HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, August 4, 2023 – This may be sacrilegious to some, but more than Travers Day, Alabama Day, or the final weekend when babies take center stage in the Hopeful and Spinaway, Whitney Day is my favorite Saratoga event.
The fabled Grade 1 at nine furlongs consistently ranks at or near the top of America’s premier races for three-year-old and older dirt males. As Joe Hirsch or Charles Hatton would have written, its winners read like a roll of drums:
Kelso, thrice. Discovery, thrice. War Admiral. Tom Fool. Stymie. Dr. Fager. Alydar.
And fillies, too: Personal Ensign. Lady’s Secret. And there’s no forgetting the filly who started it all, legendary Black Maria, a two-time filly champion who won the inaugural at a mile and a quarter 95 years ago.
The question on the mind of latter day horseplayers and fans is will Cody’s Wish, the co-subject of perhaps the greatest racing story ever told, add his name to this celebrated list. It certainly, indelibly, would cement his legacy for many generations to come.
Are there any giant killers out there capable of pulling off the upset? Whether it is nine furlongs, a second turn, or simply the law of averages, can ‘Cody’ stretch his winning steak to seven dating back to May 7, 2022? Is the 1-2 early line favorite vulnerable?
“I think all of us entered against him are hoping that he is,” said Rick Dutrow, whose return to stakes competition came with today’s fourth favorite, White Abarrio, who was a courageous third to ‘Cody’ after a troubled start in the Met Mile.
“I hate going against him again,” Dutrow added. “He was too much for us last time, maybe he will be again, but after the Met Mile I’m very confident going into this race against any horse right now. Going in I think he belongs, but he needs to prove it.
Dutrow will return to Saratoga Race Track for the first time after serving an unjust 10-year suspension that ended this winter. He’s currently not winning races at a prolific rate as in the past, but owners to visit with him by phone and send him horses. He’s currently training 43 head at Belmont Park.
And the stock? “I like the claiming game and I hope to continue that. I’m always looking to claim, I enjoy it. I read the form, look at the numbers, and if I like what I see, I go to other avenues…
“I’ve got a bunch of babies and they should be ready to go in September and October, the end of the year. I’ve got a few nice ones, one sent by Samantha Siegel who’s been good to us over the years. Hope we can do some good for her.”
On Saturday, Dutrow will try to slay a giant with a horse making its second start for him, White Abarrio transferred from Saffie Joseph Jr. to Dutrow, the owners deciding to point to the Met Mile.
“He came to me in good shape. He’s a sound horse. I do see small changes in his personality now. Only two horses [Cody’s Wish and Zandon] have races over this track.
“This horse has run well in New York and Florida. He doesn’t have to carry a track with him, and he might just love this track. We have a nice horse here; I know he’s going to run big.”
UNDERCARD STAKES LEND STRONG SUPPORT
There are five stakes in support of the Whitney, three of them Grade 1, one Grade 3, and a listed event, but none more compelling than the G1 Test Stakes for three year old fillies at seven furlongs.
Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Pretty Mischievous (9-5) could secure two Eclipse titles with a victory, one for outstanding three year old filly and one for top female sprinter of any age, whatever the Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint may have in store.
Her three major challengers are the brilliantly quick Munnys Gold (7-2), undefeated, leading New York-bred filly Maple Leaf Mel (2-1), and strong-finishing late developer, Dorth Vader. As for me, I intend to “get with the program.”