Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 Whitney Stakes is an annual highlight of the elite summer meet at Saratoga Race Course. The 1 1/8-mile race is rich in tradition, and named after one of the most influential families in the history of horse racing.
This 98th edition of the Whitney brings together some of the best older dirt horses currently in training, with a small but elite field of five runners.
The contest is listed as race ten on a card of twelve with a scheduled Post Time of 5:50.
Here is a look at the field.
1. BY MY STANDARDS [ML 10-1] Jockey: Gaberiel Saez. Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Last year’s Whitney runner-up has kept his solid form into his 5-year-old season, Winning the two-turn Oaklawn Mile Stakes in his April debut and then overcoming a rough start to finish a good 2nd to SILVER STATE in the Metropolitan Handicap, going a one-turn mile on June 5th at Belmont Park. Several rivals enter the Whitney with more impressive recent races, however, which means that two or three of them will have to regress and BY MY STANDARDS will need to recapture his peak summer 2020 form to take the top prize.
2. SILVER STATE [ML 4-1] Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Trainer: Steve Asmussen. He rolls into the Whitney on a six-race Winning streak but is still somewhat under the radar, which is a testament to the quality of this year’s field. This year SILVER STATE has Won four consecutive Stakes races at a mile or longer, including the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap in April. After that Win, he scored a mild upset in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont, saving ground through the turn and rallying on the rail in mid-stretch to draw clear and defeat BY MY STANDARDS by a length, with KNICKS GO coming 4th. He bested a top-class field in the Met Mile and will face another one again Saturday. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen Won the 2017 Whitney with eventual Horse of the Year GUN RUNNER.
3. SWISS SKYDIVER [ML 6-1] Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Ken McPeek. This classic-Winning (Preakness) filly will attempt to become the seventh female to Win the Whitney Stakes Saturday. She earned an Eclipse Award as Champion 3-year-old filly last year based on a campaign in which she Won five Graded Stakes, highlighted by the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and the Preakness Stakes in October, where she defeated Kentucky Derby Winner and eventual Horse of the Year AUTHENTIC. She’ll have to recapture her summer and fall 2020 form to have a shot at the upset in Saturday’s Whitney, but her stamina and class are proven and getting reigning Eclipse Award-Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride for the first time is a major plus. Ortiz picked up his first Whitney win in 2018 aboard DIVERSIFY, and also Won last year’s renewal on IMPROBABLE.
4. KNICKS GO [ML 6-5] Jockey: Joel Rosario. Trainer: Brad Cox. He looms large as a leading Win candidate in the Whitney based on his running style, which relies on elite gate-to-wire cruising speed that none of his other rivals can match. KNICKS GO faces a tough bunch in Saturday’s Whitney, but none of his rivals, with the possible exception of SWISS SKYDIVER, prefer to race on the early lead. Rosario, who has been aboard KNICKS GO for his last six starts, should be able to control the pace provided his mount breaks well. If he can set a moderate tempo, this contender has shown more than enough stamina to carry his speed all the way to the Winner’s Circle. Rosario Won the 2016 Whitney on FROSTED.
5. MAXFIELD [ML 8-5] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Brendan Walsh. He will vie with KNICKS GO for Post-Time favoritism in the Whitney as he shoots for his second Grade 1 win. He’s stepping up in quality of competition Saturday, but he is the most logical contender to hit the board as his stalking running style is perfectly suited to the Whitney’s 1 1/8 miles. He’ll need to keep KNICKS GO in his early sights through the backstretch, but jockey Jose Ortiz (undefeated in five starts on MAXFIELD) is a good judge of pace and is off to a hot start at the Saratoga meet. MAXFIELD is a major threat here Saturday, and could become Godolphin Racing’s second Whitney Victor following FROSTED in 2016.
SUMMARY: On paper, KNICKS GO seems difficult to beat. He owns the pace advantage as the lone front-runner, as well as an edge in speed figures.
He certainly maintains a class advantage having Won the Pegasus World Cup this year and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last November.
Yet, he is not invincible as his 4th-place finishes in the Saudi Cup and Metropolitan Handicap (G1) reveal. Sometimes, he does throw in a disinterested effort.
If SWISS SKYDIVER can press KNICKS GO without getting into a direct duel with him, she is capable of Winning.
If KNICKS GO and SWISS SKYDIVER throw-down in a suicidal speed duel, then MAXFIELD could take advantage from behind, and pass the gassed pace-setters for the Win.
THE PLAY: No Value to be gotten in a five horse field. KNICKS GO and MAXFIELD should be used in all lateral wagers (Pick 4-5), and if your bank allows throw SWISS SKYDIVER in with them as well.
We’ll also do a Trifecta Key using SWISS SKYDIVER on top with All.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.