The Whitney Holds Breeders' Cup Classic Berth

The Whitney Holds Breeders' Cup Classic Berth
Photo: Benoit Photography
Game On Dude

The path to the Breeders’ Cup Classic heads to Upstate New York Saturday when the $750,000 Whitney (GI) is run at Saratoga Race Course, with the winner earning an automatic starting berth into the Classic November 3 at Santa Anita. Under the enhanced conditions of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, the Whitney winner will have their Classic entry fee paid for and the winning stable will receive $10,000 in travel allowance.

Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Whitney has proven an instrumental Classic prep over the years, with Blame   (2010) and Invasor   (2006) parlaying wins into Classic success later in the fall. Saturday’s renewal is the third of six “Win and You’re In” races for the Classic, with the winner joining Hollywood Gold Cup (GI) winner Game On Dude and Stephen Foster (GI) winner Ron the Greek in the starting gate for this year’s Classic.

Favoritism in the Whitney is likely to fall to Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack Hammer’s Ron The Greek, who cemented his status as a leading Classic contender with his win in Churchill Downs’ Foster in his last start June 16. The 5-year-old son of Full Mandate also ran second in Gulfstream Park’s Sunshine Millions in January, won the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) in March and ran second in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in April for trainer Bill Mott, who won last year’s Classic at Churchill Downs with Drosselmeyer. All told, Ron The Greek has won 7-of-19 career starts and would vault to the top of the handicap division with a Whitney win.

Mott could also be represented by Preston Stable’s Flat Out  , who was second in last year’s Whitney and ran fifth as the favorite in last year’s Classic in a season that included wins in Belmont’s Suburban (GII) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI). The 6-year-old son of Flatter was trained by Scooter Dickey last year but made his debut with Mott when he ran second in Monmouth Park’s Monmouth Cup (GII) July 7. Flat Out has won 5-of-17 career starts and will look for his second grade I win in the Whitney.

Mott sent both Ron The Greek and Flat Out for their final works over the Oklahoma training track July 29, with the former going four furlongs in 49.02 while the latter went five furlongs in 1:02.33. Though Ron The Greek encountered some traffic during his work, Mott pronounced both ready for Saturday.

“Everybody was trying to get to the good surface when Ron the Greek went, and it got a little crowded, but it worked out all right,” Mott said. “Flat Out looked good, he’s doing well. Both are on target for the Whitney. It’s always a good race, there’s always a lot of good horses in there ready to run. We respect them all.”

Stuart Janney’s homebred Hymn Book won Gulfstream’s Donn (GI) in February and will look to better his fourth-place finish to Ron The Greek in the Oaklawn Handicap. The 6-year-old son of Arch rebounded from a disappointing fifth in the Pimlico Special (GIII) in May to run a late-closing second in Belmont Park’s Suburban in his last start July 7 and should appreciate the stretch back to two turns for trainer Shug McGaughey. Hymn Book enters at 7-for-17 lifetime and will look for his first grade I win in the Whitney.

WinStar Farm’s homebred Rule returned from a nine-month layoff when he won the Monmouth Cup for trainer Todd Pletcher. The 5-year-old son of Roman Ruler was a top early season 3-year-old in 2010 when he won the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs and ran third in Gulfstream’s Florida Derby (GI) but went just 1-for-8 last year, with a win in Saratoga’s Birdstone. Rule’s return to form at Monmouth, in addition to his sharp tactical speed, makes the 6-for-16 lifetime runner major player in the Whitney.

Rule tuned up for the Whitney July 29 over the Oklahoma track, getting five furlongs in 1:02.35.

“Rule is sort of an old, wiser horse who does what he has to do in the mornings,” said Pletcher. “It’s typical for him to not ‘wow’ you in the morning, but it seems like he’s doing well.”

Janis Whitham’s homebred Fort Larned   would be another speedy presence should he start for trainer Ian Wilkes. The 4-year-old son of E Dubai has won 6-of-16 career starts and enters off a powerful wire-to-wire win in Prairie Meadows’ Cornhusker (GIII) June 30. Fort Larned also won Gulfstream’s Skip Away (GIII) in March and will look to bridge the gap on Ron The Greek after running eighth in the Foster.

IEAH Stable, Pegasus Holding Group Stable and Mark Frimmel’s Trickmeister, a four time stakes winner who won the local Pleasant Colony in 2010; Repole Stable’s Caixa Eletronica, who won Belmont’s True North (GII) in June and Casner Racing’s Endorsement, who won the Texas Mile (GIII) at Lone Star in April could also start in the Whitney.

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