OTB Race Previews
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The Whitney Stakes day card is one of the better days of racing on the NYRA calendar. The August 4 program at Saratoga Race Course features five stakes including the featured $1.2 million Whitney Stakes.
The 91st running of the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs.
Race 9 on Saratoga's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:46 PM
|1||Tapwrit||6-1||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Backyard Heaven||9-2||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown|
|3||Dalmore||30-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Robert Hess, Jr.|
|4||Mind Your Biscuits||2-1||Joel Rosario||Chad Summers|
|5||Discreet Lover||30-1||Manuel Franco||Uriah St. Lewis|
|6||Diversify||7-5||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Richard Violette, Jr.|
|7||Good Samaritan||12-1||Jose Ortiz||William Mott|
|8||McCraken||15-1||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||Ian Wilkes|
Lauren Evans and Ralph M. Evans' Diversify, who was rerouted to the Whitney from a planned start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2, is exiting an impressive 6 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Suburban at 1 ¼ miles on July 7 at Belmont Park. That victory earned the 5-year-old Bellamy Road gelding a career-high 110 Beyer Speed Figure.
"I was very concerned after the Suburban. He had run such a huge race that I thought that four weeks might be too quick," said trainer Rick Violette, Jr. "But he kept making a liar out of me. He ate well, trained well and breezed awfully well on Sunday. His blood has a habit of spiking up and down, so we had to make sure that duck was in a row. We got back those results today. Sometimes, when your horse is doing good, you're supposed to run."
The Suburban was the third race of the year for Diversify, and his first graded stakes since finishing a disastrous seventh as the post-time favorite in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, his seasonal debut. Following that effort, Diversify's connections opted to move the gelding back against state-bred company in the one-mile Commentator on May 28, where he stumbled at the break but recovered quickly enough to win by a hard-fought nose.
Overall, Diversify owns nine wins and two seconds from 14 starts for career earnings of $1,309,425. Last year, the characteristic frontrunner won four of eight races, including an 11 ½-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Evan Shipman against New York-breds, his only previous start at Saratoga and the second of three straight wins in the summer and fall. He capped that win streak with a gutsy one-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a title Violette said he hopes to defend on September 29 at Belmont.
"We have a few options. He can be tactical and if someone wants to get silly out there, we can certainly follow that lead," said Violette. "We'll be aggressive; the break is always important, [whether] it's a mile and a half or five eighths, it's critical there. He has the ability and has a very high cruising speed and [can] keep going. A lot of times, we just throw the gauntlet down."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. retains the mount aboard Diversify, tabbed as the 7-5 favorite on the morning line. The pair will leave from post 6.
Already established as one of nation's top sprinters, reigning New York-bred Horse of the Year Mind Your Biscuits is looking to expand on his resume as he takes on a two-turn route for the first time in the Whitney.
Mind Your Biscuits, the richest New York-bred in history with $3,939,286 in lifetime earnings, has finished in the top three in 19 of 22 starts with seven wins. He won the Grade 1 Malibu as a 3-year-old in 2016 and the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship in 2017.
Trained by Chad Summers, the 5-year-old multi-millionaire by Posse has traveled to Dubai for thrilling back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse, including a dramatic, last-to-first rally in this year's edition over X Y Jet and champion sprinter Roy H.
In his two stakes tries at a mile, his longest distance to date and both around a single turn, Mind Your Biscuits was second to multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Azteca in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last December and just missed last time out in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, coming up a nose short of a loose-on-the-lead Bee Jersey on June 9 at Belmont Park.
From five starts at Saratoga, the strapping chestnut's local record includes a victory in the Grade 2 Amsterdam as a 3-year-old in 2016 as well as two rare off-the-board finishes in the 2016 Grade 1 King's Bishop and the Grade 1 Forego last summer, where he finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
"I expect him to be much closer with Diversify coming drawn out in the 6, and [they're] giving us six pounds it's a short run into the first turn, and if Diversify gets hung wide, he gets hung wide," said Summers.
"I'm as confident as I can be ... everything he's always shown me over his entire career is that he can do it, and until he can't, I'm not going to think he can't."
