Since he was a wide, strong-finish third behind the revelatory Vekoma in the prestigious Metropolitan Mile, I’ve been waiting to bet Code of Honor (5-2) back given more suitable dynamics in the Grade 1 1-1/8 miles Whitney Stakes.
Now that the race is upon us, I have serious second thoughts. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think a 7-year-old “old pro” would be standing in his way. Then Tom’s de’Etat is not your ordinary old pro.
Tom’s d’Etat (6-5) at his advanced age is not only riding in the best form of his life but also as if he’s the best handicap horse in America. A Whitney victory certainly would, at this stage, vault him to the top of the class.
We haven’t done the X’s and O’s at this posting but will have a betting schematic figured out by early Saturday morning for the Whitney and other races of major interest this weekend. At this juncture, the lean is toward the tactical old pro.
And we need to do research on Improbable (5-2), a thoroughly dominating winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup at 1-1/4 miles. Can he turn back with a tougher set where the pace–whether he sets it or not–will be more demanding?
The second Grade 1, which chronologically is the first of three championship making events on the Saratoga program, is the G1 Personal Ensign that features last year’s heroine, Midnight Bisou (2-5).
Her victory prepping for this in Churchill’s G2 Fleur de Lis at the same trip has to be seen to be believed Yes, the table was set as Serengeti Empress ran off down the backside faster than was good for her.
But Midnight Bisou blitzed the leaders at headstretch, Mike Smith never moving his hands. Smith urged her from there and she separated herself from the group, winning with her ears pricked. This will be a tougher test.
The competition is strong with Vexatious (5-1) coming in off her lifetime best figure when second to champion Monomoy Girl in the G2 Ruffian but it’s Point of Honor (5-2) who is the favorite’s main concern.
Second in the G1 Ogden Phipps at a shorter trip, the ground loss on the turn cost her what would have been a nose victory. But better than stretching out to a more suitable distance is her return to a two turns, the dynamic of her last three victories.
The third Grade 1 of the day features another solid favorite but might turn out to be the best betting race of the day depending on what figures to be a hot early pace, likely to be set by the brilliant No Parole (9-5).
His only defeat in six lifetime starts came over a sealed sloppy Oaklawn surface going two turns. sprinting on fast ground he is 5-for-5 including a comprehensive 3-1/4 length score in the G1 Woody Stephens at Belmont June 20.
But No Parole is meeting 10 rivals, many of which have speed. Who will be brave enough, perhaps foolhardy enough, to supply the early pressure will depend on what happens out of the gate,
The favorite is nicely drawn mid-gate and partners with aggressive Luis Saez. Two solid contenders are Echo Town, second in the ‘Woody,’ and Spa-loving Tap It to Win, turning back from the Belmont Stakes. The oddsmaker rates them both at 9-2.
The dark horse in here is Eight Rings (8-1), not that Bob Baffert can ever sneak into Saratoga unnoticed. He figures to like the trip but his form in quizzical. Frankly, we don’t know what to expect from the speedster who attracts white hot Joel Rosario.
The Grade 2 Bowling Green drew only seven runners but handicappers could make a strong case for four of them, from the inside out; Mike Maker’s uncoupled pair of Marzo (8-1) and Cross Border (5-2), Dot Matrix (9-2), and Sadler’s Joy (2-1).
Wazzup at Del Mar?
Heading the Shared Belief lineup, the final West Coast prep for the SEP 5 Kentucky Derby, is the division’s second-ranked Honor A.P. vs. the highly regarded lightly raced Baffert duo of Uncle Chuck (8-5) and Cezanne (9-5).
More on that Saturday, as well as a look at McKinzie who will trying to make a successful transition, sprinting in the G1 Bing Crosby.