Fort Larned Favored to Take Whitney at Saratoga

Reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero Fort Larned tops the strong field likely to contest the weekend feature at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday in the $750,000 Whitney Invitational H. (G1). Trained by Ian Wilkes, the son of E Dubai got back to fine form in a powerful romp in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) most recently ay Churchill downs and he surely likes the Saratoga main oval. His best will make him very tough to upend. 

Narrowly edged by Wise Dan in the voting for champion older male of 2012, Fort Larned got off to a rocky beginning this term when he dumped jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. at the start of the March 9 Gulfstream Park Handicap, and then proceeded to outrun his rivals for the entire one-mile trip while riderless. He was not fully recovered from that incident, according to trainer Ian Wilkes, when he finished a nondescript fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap the following month.

Rested for two months, Fort Larned brought his ‘A’ game for the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Seizing control at the start, the five-year-old E Dubai horse built up an insurmountable advantage and crossed the wire 6 1/4 lengths in front of his closest pursuer.

“He’s coming into the race great,” Wilkes said. “To win back-to-back Whitneys would be quite an accomplishment. Discovery won it three times in a row (1934-36), and (Commentator 2005, 2008 and Kelso 1961, 1963, 1965) won it multiple times. To stay in good form and be able to have a chance to do that says something about the horse.”

Standing in Fort Larned’s way are several familiar foes. Mucho Macho Man, who chased Fort Larned all the way around the Santa Anita oval only to fall short by a half-length in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, has looked sub-par in two appearances this season. Pulled up after struggling over a sloppy track in the January 19 Sunshine Millions Classic, the Kathy Ritvo trainee was out of action five months before finishing a tiring third in an overnight stakes at Belmont in mid-June.

“This year, we had a slow start. We ran into a track that was not to his liking. Then, he came up with a virus,” Ritvo said. “We restarted everything because he’s such a good horse.

“He came back and had a really good race in the Criminal Type at Belmont. It was similar to his race in the Alysheba last year before he won the Suburban. It was a good race, and it turned out to be a tough race. We were proud of his effort. I think it has set him up perfectly. I think he is doing as good as he did coming into the Woodward last year. He likes the track up here. He hasn’t missed a work. It’s a tough field, but he belongs here.”

Ron the Greek easily beat Fort Larned in the 2012 Stephen Foster, but has finished behind that rival in three subsequent outings and by large margins in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and this year’s Stephen Foster.

“I think he’s like a lot of horses — I don’t think he runs his best race every time,” trainer Bill Mott said. “It seems like about every third shot he jumps up and runs a good one.”

Successful Dan, the older half-brother to Wise Dan, beat Fort Larned by a length in the 2012 Alysheba at Churchill, but has raced only three times since, losing to the Whitney favorite on two of those occasions. He ran the worst race of his career in the Stephen Foster, finishing 15 lengths adrift of Fort Larned after encountering trouble at the top of the stretch.

“I hope he shows up this time,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He didn’t run his race at all at Churchill. He’s never run a bad race, and (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said he just wasn’t handling the track.”

The most lightly-raced horse in the Whitney field is the Todd Pletcher-trained Cross Traffic, who will be making only his fifth lifetime start and his first since May 27. He suffered two heartbreaking losses at Belmont this spring, missing by a head to Flat Out in the Westchester and by a nose to Sahara Sky in the Metropolitan Handicap. Both races were over a mile.

The field is completed by Alpha, who has not placed in five starts since dead-heating for the win in last year’s Travers; Fast Falcon, a neck third in last summer’s Travers and the third-place finisher in both the Suburban and Brooklyn handicaps in his last two starts; and the multiple Grade 3-winning Csaba, who was re-routed to the Whitney after an overnight stakes on Friday failed to fill.

In the race preceding the Whitney, eight fillies and mares will contest the $100,000 De La Rose over one mile on the inner turf. The race is restricted to those that have not won a graded stakes on turf this year.

Adding Lasix for the first time will be the Chad Brown-trained Laugh Out Loud. A Group 2 winner in France last season, the gray faded to last in the six-horse Just a Game at Belmont on June 8 over soft ground, which marked her U.S. debut.

Other notables are Grade 3 winner Ruthenia, who exits a third behind subsequent Diana winner Laughing in the Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park, and Open Water, who captured the Marjorie L. Everett Handicap over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park in May.

The Saturday undercard will be led by the $100,000 De La Rose S.