Mind Your Biscuits, co-owned by Summers and his family, Shadai Farm, Head of Plains Partners and Michael Kisber, will have the services of his regular jockey Joel Rosario. The 2-1 second-choice will leave from post 4. He will carry 117 pounds, a seven-pound weight allowance, in his first race around two turns.
The Stephen Foster was Backyard Heaven's fifth career start and second consecutive race at Churchill Downs. In the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 4, the 4-year-old Tiznow colt raced close to the pace and drew off to a 4 ½-length win.
"The horse is training well, it's shaping up like a tough one," said the two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer. "He's only run the one bad race for us at Churchill. Maybe it was the heat. We'll draw a line through it because the horse has been training well since and hopefully he bounces back and regains the form he has.
"He's lightly raced and has come around so fast. I feel he's so talented; in the Alysheba, he ran fabulous in that race. If he redeems himself and comes back to a performance like that, I feel he can be a real contender in this race."
Backyard Heaven, 9-2, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from post 2.
The 4-year-old gray colt by Tapit is seeking his first win since his triumph in the 2017 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit, tabled following a fourth-place finish in the Travers last year, has raced twice in 2018, finishing third in an optional claimer in June at Belmont Park and a wide fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday morning he is encouraged by Tapwrit's inside post in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney as the 2017 Belmont Stakes winner prepares to make his third start of the year.
"Actually I like the draw," said the three-time Whitney-winning trainer. "I think he's a horse that's better off being in the mix, so being inside is probably better for him. Sometimes, he gets a little distracted when he's on the outside."
Prior to last year's Belmont, Tapwrit stamped himself an early Kentucky Derby contender with a 4 ½-length win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, before running fifth in the Grade 2 Blue Grass and sixth in the Derby. He has raced twice in 2018, finishing third in an optional claimer in June at Belmont Park and a wide fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7 under jockey Jose Ortiz.
"It kind of reminded me of the Blue Grass a little bit," Pletcher said of the Suburban. "He didn't get away well and he got outside and kind of lost his focus a little bit. I think he gets distracted. But, he's come out of it well. He's had two good breezes here and we're expecting a good performance from him.
"It was his second start off a long layoff," he added. "Jose said when he came back that he felt like at the time he made the right decision when he opted to go outside. They kind of kept fanning him out and fanning him out. He said if he had a do-over, he would've stayed inside. I don't think he was going to beat Diversify that day, but I do think he would've been closer."
Tapwrit, installed at 6-1 on the morning line, will be ridden for the first time in the Whitney by Hall of Fame jockey and four-time Whitney winner John Velazquez.
After beginning his career on turf, Good Samaritan was moved last year to the main track for the second half of his sophomore season. He got off to a fast start, besting Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing in a 4 ¾-length upset in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy that summer. That effort was followed by a fifth-place in the Travers and then a fourth against older horses in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. He closed out his 3-year-old campaign in November with a close runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said he is confident that the multiple graded stakes winner will put forth a better effort on Saturday.
Good Samaritan began his 2018 campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds, where he stalked a perfect trip rallying five wide in the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths under a strong hand ride.
"That would be good," Mott said of a repeat setup. "I just hope he makes the same winning move. He's doing well and that's his style, so hopefully it will work out."
Following the New Orleans, he ran third in the Grade 2 Alysheba at 1 1/16 miles on May 4 at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt has been working regularly since the Met Mile, most recently breezing four furlongs in 50.55 seconds on July 30 over the Oklahoma training track.
"He's doing good," said Mott. "We had him gallop on the main track today and he walked through the paddock. He seemed like he was doing fine and we're pretty happy with him."
Good Samaritan, 12-1, will break from post 7 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
The 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt was seventh in last year's Travers, his only other appearance at the Spa, following a runner-up finish to Girvin in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. This year, McCraken returned in May with a half-length win in an optional claiming race on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs and was sixth in the Met Mile.
McCraken, who drew post 8 at odds of 15-1, is trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., who teamed up with Janis Whitham to win the 2012 Whitney with Fort Larned, who went on to victory in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
Dalmore, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Colonel John, was second to Remembering Rita last time out in the Cornhusker. He will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr. from post 3 at 30-1.
