The 2019 Whitney is hard to handicap
By New York Hot List Staff
The top choices in the 2019 Whitney Stakes are some of the biggest names in thoroughbred racing’s Older Male division. Racing fans know their names – Thunder Road, McKinzie, Vino Rosso, Yoshida. They are all millionaires looking to win the $1 million feature on Saturday at Saratoga.
Yet their records this year are hard to figure out. The 7-5 morning line favorite is McKinzie and he has just one win in four starts. Thunder Road has won more than $16 million in his career, but he has never won a race in America. Yoshida, who won the Woodward (G1) at the Spa last year, has not a victory to his name in 2019.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is hoping for better luck for McKinzie in the Whitney.
“He’s trained forwardly since the Met Mile and he’s come out of that race really well,” explained Baffert. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the trip we really wanted there, but now going a mile and eighth hopefully will give him a little more time to work out a better trip.”
Baffert has only had one other starter in the Whitney and that was a fourth-place finish in 2004 with Sarava.
“It’s certainly a prestigious race and it would mean a lot to have it on McKinzie’s resume,” said Baffert. “It looks like a very good competitive field, so we’re hoping we can run our race and get a little bit of racing luck as well.”
Vino Rosso is looking to win consecutive Grade 1 races after his victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“I think the nine-furlong distance is ideal for him if there’s an honest pace. He’s a very versatile horse,” stated Pletcher. “He actually ran kind of sneaky good in the [Grade 1] Carter. You don’t run in too many Carters where a half goes in almost 47 seconds. I think we were in the right race with a good plan, it just didn’t work out the way we anticipated it might on that particular day. But I think he’s versatile at pretty much any distance.”
Thunder Road won the bulk of his purse money from two victories in the Dubai World Cup, which is run at a mile and a quarter. Godolphin President Jimmy Bell talked about his distance preferences.
“I think the two turns will be helpful and I think what you saw was that he was able to hang on in a very contentious field in the Met Mile,” said Bell. “A mile and a quarter is right up his alley, but I think he’ll be very competitive going a mile and an eighth.”
NYRA has announced that there will be a two-day Pick 6 with a 20¢ minimum, a low 15% takeout, and a mandatory payout. The sequence kicks off in Saturday’s fifth race and concludes on Sunday with race 10.
Analysis of the Whitney Day card from the New York Hot List team is available free of charge on this website.