Whitney Stakes Cheat Sheet
By Patrick Reed, courtesy America's Best Racing
Saturday’s Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is the next step on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup for horses targeting the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar. The older male dirt division was thought by nearly everyone to be Arrogate’s playground heading into midsummer, but the world’s top-ranked racehorse returned to competition with a completely mystifying effort on July 22 when finishing a well-beaten fourth in the San Diego Handicap. That means that the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the Classic, becomes even more important in sorting out the top contenders three months away from the World Championships.
Seven horses are entered for the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, and the race will be televised during NBC’s “Win and You’re In” broadcast presented by Lane’s End and America’s Best Racing. The broadcast will air on NBC from 5 - 6 p.m. ET.
Whether you are interested in making a couple of bucks on the race or just want to know a little bit about this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2017 Whitney Stakes Cheat Sheet.
1. War Story (6-1)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Owners: Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis, and Imaginary Stables
Career record: 21 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds
Career earnings: $1,154,305
Earnings per start: $54,967
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Pedigree: Northern Afleet – Belle Watling, by Pulpit
Running style: Press the pace/stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This 5-year-old gelding scored the biggest win of his career on the June 10 Belmont Stakes undercard, taking the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes by 2 ½ lengths. He’s earned more than $1.1 million despite only winning 5 of 21 starts by picking up minor awards in graded stakes races, but this year he appears to be reaching a level of consistency not shown since he was one of the main Kentucky Derby contenders based at Fair Grounds back in spring 2015. He’s performed best when close to the lead, and having Javier Castellano, who will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame the day before the Whitney, named to ride boosts his chances of hitting the board. Castellano won the 2015 Whitney aboard Honor Code. Trainer Jorge Navarro will be looking to tally his second Grade 1 of the Saratoga meet after his El Deal romped in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 29.
2. Breaking Lucky (8-1)
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Trainer: Reade Baker
Owners: Gunpowder Farms, West Point Thoroughbreds, et al.
Career record: 20 starts – 3 wins – 5 seconds – 4 thirds
Career earnings: $1,002,276
Earnings per start: $50,114
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119
Pedigree: Lookin At Lucky – Shooting Party, by Sky Classic
Running style: Press the pace/stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Here’s another veteran campaigner who rarely wins but has still has amassed more than $1 million in earnings. This time last year, most of his best performances had come on Woodbine’s synthetic Polytrack surface, although he did win the second jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes, on dirt in 2015. He was entered in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 3 of last year, and in arguably his best race of his career, finished fourth behind Shaman Ghost, Mubtaahij, and Frosted in a blanket finish at odds of 48.25-1. Later that fall, he ran decently against Gun Runner when second in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs – finishing 3 ½ lengths in front of Shaman Ghost – but was a non-threatening third behind Gun Runner in June’s Stephen Foster Handicap, his most recent start. This Ontario-bred lacks consistency but occasionally fires a big effort, and it would not be a surprise to see him in the mix as the Whitney field hits midstretch.
3. Cautious Giant (30-1)
Jockey: Jose Bracho
Trainer: Anthony T. Quartarolo
Owners: Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables
Career record: 28 starts – 5 firsts – 2 seconds – 6 thirds
Career earnings: $336,580
Earnings per start: $12,021
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 114
Pedigree: Giant’s Causeway – Dangerous Diva, by Deputy Minister
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: He joins War Story as the second horse owned by Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables in the Whitney. This 7-year-old raced primarily in California from 2013 to early this year, with only one start out of the state, and picked up minor awards in a few graded stakes along the way. After being claimed by his current owners in March, he’s made four starts, with a win and a runner-up finish in allowance/optional claiming races at Thistledown. His best finishes and speed figures have come in races at seven furlongs or less and he’s been a non-factor in the few starts he’s made at 1 1/16 miles or longer. Apprentice jockey Jose Bracho is making his stakes debut in the Whitney, arriving from Delaware Park. This gelding is deservedly the longest shot in the field and could be entered as a “rabbit” (horse instructed to set a fast pace) in order to help War Story’s chances of winning.
4. Tu Brutus (8-1)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Gary Contessa
Owners: Winning Move Stable, Green, Saltor Thoroughbred Stables, Pines Stables, et al.
