I’ve seen more than my fair share of Grade 1 stakes, not only in Saratoga but everywhere. I can’t remember, however, if I’ve ever seen one as difficult at this year’s Whitney Handicap. Under the new “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup format, a victory here ought to qualify the winner for admission into the next two Classics.

With great difficulty, we’ve narrowed it down to four of the 12, from the inside, out: Papi Chullo (9-2), Magna Graduate (7-2), Dry Martini (15-1) and Lawyer Ron (6-1). Yes, we know, the last two horses break from posts 10 and 11, respectively, with its short run to the first turn. Perhaps that disadvantage will provide better odds.

Like most runners, Papi Chullo has been a new horse since acquired by Gary Contessa. ‘Papi’ earned an excellent figure winning his first start for the barn then overcame a poor start to win the Birdstone on the Belmont Stakes undercard impressively. The spacing here is ideal, a return from a 49-day layup, and the horse has trained consistently well for this. Nicely drawn inside, he gets two to three pounds from the major contenders. Early line odds would be the minimum if wagering to win.

Magna Graduate has labored in the shadows of more celebrated stablemates but has done his fair share of winning. He just missed following a tough trip in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, bumped in deep stretch after rallying very wide to reach contention. Before taking what likely will be low odds, however, require a fast track. Not only is he winless in two wet track starts but many of today’s rivals move way up on it.

Dry Martini is one of several longshots with a legitimate upset chance. He returned to his best figure in his first start for trainer Barclay Tagg last time out, winning the Cornhusker Handicap, and he appears poised for a potentially explosive effort. The four-year-old gelding keeps getting more professional with each start and his best figures were earned at today’s 9-furlong distance. Twice. The only horse to return from the Cornhusker thus far won his subsequent start.

Lawyer Ron has drawn poorly but needs no other made-to-order conditions. Arguably the most accomplished with 10 wins from 22 lifetime starts, he’s 2-for-3 at the trip with a placing and is undefeated in two wet-track starts. He’s cycling back to his best effort and stretches out nicely to his best distance off his Salvator placing. Not only have his figures improved for the Pletcher barn but he’s been more amenable to rating. Still, he has speed if you need it, which he might, given today’s draw. The odds should be fair.

Taking Lawyer Ron to win at 9-2 or greater, and second and third in trifectas beneath the three remaining contenders.

Running Totals: (67) 30-13-10 Dollar Return: $171.10