New York-breds are favored in Saturday’s Whitney
By Matt Shifman
The Older Male division takes center stage on Saturday at Saratoga with the 91st running of the Whitney (G1). The $1.2 million Grade 1 stake has drawn an interesting field of eight, which is headed by the New York-breds Mind Your Biscuits and Diversify.
Only three of the eight horses have registered a victory in a Grade 1. Mind Your Biscuits leads this category with a total of three wins that happened in the Dubai Golden Shaheen twice and the Malibu at Santa Anita. Diversify won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in the 2017, while Tapwrit took down the Belmont Stakes last year. The rest of the field has at least one Grade 2 or 3 in their past performances.
Looking at career earnings, there are four millionaires in the field with Mind Your Biscuits leading the way with just under $4 million. Also, with seven figure career purses are Diversify, Tapwrit, and Good Samaritan.
Diversify [PP 6] was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite based on his victory in the Suburban (G2) during the July Stars and Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park. The son of Bellamy Road has won nine of 14 career starts with six of them coming against state-breds. He found much of his success when running on or just behind the lead. Trainer Rick Violette decided to run Diversify in the Whitney after a strong workout at Saratoga.
“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.”
Trainer Chad Summers is taking a chance with Mind Your Biscuits [PP 4], the 2-1 second choice in the mile and an eighth Whitney, as his horse has never won a race around two-turns. Summers was encouraged to try the new distance after the son of Posse lost by nose in the Met Mile (G1) while making his usual strong closing move. Since then Summers has been preparing his star for this big race.
“I’m as confident as I can be. It hasn’t been done before, but 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,” explained a confident Summers. “He’s doing super. We can’t wait for Saturday. Everyday, he’s training better and better. We love how he galloped this morning, and we just can’t wait to go.”
Backyard Heaven [PP 2] is the 9-2 third choice based a strong victory in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. The Chad Brown trainee stayed at Churchill where he finished a disappointing sixth in the Stephen Foster (G1).
“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.”
Todd Pletcher sends the 6-1 fourth choice Tapwrit [PP 1] to the Whitney looking for his fourth career victory in the race. The son of Tapit had some hoof problems last summer and has not found the winner’s circle in four starts since the Belmont Stakes.
The rest of the field for the Whitney, which is carded as race 9 out of 11 with a post time of 5:46 pm ET, includes: Dalmore [PP 3, 30-1], Discreet Lover [PP 5, 30-1], Good Samaritan [PP 7, 12-1], and McCraken [PP 8, 15-1].