Saratoga Weekend Feature Preview: Whitney Weekend
The third weekend of racing from the Saratoga Race Course opens with the Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap, but is highlighted by a trio of Grade I stakes races calling some of the best of each division to the historic track. Read on for a breakdown of each race.
Friday - Grade II Honorable Miss: Look out folks, there's all kinds of pace in this six furlong sprint. Of the eight entered in the race, at least four - but likely five - have the speed to take the lead and the desire to make a run at it. Of these, the Rick Dutrow trained C C's Pal, and the Willie Martinez mount, It's Me Mom, likely represent the class; yet the four, Winning Image, also boasts the talent to arrive at the line first - the only in the field to post two straight speed ratings above 100 in her last two races. I'd look for the winner to come from those three, though perhaps a horse like the one, Island Bound, is worthy of a look as one who comes from behind and tries to capitalize on the speed at the front.
Saturday - Grade I Prioress: While the Honorable Miss is sure to be a hair-on-fire, furious sprint of a race, it's hard to say what the Prioress will be. There's speed enough for a similar all out drive to develop, but I'm not certain it materializes. Rudy Rodriguez's Agave Kiss will go to the lead, likely equaled by Jamaican Smoke - breaking from the three post. From there, it's impossible to know if Livi Makenzie and Tu Endie Wei will attempt to wrestle the lead from these two, or chose to rate and close in deep stretch. If they go, expect a hot, punishing pace that would certainly favor closer Emma's Encore - who won her last race in similar fashion over three of the horse's in today's field. If they chose to stalk, however, I think this will be Agave Kiss' race. She's won six of her seven career starts, posting a puzzling fifth in her last - the race won by Emma's Encore that I mentioned above. If she's allowed to settle at the front, she'll romp the field, if not, I still like her to rebound and claim the win, but the issue becomes much less certain.
Saturday - Grade I Whitney: Here's what I know about this wide open mile and an eighth race: It'll be the tenth race on Saturday's card, and the Rick Dutrow trained Trickmeister will break on the lead. Beyond that, we're just throwing darts. Not even Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott - who saddles both the favorite, Ron the Greek, and the second option, Flat Out - could handicap with certainty, saying, "it looks like the race has, pretty much, all different types of horses in it...hopefully it'll come up with a decent pace." Venturing a guess, I would say that Mott will get the decent pace he seeks, Trickmeister will likely be challenged for the lead by Endorsement - his neighbor in the starting gate - and he'll be pushed by a trio of others who will sit close to whomever's out front. Still, I doubt we get any fractions you'd regard as anything other than ordinary, so I'd be weary of any closers - a la the 4/1 Hymn Book. For my money, Fort Larned may be the one too point to, but with so much so nebulous, I wouldn't count out any of these horses - especially the Mott pair. There's a lot of quality here, and there's an argument to be made for nearly every horse.
Sunday - Grade I - Vanderbilt: Headlining this year's Vanderbilt Handicap is the return of 2011 Preakness Winner, Shackleford. The Dale Romans trained colt is coming off back to back, front running wins, and will likely head to the lead on Sunday. He'll be joined by the six, Sloane Ranger, and likely flanked by no less then four horses who will run near the lead. The pace will be likely be a quick one, but at six furlongs, I'm not sure Shackleford's pedigree and speed can be matched. It's an open race, but I think you have to say the John Velazquez mount is the class of the field.