Ralph and Laura Evans' Diversify zipped through a five-furlong work in 59 seconds over Saratoga's main track Sunday morning, prompting trainer Rick Violette to reconsider an earlier plan to skip the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney August 4.
Regular exercise rider Roddi Aly was up for the breeze, which was the first work for Diversify, a gelded 5-year-old son of Bellamy Road, since his front running 6 ½-length rout in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban July 7 at Belmont Park.
"I wanted him to chirp a little bit at the eighth pole, which he did. I've got him on walkie talkie and I said, `Whoa, whoa, whoa, that's enough,'" Violette said. "He sprinted for an eighth of a mile and still went [a half-mile] in 47 [seconds] and [five furlongs] in 59, and that was kind of eased up. It was a pretty fancy work."
Entries will be taken and post positions drawn for the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Tuesday evening, July 31 at Sperry's Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs. It is a "Win and You're In" event for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Violette had initially intended to wait for the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward, also for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles, to give Diversify more time off his breakout Suburban effort. The Woodward will be run September 1.
The trainer's decision will hinge on Diversify's health and condition coming out of Sunday's work.
"We'll do all the one-on-one stuff. We'll take bloods [Monday], and that's kind of critical with him. He can kind of go up and down on how good his blood is. We'll see how he comes out of it and how he eats up. I'm not saying no yet," Violette said. "I'm leaving the door open for the Whitney; other than that we'll just go for the Woodward.
"For all intents and purposes I was just going to pass the Whitney, and it's a tough race to pass. It's [$1.2 million] and `Win and You're In,' historic race, but so is the Woodward, as far as historic relevance," he added. "It's a fairly appealing race. There's one other speed horse in there with the horse from Del Mar [Dalmore]. We're going to give it some serious consideration."
Diversify became a millionaire in the Suburban, his second straight victory following the one-mile Commentator against fellow state-breds May 28 at Belmont. He won his only previous start at Saratoga, a gate-to-wire 11 ½-length romp in the 1 1/8-mile Evan Shipman last August, also facing New York-breds.
Sunday's work was not unlike Diversify's final breeze prior to the Suburban - a half-mile in 46.85 seconds over Belmont's main track June 30 that ranked first of 68 horses.
"I just got off the phone with Mr. Evans to let him know that we complicated things by going so well today," Violette said. "But, that's a good thing. It is. His last race was spectacular. We'll see what happens."
Multiple graded stakes winner Mind Your Biscuits registered his final work before a planned start in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney at 1 1/8 miles on August 4.
With jockey Joel Rosario aboard, the strapping chestnut breezed a half-mile in 49.88 seconds over the main track listed as fast just before 9 a.m. Friday. Rosario, who will be aboard the 5-year-old son of Posse for the 14th time in his 23rd career start in the Whitney, sat chilly through an opening quarter-mile in 25 seconds which was followed by a second quarter in 24 4/5. Trainer Chad Summers said the work was everything he wanted heading into next week's race.
"It was a good work," Summers said. "We're eight days out, so I wasn't looking for anything serious just to open up his lungs down the lane which is what we did. The time didn't matter, we'll just wait and see how the field takes shape now. The racing strategy will take over from here on out. He may gallop one day next week, he'll school in the gate, and school in the paddock, but this is the rest of it. The heavy lifting is done."
The Whitney will be the first time the strong-closing Mind Your Biscuits will run further than a mile, which comes off his strong runner-up finish by a nose to Bee Jersey in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 9. The added distance is something Summers said he has been wanting to try for a while and will now have the chance to answer any doubts.
"I feel good. There's a lot of people out there saying he can't do it, but maybe they know something I don't know," Summers said. "Maybe they talked to Miss Cleo or something like that. He's never gone two turns before, so I don't know why he can't do it now. We'll find out next Saturday. Either we're right or wrong; that's what horse racing is about. We've got to keep it honest."
Mind Your Biscuits kicked off 2018 with a near miss by a head as the runner-up against claiming company on February 9 at Gulfstream Park. His next start came in Dubai where he captured his second straight Group 1, $2 million Golden Shaheen after closing hard to win by a head on March 31 at Meydan. The victory put him over the top as the highest-earning New York-bred in history with $3,719,286. The Whitney was a race that Summers had on the map as early as January.
