Tracy Farmer's Commentator, the expected elder statesmen of the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) on Aug. 8 at Saratoga, turned in a bullet work over the Oklahoma track at Saratoga July 23, breezing five furlongs in :59.12.
“To me, it was just unbelievable,” said trainer Nick Zito. “I mean, that’s Oklahoma, that’s unheard of. I don’t know how it is with humans and horse years, but he’s eight now and when I get to be (the equivalent) of his age, I want to act like that. It was very tight and he responded.”
With victories in the 2005 and 2008 Whitney, Commentator will try for his third win this year. Five-time Horse of the Year Kelso won his third Whitney at age 8 in 1965 and remains the oldest Whitney winner to date. Commentator stands with Kelso and Discovery, who won the Whitney three years in a row from 1934-36, as the only repeat winners of one of Saratoga’s biggest races.
Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini will likely try the Whitney again and comes off two stakes wins at Belmont, most recently in the grade II Suburban Handicap on July 4. He breezed five furlongs at Belmont July 20 in :59.80. Dry Martini finished fifth in the 2007 Whitney, but trainer Barclay Tagg believes the 6-year-old gelding will be primed for the effort this time around.
“I like to see horses get better as they get older,” Tagg said.
Also probable for the nine-furlong Whitney are Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Asiatic Boy, Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing Finallymadeit, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Arson Squadand William L. Clifton Jr.’s Tizway.
The Whitney is part of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Challenge series and the winner will earn an automatic qualifying berth into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 7. This is the third consecutive year that the Whitney will be a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
In other Saratoga news, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Warren’s Charitable Man, Centennial Farms’ Convocation, Alex Leiblong’s Duke of Mischief , Robert C. Baker’s Flying Private, Stonestreet Stables’Kensei, and A. Steven Miles Jr.’s Warrior's Reward are probable starters for the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) on Aug. 1. Flat Bold, Kelly Leak, Papa Clem and Saratoga Sinner are questionable.
Jon and Sarah Kelly’s Carribean Sunset, Darley Stable’s Criticism, Augustin Stables’ Forever Together, Flying Zee Stables’ I Lost My Choo, Lael Stable’s My Princess Jess, Virginia Kraft Payson’s Rutherienne, and Helen Groves’ Tejida are likely starters in the $500,000 Diana (gr. IT) on the same day. Closeout, Dynaforce, Mushka, and Quiet Meadow are questionable.
Also, on Aug. 3, Todd Pletcher will send out Edward Evans’ Quality Road in the $150,000 Amsterdam (gr. II) for 3-year-olds going 6 1/2 furlongs, his first start since his record-setting victory in the BlackBerry Presents the 58th Running of the Florida Derby (gr. I).
The son of Elusive Quality worked July 23 at Belmont Park, covering the five furlongs in :59.88.
“I got him a little faster but I thought it went well,” said Pletcher. “I was glad to get the work in between rains. He’ll most likely work again Wednesday up at Saratoga.”
Next on the agenda for Quality Road could be the $1 million Shadwell Travers (gr. I) on Aug. 29.
“After speaking with Mr. Evans, the Travers will be strongly considered,” said Pletcher. “If we can prepare him the way we’d like to prepare him, that will be our main goal.”