Career record: 20 starts – 9 wins – 3 seconds – 4 thirds
Career earnings: $219,546
Earnings per start: $10,977
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110
Pedigree: Scat Daddy – Bresca, by Seeker’s Reward
Running style: Pacesetter
Notable achievements and interesting facts: His presence ensures that Gun Runner won’t have it easy up front in the Whitney, and will make in-race strategizing by Gun Runner’s jockey, Florent Geroux, very critical to the eventual outcome. After winning 8 of 17 races in his native Chile, he made his first start last spring in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct and finished a good second to Send It In. Tu Brutus then romped by 11 lengths in the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out Stakes at Belmont Park on May 7. In his most recent start, he set the early pace but tired to finish third in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes, won by War Story, but a bounce-back effort makes him a major factor in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney as he’s already shown he can carry his speed a long way. Irad Ortiz Jr. finished third in last year’s Whitney aboard Upstart. Trainer Gary Contessa has racked up numerous meet titles at Belmont and Aqueduct, but never one at Saratoga.
5. Keen Ice (3-1)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owners: Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm
Career record: 22 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 5 thirds
Career earnings: $3,037,245
Earnings per start: $138,057
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 118
Pedigree: Curlin – Medomak, by Awesome Again
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: At age 5, he returns to the scene of his greatest triumph nearly two years later, and his M.O. hasn’t changed one iota since scoring a come-from-behind upset win over Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes at the Spa. He’s dependent upon a fast early pace and could very well get it on Saturday if Tu Brutus hooks up with Gun Runner on the front end. He enters the Whitney off of a three-length win in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes on July 8 at Belmont, and it’s important to note that he raced closer than usual to what was a slow early pace in the Suburban before making a decisive move to take the lead in midstretch. Jockey Jose Ortiz, currently battling brother Irad for the lead in Saratoga’s jockey standings, rode Keen Ice for the first time in the Suburban, and may employ similar tactics in the Whitney. Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Whitney three times, most recently with Cross Traffic in 2013. Co-owner Calumet Farm, now owned by Brad Kelley, won the Whitney twice during the latter years of its 20th-century reign, with Hall of Famer Alydar in 1978 and Criminal Type – Calumet’s last champion – in 1990.
6. Gun Runner (4-5)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owners: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm
Career record: 15 starts – 8 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $4,638,500
Earnings per start: $309,233
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 125
Pedigree: Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This elite racehorse enters the Whitney having won three of his prior four starts dating to November 2016, with his only blemish a game runner-up effort behind Arrogate in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He’s won his other two starts this year – the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap and, most recently, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap – by a combined margin of 12 ¾ lengths. In both of those wins, he set an easy lead and rolled to victory with little apparent effort, but he’s also shown the ability to overcome a contested pace in earlier races, which he may need to do if Tu Brutus brings his 'A' game in the Whitney. Simply put, he’s one of the best dirt racehorses in training, and he could reaffirm his status as the leading challenger to Arrogate on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup with a win on Saturday. Steve Asmussen has him training regularly at Saratoga, and the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee is seeking his first Whitney win, as is rising star jockey Florent Geroux.
7. Discreet Lover (25-1)
Jockey: Eric Cancel
Trainer: Uriah St. Lewis
Owner: Uriah St. Lewis
Career record: 28 starts – 3 wins – 6 seconds – 4 thirds
Career earnings: $336,310
Earnings per start: $12,011
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112
Pedigree: Repent – Discreet Chat, by Discreet Cat
Running style: Press the pace/stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This 4-year-old colt will vie with Cautious Giant for the highest post-time odds as he enters the Whitney with only three wins from 28 starts and no stakes wins. In his two graded stakes appearances this year – the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes (where Tu Brutus finished second) and the Grade 3 Pimlico Special Handicap – he finished a combined 29 ¾ lengths behind the winners. In his most recent start, he finished third, beaten by four lengths, in a listed stakes race at Delaware Park. Trainer-owner Uriah St. Lewis brings him to a Grade 1 stage from Parx Racing, where St. Lewis is based and where Discreet Lover has had the most success. On a slightly positive note, he prefers racing around two turns, but overall he appears to be overmatched in the Whitney despite the fact that, aside from Gun Runner, there are no world beaters entered in the field.