Saint Liam, arguably the nation's top older horse after 2005 victories in the grade I Donn and Stephen Foster handicaps, breezed five furlongs over Saratoga's Oklahoma training trackMonday morning in 1:02 1/5 beneath jockey Rudy Rodriguez. It was the fastest of six moves at the distance.The 5-year-old will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's 78th running of the grade I, $750,000 Whitney Handicap at nine furlongs, where he has been assigned top weight of 122 pounds.Dubai World Cup winner and defending Whitney victor Roses in May was also nominated to the Whitney at 122 pounds and would have given Saint Liam a run for his money, but is expected to wait for the grade II Saratoga Breeders' Cup later in the meet on August 21st.
"He's ready," said Rodriguez, who works Saint Liam for trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr. "I honestly think he's doing as good if not better than ever. We've just got to keep our fingers crossed. If he runs his race and we get a little luck he's going to be tough. He's definitely ready."
Dutrow, who recently returned from a 60-day suspension, also liked what he saw this morning."He's doing very good," Dutrow said. "I'm always excited to see a top horse run, especially when they're mine."
Dutrow admits Saint Liam, who races with blinkers and has a habit of bearing out during his stretch runs, can be a bit quirky sometimes.
"My only concern is him getting along with the track," Dutrow said. "He can do some goofy things sometimes which, we all know. If he runs to the way he's trained, he should be tough."
Dutrow also nominated recent grade I Suburban Handicap winner Offlee Wild (117 pounds) to the Whitney, although he would prefer running Saint Liam.
"I don't want to run both against each other," Dutrow said. "I'm going to run Offlee Wild if it comes up wet. Otherwise, Saint Liam is going." Others considering the Whitney are Limehouse (117), Pollard's Vision (117), Dwango (112), Eurosilver (114) and Wiggins (112). Alumni Hall (115), Commentator (115) and Sir Shackleton (115) may run, too. The Whitney will be shown as ESPN's tape-delay production on Sunday from 6-7 p.m. EDT.