By Tom Quigley
$750,000 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga
Race 9 (Saturday, August 1, 2020: 5:42 p.m./ET: 2:42 p.m.PT)
Mile and an eighth on the main track (four-year-olds and upward)
The road to the Breeders Cup Classic (G1) continues on Saturday with one of the most prestigious races Saratoga offers every summer: the $750,000 Whitney (G1) for the best older handicap dirt horses in North America. In a year filled with irregularities, you will be happy to find something normal in the Whitney (G1): a remarkably quality-filled lineup of runners. We begin our analysis with the contender who draws the inside post position:
#1 BY MY STANDARDS had a three-race win streak snapped last time out by TOM’S D’ETAT when that foe shot clear to win the Stephen Foster (G2) by over four lengths. Before that runner up effort, this son of GOLDENCENTS won the New Orleans Handicap (G2) and the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). A nice horse, no doubt, but he’ll need to run faster to catch TOM’S D’ETAT.
#2 IMPROBABLE has run two big races to kick off his 2020 campaign. In his first start, he broke from the 11 hole in the Oaklawn Mile, was caught wide on both turns, took the lead in upper stretch but eventually got run down late by TOM’S D’ETAT. In his subsequent and most recent afternoon appearance, the Bob Baffert trainee defeated Grade I winner HIGHER POWER in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita. Plus it’s a major positive that top class jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. takes the reins.
#3 CODE OF HONOR comes off a decent third place finish in the one-turn Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park. You could make a strong case this horse wants a little more distance, which he gets in this spot, and he is at his very best when racing at two turns, which he’ll do in this race a well. The Shug McGaughey trainee has seen success over this track in the past: he broke his maiden at Saratoga in 2018 and won the Runhappy Travers (G1) here last year.
#4 MR. BUFF failed to fire his best shot in the Suburban (G1) last time out and beat one horse home in the mile-and-a-quarter event. Now in an even tougher spot, he’ll need to rebound in a big way to finished ahead of the sharp shooters signed on against him. A win machine in New York-bred stakes races, he has been unable to hit the board in four career starts graded stakes races against open company. Cool horse, but it looks like he is not quite good enough to win at this level.
#5 TOM’S D’ETAT has won four races in a row and enters the Whitney (G1) in top class form. In 2020, the son of SMART STRIKE scored emphatic victories, while geared down late, in both the Oaklawn Mile against IMPROBABLE and the Stephen Foster (G1) over BY MY STANDARDS. His last loss came over this track last summer when finishing fourth in the Woodward (G1), but he has gotten considerably better since then. Clearly the one to beat.
1. #5 TOM’S D’ETAT - If he runs his race, the others will be running for second.
2. #3 CODE OF HONOR - Will be happy to get back to two turns and added distance.
3. #2 IMPROBABLE - Always well regarded, he looks to be at his best right now.
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY - #1 BY MY STANDARDS - Was second best to the top pick last time.
I’ll key my top pick over my other two selections in a trifecta.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$25 Trifecta: #5 TOM’S D’ETAT over #3 CODE OF HONOR and #2 IMPROBABLE
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