"If the Met Mile went how I thought the Met Mile would go, and he came out of it well, the Whitney was kind of the next logical step to see if he could stretch out," he said. "The timing of the race to the Breeders' Cup is kind of perfect. The new ownership group [Shadai Farm] has been very supportive behind our decision to run him here. They're fine with him being a sprinter, but if he wins this race, to become a stallion I think to win Grade 1s and Group 1s at [different distances], there aren't a lot of horses in the last 20 or 30 years that can claim that they can do that."
The Whitney winner will earn an all-fees-paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic as a "Win and You're In" qualifier. The $6 million race on November 3 at Churchill Downs was always part of the connections' plans, Summers said. With two third-place finishes in the 2016 and 2017 Breeders' Cup Sprint, respectively, the goal is to return and win in what would likely be the last start before being sent to stud in Japan at the end of the year.
"It all depends on the Whitney," Summers said. "We've spent his entire career not ducking anybody, so were not going to start now. It will be all on him."
The success Summers has had with his horse who has taken him to six different racetracks across two continents since he took over training in early 2017. Mind Your Biscuits' career has given the young trainer plenty of memories and triumphs. With a limited amount of time left together, Summers said he is enjoying the time at hand.
"I just don't think about it really," he said. "We know this is probably going to be his last year. I'll beg and plead my case to try and keep him in training one more year, but that decision will be up to Mr. Yoshida [of Shadai Farm] and his team in December. At the end of the day, [I have] appreciation for the horse and what he's meant.
"We came here as an underdog for so many years, and then we came last year with a big target on your back and things kind of changed," he added. "Now there's the big question mark. Everybody wants to know, can he go that far or not? We're going to find out. There will be a lot of sleepless nights over the next eight days but were used to it."
Tapwrit turned in his final official workout for next Saturday's Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, breezing four furlongs in 49.11 seconds on the Oklahoma training track Saturday morning.
Ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Tapwrit worked outside of Argentine import Village King and finished on even terms with his stablemate.
"I thought Tapwrit breezed well," said Pletcher, who trains the 4-year-old for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta, Bridlewood Farm, Gainesway Stable, and Whisper Hill Farm. "A good, solid, progressive breeze with a good gallop out. He was full of himself and he's doing well."
Tapwrit is seeking his first victory since his triumph in the 2017 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. The gray son of Tapit has raced twice this year, finishing third in an optional claimer in June at Belmont Park and a flat fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7.
"I was disappointed with the Suburban outcome," said Pletcher. "He was training well going into that, but it was only his second start off a pretty lengthy layoff. Sometimes you get a surge in your third start off the layoff, and based on his breezes following the Suburban, I'm optimistic he'll have an improved effort."
Village King, who is unraced in the United States, has now worked seven times over the Oklahoma surface for Pletcher. The bay son of Campanologist won a pair of group stakes in Argentina, including the Group 1 Jockey Club, before finishing third in the 2017 Group 1 Carlos Pellegrini in his final start in his native country.
Pletcher will saddle China Horse Club, Madaket Stables, and Mathis Stable's Ivy Bell, second in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps on June 9 at Belmont, in the Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap on Sunday. Ivy Bell, whose top victory to date came at seven furlongs in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff in May at Churchill Downs, will be making her first start around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Shuvee.
"She has some impressive breezes coming into [the Shuvee], and she has always galloped out strong, so that's why we want to stretch her out one more time," said Pletcher. "There is a lot of pace, I think, for a mile and an eighth, so we want to see what kind of position she's able to get comfortable with."
Pletcher added that he plans to run Hard Study in the $100,000 Birdstone on August 2 and Outplay and Patch in the restricted $100,000 Alydar on August 5.
Last year's Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan is on target for the Grade 1 Whitney, while Yoshida, also nominated to the 91st running of the Whitney, is likely to stay on the turf for the interim, pointing for the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 11, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said from his barn Friday morning.
"We want to keep our options open just in case Good Samaritan wouldn't be ready to go for some reason, we can switch them at the last minute if we had to," Mott said of Yoshida's nomination.
