 starts, with four wins and three seconds.
"If I didn't have a reason why he ran so poorly, I'd say I wouldn't have even considered this race," Harty said. "But, he had a genuine reason for running so badly, and his races up to the Suburban were good races. He showed improvement in each race, so if you throw out the Suburban, he deserves a shot."