The 84th running of the 1 1/8 mile Grade 1 $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap will occur Saturday at Saratoga Race Course in New York. This is a Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" race which guarantees the winner a spot in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, to be held at Churchill Downs November 5.
The Whitney Handicap has comprised the country's top racehorses and has produced several Breeders' Cup Classic winners, including 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame. The Whitney was also the race which produced the historic upset of Triple Crown winner Secretariat by Onion, a horse that won his first and only stakes race by defeating a feverish Secretariat.
This year's running of the Whitney has a well-matched field of eleven older males. Interestingly, five of these horses met in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs this past June and four of the five have not raced since the Stephen Foster.
The Foster Five includes 4-1 Flat Out, 5-1 Giant Oak, 6-1 Apart, 6-1 Mission Impazible and 8-1 Duke of Mischief. The Stephen Foster was won by the now retired Pool Play, but the Foster Five finished second through sixth behind him by a combined six lengths. Mission Impazible was second, Apart third, Duke of Mischief fourth, Giant Oak fifth, and Flat Out sixth.
The morning line favorite in the Whitney is 4-1 Flat Out who won the Grade 2 Suburban last month at Belmont Park. He has back-to-back bullet works and has steadily increased his speed figures, but it's still difficult to understand why he's been made the morning line favorite. Expect those odds to drift up.
5-1 Giant Oak carries the highest weight in the field at 119 pounds. The five-year-old, trained by Chris Block, won his last race back in February in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, and, as mentioned above, finished fifth in his last start, the Stephen Foster. Since that race, Giant oak has been training well and worked a bullet five furlongs in :58 and change last weekend.
Three horses are listed at a morning line of 6-1: Apart, Mission Impazible and Tizway. This group may just be a nice trifecta play.
Apart earned a 110 Equibase speed figure for his third place effort in the Stephen Foster. He is trained by Al Stall, Jr. who trained last year's Whitney winner Blame. Apart has been in the money in all five of his starts this year. He tends to sit just off the pace, so in a field with this much early speed, he should do well. Jockey Julien Leparoux has the mount.
Mission Impazible finished only a neck behind Pool Play in the Stephen Foster and earned a 112 Equibase speed figure. He's traditionally fared well at this distance and is another one that likes to be on or close to the lead. Trainer Todd Pletcher will no doubt have this colt ready for a big effort.
Tizway is the one horse in the field that stands out the most. He won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap May 30th over Whitney competitor Rodman. Trained by James Bond, Tizway earned an outstanding 122 Equibase speed figure in that race. He consistently earns triple-digit speed figures and is yet another that prefers to be on or close to the lead.
Rounding out the field are 8-1 Duke of Mischief, 8-1 Friend or Foe, 10-1 Morning Line, 12-1 Rail Trip, 20-1 Headache, and 20-1 Rodman.
This is a wide-open field in which you could make a case for every runner. Plenty of wagering value in this race.
The race is the 10th on Saratoga's Saturday card, with a scheduled post-time of 5:45 p.m. It, along with the Grade 1 Test Stakes for fillies, will be part of the one hour "Summer at Saratoga" special airing on NBC Versus from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. The race can also be seen on HRTV and TVG.
Photo: Courtesy Breeders' Cup