Owned by Winstar, China Horse Club, SF Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Yoshida ended his 2017 campaign with a win in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on October 7 over Belmont Park's inner turf course and started his year with a win in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Following that effort, Mott took the 4-year-old Japanese-bred colt by Heart's Cry across the Atlantic to run in the Group 1 Queen Anne going a straight mile at Royal Ascot on June 19, where he finished a close fifth in his first career start outside of the United States.
"He stepped up and ran good and got beat by a length and quarter for the whole thing. It was a good effort," said Mott. "He poked his head in front coming up the hill and gave us a thrill for a moment. Just as he was coming to the wire, he kind of idled a little bit and didn't have enough to finish it off.
"It's a different type of race," he added. "Speaking to Wesley Ward, he told me that if you're able to run the same race over again, the second time, those horses seem to perform a little bit better. I don't know if it's the conditioning part of it or the mental part of it, where they learn that they actually aren't going to turn. Maybe these horses are waiting for a turn."
Yoshida is likely to try his luck over the dirt, a surface switch that could be flattered by his pedigree, Mott said. Yoshida's dam is multiple graded stakes winner Hilda's Passion, who capped a solid career with her 9 ¼-length victory in the 2011 Grade 1 Ballerina on Saratoga's main track.
"The ownership and management of the horse want him to try the dirt at some point in his career because he's bred somewhat for the dirt," Mott said. "He's been very good and effective on the turf, but his mother was a Grade 1 winner on the dirt here in Saratoga. He's worked well enough on the dirt, so you can see it happening and at some point, we want to try him in the afternoon on dirt. I don't think there's anything like the proof you find out in the afternoon."
Good Samaritan ran seventh last out in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9. A deep closer, the 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt was unable to make up much ground on the frontrunning Bee Jersey to finish 7 ¼ lengths behind the winner.
"He closed well but we didn't have the pace scenario we were really looking for," Mott said. "We were hoping for a real hot pace, but it was an honest pace, just average."
Good Samaritan won the last time he raced at the Whitney's distance of 1 1/8 miles, capturing the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap by 2 ¼ lengths. That built on his runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on November 24 at Churchill at the same distance, earning him a personal-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
Good Samartian also won at the distance at Saratoga last year, rallying from last of five to beat Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Jim Dandy before running fifth in the Grade 1 Travers later in the meet.
"Just given the Jim Dandy here last year, the mile and an eighth at Saratoga seems like a good [spot] for him," Mott said.
Loooch Racing Stable's Dalmore will ship from Del Mar to New York early Sunday morning and arrive on the Saratoga backside late in the afternoon for his anticipated start in next Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney.
The 5-year-old Colonel John gelding posted his final work Friday morning over Del Mar's main track, covering four furlongs in 49.20 seconds handily over a fast track for trainer Robert Hess, Jr.
"All systems go," Hess said by phone. "He worked well the other day, went 49 and did it well. He looks good today, so we'll get him to New York and get ready."
The Whitney will be the third start for Dalmore since the Florida-bred was transferred from the barn of Keith Desormeaux after winning his first start of the year by 8 ½ lengths against optional claiming company in February at Santa Anita Park.
In his first start for Hess, Dalmore finished fourth in the Essex Handicap on March 17 at Oaklawn. He returned later in the summer to finish second in the July 6 Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows.
"Loooch Racing bought him after he ran in early February," said Hess. "[Ron Paolucci] bought him right after the race. His first race was a little disappointing, and we found a little foot bruise. We fixed that, and after that, he ran a good race, but came up a little short late. We think he'll move forward off of that race."
Dalmore ran twice at Saratoga as a 2-year-old maiden, finishing eighth in a turf route, then shortened up to six furlongs over the main track, where he just missed by three-quarters of a length. A winner of four races from 22 lifetime starts, he also finished eighth in the mud in the 2016 Grade 1 Wood Memorial and owns a lone graded stakes victory in the 2016 Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita.
Hess hopes the Saratoga experience will help get Dalmore back to the winner's circle.
"I wouldn't say we're overconfident," he said. "It is Saratoga and a Grade 1, but we're hoping he shows up and runs his `A' race. We're all systems go and looking forward to it."