Five millionaires will lead a superb field of eight postward in the $1 million Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile test is the early race of the year for handicap runners, and the winner gets a free pass to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Park in this “Win & You’re In” event.
The pace of the race is a bit of a tricky read, but I do expect McKinzie to be sent early on under Mike Smith. He will be on top or forcing the pace into the first turn.
Thunder Snow was close in the Met Mile (G1) last time when tracking substantial early splits, and he will be close up early, as will recent Suburban Stakes (G2) romper Preservationist from the outside draw.
Yoshida, the best closer in the cast, will bide his time early on and hopes to run them down inside the final furlong.
$10 Trifecta: Key 6 with 4,7,8 = $60
$2 Superfecta: Key 6 with 4,7,8 = $12
Here is the cast:
IMPERATIVE (#1) (30-1) – Nine-year-old has seen better days and could be making his final appearance in the Whitney. The accomplished son of Bernardini has lost a few steps and would be a massive surprise under Jose Bracho.
FOREWARNED (#2) (30-1) – Capable colt from the Uriah St. Lewis barn has some solid allowance form in preparation of this demanding assignment. But this is far from an allowance field, and the son of Flat Out looks overmatched in this spot.
MONONGAHELA (#3) (12-1) – Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) romper comes in off a lifetime-best performance and another move forward puts him in the mix to get a piece of the pie. K One King five-year-old has some tactical speed, and he might secure a decent trip along the rail since the pair of runners to his inside do their best work from well back. Jose Lezcano rides the exotics contender.
THUNDER SNOW (#4) (3-1) – Classy Godolphin homebred leads the field with earnings in excess of $16 million. Son of Helmet was beaten just a length in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) when close to rapid fractions throughout in a fine prep for this titanic battle. Two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) star looms a huge chance with his best in his Saratoga debut.
VINO ROSSO (#5) (6-1) – Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner comes in fresh for Todd Pletcher in a third career attempt at The Spa. Curlin colt was a closing third in the 2018 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on the course, and these connections can never be counted out locally. John Velazquez will ride the chestnut.
MCKINZIE (#6) (7-5) – Bob Baffert trainee is a consistently excellent colt coming off a troubled second in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park. Street Sense four-year-old is versatile and shows some rapid morning drills in preparation of his initial start at Saratoga. Mike Smith has not won this race since 1993, but he has the right contender to add a second Whitney victory to his resume.
YOSHIDA (#7) (10-1) – Multiple Grade 1 hero has been sixth in each of his three assignments in 2019, but in his defense, he has ran into some of the best horses in the world along the way. The Bill Mott trainee was a fine winner of the Woodward Stakes (G1) last summer in his Saratoga debut and is training well as of late. One-run closer will be moving best inside the final furlong as the value of the field with Joel Rosario riding.
PRESERVATIONIST (#8) (3-1) – Rapidly improving son of Arch earned a monstrous 116 BRIS Speed number in his Suburban Stakes (G2) victory for trainer Jimmy Jerkens last out. Lightly raced six-year-old has won five of his last six races and is a budding star in the handicap division. Kentucky-bred bay put in a strong five-furlong work over the surface last weekend and rates an obvious chance beneath Junior Alvarado.
PHOTO: Yoshida wins the Woodward Stakes (G1) under jockey Joel Rosario on September 1, 2018, at Saratoga (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher