The 2012 Whitney Handicap (Gr. 1) is worth $750k and will be contested at 1 1/8 miles over the main track at Saratoga. Last year’s winner, Tizway, was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Male. In 2011 we saw Blame run down Quality Road in a stirring rendition of the race on his way to Horse of the Year honors. Nine horses will try to take the top spot this year.
#1 Rule (Roman Ruler x Rockcide by Personal Flag) 5-1: This lightly raced five-year-old was last seen taking the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup over Flat Out. He contested pedestrian fractions before drawing away in his first race since last October. His only win at today’s distance was against a horrid field in the Birdstone Stakes last year. Throw in the fact that he might be a notch or two below the best in here and it’s hard to see him finishing first. Joe Bravo rides for Todd Pletcher.
#2 Hunter’s Bay (Ghostzapper x Smok’n Frolic by Smoke Glacken) 20-1: For the price, you have to like this Reade Baker pupil. He is riding a three race win streak and owns a pair of Grade 3 wins in his last two trips to the track. His running style should have him in a good spot behind the speed and he has proven he can get today’s trip. Baker shipped in Moonshine Mullin to a second place finish in last year’s Travers Stakes, so he knows how to get a bomb to run big at Saratoga. Emma Jayne-Wilson should be underneath a ton of horse turning for home.
#3 Caixa Eletronica (Arromanches x Edyta by Skip Away) 15-1: This ol’ boy just can get any respect. He won the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, a race worth $1 million and followed it up with a win in the Grade 2 True North Handicap. Today’s distance and prospective pace setup will work to his advantage. He could run a career best number under these circumstances. For a horse with a 5-2-0-0 record at Saratoga he deserves to be a lower price than the morning line. JJ Castellano will be in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher.
#4 Endorsement (Distorted Humor x Charmed Gift by A.P. Indy) 20-1: Draw a line through his last rachich e wwas the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. He was hot and sweaty in the post parade and never looked comfortable. Before that he ran a bang-up third to be third beaten just a length in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special. Trainer Eoin Harty and jockey Joel Rosario will likely agree on having the horse close to the pace. That isn’t the best style for him because he isn’t fast enough to outgun the quickest two or three horse early on this race. I would love his chances if I thought Rosario would take hold of him and sit 3-4 lengths back, but that isn’t going to happen. Look for him to get used up and fade again.
#5 Trickmeister (Proud Citizen x Afternoon Trick by Afternoon Deelites) 15-1: This colt is the speed of the speed. Ramon Dominguez will have him a length or two clear and try to go all the way. He is an improving type, but if he gets pressured the way he figures to be pressured he will be fried in the stretch. Richard Dutrow is the trainer.
#6 Ron The Greek (Full Mandate x Flambe’ by Fortunate Prospect) 3-1: Benefitted from some chaos to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. Before that he was second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. His other big win came three back in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. He is a grinding type and should like will be in the mix late. However, the price is too short and there are too many good horses to go with him as the top choice. Jose Lezcano is listed to ride.
#7 Flat Out (Flatter x Cresta Lil by Cresta Rider) 4-1: This is not a horse that runs well on long rest so the second place finish in the Monmouth Cup was encouraging. He should move up a little this time, but his best races are going to come in his third and fourth starts of the year. Throw in the fact that he is a better one turn horse than he is a two turn horse and this one should be dismissed as a top win contender. Anna Napravnik retains the mount for Bill Mott.
#8 Hymn Book (Arch x Vespers by Known Fact) 4-1: This is an underrated horse. He almost always fires with a good shot. The Grade 1 winning gelding had a poor beginning last out in the Suburban, but still came on to be second against what was a stellar field. If things get hot and heavy up front, which they likely will, he becomes the one to beat. John Velazquez will get back up for trainer Shug McGaughey.
#9 Fort Larned (E Dubai x Arlucea by Broad Brush) 7-2: Set an easy pace and drew off for a three length win over Successful Dan last out in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap. He is a speed type, but trainer Ian Wilkes says he can score from just behind the lead too. He’s going to have to do that to win this race. Brian Hernandez has a good and improving horse on his hands, but the question of whether or not he can successfully rate makes him a tough wager.
Hunter’s Bay is too good to be passed up at 20-1. He will get a dream trip behind the speed. We know he can get the distance and he doesn’t figure to lose much moving from synthetic to real dirt. Emma Jayne Wilson and Reade Baker have got a live one here. The most likely horse to spoil their party is 4-1 chance Hymn Book. He always runs well and like Hunter’s Bay he is likely to secure a good trip.