All eyes will be on Saratoga Race Course this weekend with a stacked set of races. The marquee race of the weekend is arguably the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. The Whitney is run at a 1 1/8 miles over the traditional dirt surface and all horses 3-years old and up are eligible. The $1.5 million purse makes the Whitney the richest Stakes race ever run at Saratoga, even topping the Travers. Palace Malice has been installed as the even-money favorite in a field of nine. A logical morning line since he is the leading candidate for Horse of the Year and is currently perfect in four starts in 2014. Also in the field is last year’s Travers winner, Will Take Charge, who is installed as the 4-1 second choice. Other notables in the field include Departing, Moreno, Itsmyluckyday and Golden Ticket.
Race: Whitney Handicap (G1)
Location: Saratoga Race Course
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $1.5 million
Post Time: 5:45 PM EST
TV Coverage: NBC 5-6 PM EST
|1||4-1||Will Take Charge||L Saez||I had my reservations on last years 3-year old champion heading into the Stephen Foster. That race, overall, had a weaker field. While he did finish second he was not able to finish off Moonshine Mullin and settled for bridesmaid honors. A talented horse and deserves the M/L second choice behind Palace Malice.|
|2||20-1||Prayer for Relief||J Rosario||I had reservations entering the Stephen Foster and he confirmed them with an 8th place finish. Returned to finish 3rd in the G2 Suburban. Gut just says this is a G3 horse despite the entries. Is it possible? Sure. Likely? Hardly since there are at least four I like better|
|3||10-1||Moreno||J Alvarado||Only one career win at the G2 level and winless at G1. Appears to top out behind the likes of Will Take Charge and Palace Malice. Has a history of finishing behind many in this field. No warm fuzzy here.|
|4||12-1||Itsmyluckyday||P Lopez||Started his 4-year old campaign with a 4th to Palace Malice and Golden Ticket in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Since then has won three straight stakes including the G3 Salvator last out. As fresh as the come in this field. Numbers do compare but faced lesser talent. Possible.|
|5||Even||Palace Malice||J Velazquez||The clear and deserving Even money favorite. 4 for 4 in 2014 including G1 Met Mile last out. Leading candidate for horse of the year. It is his race to lose. But hey, that’s why they race.|
|6||6-1||Departing||Albarado||Admittedly I tend to be higher on Departing than others. Returned from long layoff with a nice prep victory in Allowance at CD. A solid 3rd behind Moonshine Mullin and Will Take Charge in the Stephen Foster. Third off layoff and if you believe in him you will probably see 7-1 or better.|
|7||10-1||Romansh||J Ortiz||Disappointing 5th at the Suburban Handicap. Solid showing behind Palace Malice and Goldencents two back in the Met Mile. Never won above G3 and just feel this horse is overmatched by at least four in this field. Not likely.|
|8||20-1||Golden Ticket||J Leparoux||Always a solid runner but has not won in over a year. Frankly was disappointing in the Stephen Foster and in the G3 Cornhusker finishing 4th. Previous G1 winner at the Travers not laughable and at his best,with a little luck, he can win this at a good price. Likely an exotics choice|
|9||15-1||Last Gunfighter||J Castellano||Horrible showing at the Suburban last out. Multiple graded stakes winner but never at G1 level. This is his third off the layoff and if you can throw the last out you can make a case. You will get value if you believe.|
Breakdown and Betting
Almost every “expert ” you listen to this week or over the next couple of days will tell you that this is a lock for Palace Malice, that he will go 5-for-5 on the year and continue to cement himself as the Horse of the Year. Is he great? Without question but he can be beat. It would take a little luck but it can happen. Before you say I am a Palace Malice hater feel free to check my mid-season top-5 for Horse of the Year. I had Palace Malice on top. At the end of the day, Palace Malice deserves to be even money on the M/L and will probably go off at 3-5 or lower. That is a tough price to swallow.
If I am not taking Palace Malice I must be taking Will Take Charge right? Nope, I did not pick him on top in the Stephen Foster and I am not going to bump him up in a tougher field. He will get a pace to run at, which he needs and he did get a small breather since last out but the expectation that he will go off near 5/2 scares me off him.
For me it is a shocking couple of horses, at least that is what I was told in a conversation this morning. Itsmyluckyday and Departing are two horses of great intrigue for this year’s running of the Whitney. Yes it is public knowledge that I have a thing for Departing but that has nothing to do with this one. He will give you value, probably around 7-1, and like Will Take Charge, is destined for a pace to run at. However, Departing is third off a layoff and I have an affinity for horses that come from off the pace in this configuration. Style and value are there for Departing.
Meanwhile, Itsmyluckyday is projected to fire right to the front. Moreno will probably be there as well. I LOVE the move to Lopez. They have rattled off three in a row. Obviously I am not questioning the ability of Velazquez but it appears that the willingness and temperament of Lopez seems to suit Itsmyluckyday better. I actually expect to see Itsmyluckyday sit off Moreno until they enter the final turn. At that point, I expect Lopez to give the green light and try and put distance between himself and the likes of Palace Malice, Will Take Charge and Departing who will all be coming from various distances. He just might be good enough to hold them off and heck, he gets five pounds on Palace Malice, that never hurts.
Below is how I would play $20 and $50 at the 2014 Whitney. Keep in mind there is an eye towards value here. As always, if you have to scrounge up to find $5 or $10 for the race I would pass and just watch. Pay the bills and enjoy the day. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be fun.
|2014 Whitney Betting Options|
|$1 Exacta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$1 Trifecta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$4 Win/ Place||6|
|$2 Exacta Box||4 with 5 with 6|
|$ 1 Trifecta||4,6 with 4,5,6,9|
|$.10 Superfecta||4,6 with 1,4,5,6,8,9|
|$5 Win/ Place||6|
|$2 Win/ Place||4|