Sunday at Saratoga will play host to the $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt S. (G1). This six-furlong dash will bring out some of the better one-turn horses on the East Coast. Gentleman’s Bet and Delauney, the top two finishers from the Iowa Sprint H., are both expected to vie for favoritism in this dash. Also expected to contest this fine sprint include the second, third and fourth-place finishers from the recent Smile Sprint H. (G2); champion Trinniberg, Grade 1 star Jackson Bend and the talented Justin Phillip. 

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2013 Whitney Handicap Field

Post Horse Trainer Jockey M/L Odds
1 Successful Dan Charles LoPresti Julien Leparoux 12-1
2 Mucho Macho Man Kathy Ritvo Edgar Prado 6-1
3 Fort Larned Ian Wilkes Brian Hernandez, Jr. 7-5
4 Cross Traffic Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 5-2
5 Ron The Greek Bill Mott Jose Lezcano 6-1
6 Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin Joel Rosario 10-1
7 Csaba Philip Gleaves Luis Saez 20-1
8 Fast Falcon Nicholas Zito Junior Alvarado 15-1

Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Wagering

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will present a $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 every Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and a $1 Million All Graded Stakes Pick 4 on Travers Day, August 24.

Although NYRA offers daily Pick 4’s on races 2 – 5 and the final four races of the day, the $500,000 guarantee applies only to the Late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Saratoga Race Course. The Late Pick 4 is a 50 cent minimum wager in which the bettor must correctly pick the winners of the last four races on the card, usually beginning with race eight.

On Travers Day, August 24, the guarantee will rise to $1 million in conjunction with the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes. The Travers is supported by three additional graded events: the $500,000 Grade 1 Test, the $500,000 Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop, and the $250,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa. The Late Pick 4 is scheduled to begin with Race 9 on Travers Day.

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Those planning to play the majority of the Saratoga season should check out for savings plans on Ultimate PPs, Daily Selections, and ALL-Ways data files for the entire meeting. Buy any of the summer racing packages and receive Track Stats free!

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NBC and NYRA to Host “Summer at Saratoga” Series

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the NBC Sports Group have announced the schedule for this year’s “Summer at Saratoga” series, with five live broadcasts from Saratoga, starting on August 11 and running through September 1, and including such marquee races as the Alabama, Travers and Woodward.

Last year’s NBC Sports Group coverage of the Saratoga meet marked the most extensive live national broadcast presence ever of racing from the prestigious track, and following the meet, NYRA and the NBC Sports Group announced a two-year extension for “Summer at Saratoga,” which will bring live national coverage of the Saratoga meet through 2013.

The schedule for the NBC Sports Group’s live coverage of the 2012 Saratoga meet is as follows (all times Eastern):
  • July 27:  Grade 1, $600,000 Diana and Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
  • August 3: Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap (5-6pm on NBC)
  • August 10: Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (5-6pm on NBC)
  • August 11: Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack and Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
  • August 17: Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama and Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
  • August 24: Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop and Grade 1, $1 million Travers (4:30-6pm on NBC)
  • August 31:  Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, G1 $500,000 Forego and Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward (4-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
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Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Meet

Dates: July 19 – September 2nd  Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Racing Schedule: 40 days. Friday, July 19 through Monday, September 2, Labor Day. No racing on Tuesdays.
Post Times: 1pm Eastern. On Travers Day, Saturday, August 24, first race post is 11:35am. For Twilight Racing, Friday August 30, first race post time is 2:30pm On Labor Day, Monday, September 2, first post is 12:30pm.

Saratoga Race Course Track Facts and Information

Main Track:1 1/8-mile oval with seven-furlong chute; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,144 feet.
WTC Mellon Turf:
The Mellon (Outer) Turf Course is a one-mile (plus 98 feet) oval; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,144 feet.
ITC Turf Course:
The Inner Turf Course is a seven-furlong (plus 304 feet) oval; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to finish is 1,164 feet.
Oklahoma Training Track:
 One-mile oval with a quarter-mile chute; 2 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 990 feet.
Oklahoma Turf Course:
Seven-furlong oval; 2 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,024 feet.
Oklahoma Steeplechase course: Six-furlong oval, five fences.
Clare Court Training Track: Half-mile oval; 1.5 percent banking on the turns.

About Saratoga Race Course

Since opening its gates in 1863, Saratoga Race Course has welcomed champion thoroughbreds, renowned trainers, celebrated jockeys and famed horsemen onto its tracks and into the hearts of millions of racing fans – making it one of the nation’s most beloved destinations. Its character, elegance and charm have been impeccably preserved for almost a century and a half, and its beauty and tranquility have transcended generations. A truly unique summer oasis nestled in the
foothills of the Adirondacks, the Spa will today and always be affectionately known as “the summer place to be.”Bet on racing at Saratoga Race Course and all your favorite tracks for free right here on!