A field of eight older horses is set to line up for Saturday's 78th running of the prestigious Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. Won by Roses in May in thrilling fashion over Perfect Drift in 2004, this year's edition includes division leader Saint Liam--with trainers Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher entering two starters each.
Bred in Kentucky by Edward P. Evans, William and Suzanne Warren's deserving 122-pound highweight Saint Liam
has been sensational since giving 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper all he could handle in a neck loss in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last fall.
Wins in the 2004 Clark (gr. II), and the 2005 Donn (gr. I) and Stephen Foster (gr. I) Handicaps since have made the 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado one to fear when at his best.
Trainer Rick Dutrow returns for his first major stakes since serving a 60-day suspension, and regular rider Edgar Prado will get aboard the front-running dark bay or brown horse who has amassed earnings of $1,573,395.
A $130,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale graduate of 2001, Saint Liam put in a bullet five-furlong work (1:02.30) over the Saratoga main track Monday and appears ready for the test.
Saint Liam is winless in two tries over the Union Street oval. He and Prado will break from post two.
A pair of foes will challenge Saint Liam for trainer Nick Zito and owner Tracy Farmer: stakes winners Commentator
, first in the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland's fall meet; and Sir Shackleton
, victorious earlier the year in the Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
A 4-year-old Distorted Humor
gelding, the chestnut Commentator was bred in New York by Michael Martinez. Farmer went to $135,000 at the July 2002 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale and Commentator has returned $210,092 on the investment.
He's won six of seven starts (including two impressively at the Spa last summer) but has yet to prove himself around two turns.
"We are in no-man's land," said Zito of the distance concerns. "He's an amazing horse. Maybe he can't go that far, but I think he can. We'll find out. If not, we'll just re-group. Still, we really think he's a tremendous horse."
Impressive in his last start, a 16 1/2-length win in a Belmont allowance contest, the lightly-raced Commentator posted a sizzling five-furlong move (:59.19) over the main track July 30.
Gary Stevens will guide the gelding for a likely pace-setting trip from post four.
Zito and Farmer will also send Sir Shackleton from the rail. The 4-year-old Miswaki colt out of the Star de Naskra mare Naskra Colors is moving up on earnings of $1 million and has won or placed in nine of his 15 starts.
The Farmer homebred notched 2004 stakes wins in the West Virginia Derby (gr. III) and the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III). A dull five-furlong (1:04.09) prep on the main track July 30 may give bettors pause, though he did post a bullet move at that distance (1:00.43) July 23.
Also aiming for distinction is the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of millionaires Pollard's Vision
. (Pletcher saddled 2002 Whitney winner, the late Left Bank, on his way to that year's champion older horse title.)
Owned by Dogwood Stable, Limehouse got 1 1/2 lengths clear of Gygistar in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard June 11. The 4-year-old son of Grand Slam
has graded stakes wins at two, three, and four to his credit having annexed the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) in 2003, and the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) stakes last season.
Bred in Florida by Cheryl Curtin, Limehouse was no match for Lava Man in his last start in the July 9 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), but did place in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) for his best finish against top company.
John Velazquez gets the call.
Edgewood Farm's always consistent Pollard's Vision seeks his first grade I win but will have to be on the top of his game to get there.
The 4-year-old son of Carson City needed more while second to Eddington by 5 1/4 lengths in the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I) May 20, but prior to that took top check in the National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne, scene of his Illinois Derby (gr. II) win last year.
Bred in Kentucky by Charles Smith, Pollard's Vision has earned $1,425,311 and has won or placed in 17 of 22 starts. Look for he and Jerry Bailey to stalk.Wiggins
, and 2005 Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) winner Eurosilver
(who broke his maiden at the Spa in 2001) complete the field.Whitney Handicap (gr. I), Saturday, Aug. 6, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, $750,000. Appx. post time 5:20 p.m. EDT.
PP--Horse, Weight, Jockey,
1a--Sir Shackleton, 115, Javier Castellano
2--Saint Liam, 122, Edgar Prado
3--Wiggins, 112, Mark Guidry
4a--Commentator, 115, Gary Stevens
5--Swingforthefences, 113, Eibar Coa
6--Eurosilver, 114, Robby Albarado
7--Limehouse, 117, John Velazquez
8--Pollard's Vision, 117, Jerry Bailey