Whitney Tops Three Grade I Stakes at the Spa

A slew of high-class graded winners take aim at the $1.5 million Whitney H. (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday. The superb field of handicap horses go nine panels on the main oval, including Champion Will Take Charge. Trained by D Wayke Lukas, the four-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song has gone off form a bit of late, but bagged the Travers S. (G1) here a year ago and will be very tough with his best performance.

Palace Malice is the current leader for 2014 Horse of the Year honors, and has been nothing short of sensational for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The four-year-old colt is perfect so far this season with four graded wins, capped by a relatively easy prep in the Met Mile (G1). The son of Curlin is 2-for-3 at Saratoga and should vie for favoritism. Dual Grade 3 winner Romansh was flat last out in the Suburban H. (G2),  but a fine third in the Met Mile two back and could be a dangerous exotics piece.

Also signed on are Stephen Foster (G1) third Departing, Donn H. (G1) romper Lea, the classy Florida-bred It’smyluckyday, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) second Golden Ticket, Suburban S. (G2) winner Zivo, the multiple Grade 1-placed speedster Moreno and Suburban third Prayer for Relief.

The $500,000 Test S. (G1) is an annual target for the top sophomore fillies and has produced some great performances over the years, and the 2014 edition looks loaded. Grade 2 winner My Miss Sophia was a good second two back in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) behind a superstar, and we will forgive her first unplaced effort last time and consider her a major player. The Todd Pletcher starlet has been training very well and could be best at this distance.

The mass of contenders in this field include the Grade 1-placed Thank You Marylou, three-time stakes winner Tea Time, Victory Ride S. (G3) winner Street Story, Acorn S. (G1) heroine Sweet Reason, Todd Pletcher’s Sweet Whiskey, second in the Acorn (G1) last time, multiple stakes winner Miss Behaviour, second in the Victory Ride (G3), Southern Honey winner of the Winning Colors S. (G3), Eight Belles S. (G3) queen Fifthyshadesofgold, unbeaten stakes winner Little Alexis, Mother Goose S. (G1) second Princess Violet, and Grade 2 runner-up Bird Maker, who served notice last time out that she may be one to watch in the second half of this season with a huge allowance win at Churchill Downs for Ian Wilkes.

Capping the Grade 1 bonanza on Saturday is the $350,000 A. G. Vanderbilt (G1) for the best one-turn runners. Last year’s runner-up Bahamian Squall, True North (G2) second Bakken, True North upsetter Palace, Grade 3 winner Vyjack, the especially sharp Grade 3 star Happy My Way, Salutos Amigos, a nice third in the Belmont Park Sprint Championship (G3), Capo Bastone, a closing winner of the King’s Bishop S. (G1) on this oval last summer, Carter H. (G1) victor Dads Caps and 2013 Forego S. (G1) hero Strapping Groom, make this one an appealing betting race.

Two additional listed stakes offer black-type opportunity this Saturday, the $100,000 Lure S. and $100,000 De La Rose S.