SARATOGA SPRINGS —Those concerned about a lack of entries for the Grade I, $750,000 Whitney Stakes causing a lack of handle need not worry.
All five horses running in the race, which serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, are millionaires.
The field is also ripe with horses trying to achieve their mark in history. Code of Honor is trying to become the first horse since Will’s Way to win the Travers Stakes one year and the Whitney the next. Will’s Way did that in 1996 and 1997. Tom’s d’Etat, at the ripe age of 7, is looking to become the oldest horse to win the Whitney since a 7-year-old Commentator did it in 2008. Mr. Buff — no youngster himself at age 6 — will attempt to become the second New York-bred to win the Whitney in three years, following Diversify’s victory in 2018.
There are humans trying to put themselves in elite company, as well. Trainer Bob Baffert, who sends out Improbable, is attempting to become the first trainer to win consecutive Whitneys since fellow Hall of Famer Scotty Schulhofer did it with Colonial Affair and Unaccounted For in 1994 and 1995. McKinzie won last year’s Whitney for Baffert.
Also, Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey can become just the second trainer to win four Whitneys if Code of Honor crosses the finish line first. Elliott Burch was the first. McGaughey has won previous Whitneys with Personal Ensign (1988), Easy Goer (1989) and Honor Code (2015).
McGaughey knows Code of Honor likes Saratoga, but noted after the main track’s refurbishing during the offseason, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
“He’s always liked it up here and liked training over the track,” McGaughey told the New York Racing Association at the Whitney draw. “But it’s a different main track up here than it was in the Travers. How much different I’m not sure. He’s been training well since we’ve come up here this year, so hopefully he runs well again.”
Code of Honor is coming off a third in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap. Before that, he won the Grade III Westchester.
Code of Honor isn’t the only horse with a proven affinity for Saratoga. Tom’s d’Etat has won here at ages 3, 4 and 6. In fact, his only loss at the track came last year when he finished fourth in the Grade I Woodward.
He has won his last four races, including the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs most recently, on June 27.
“I can tell in the couple weeks he’s been here, his hair is great and his eye is just what you want and it seems like he knows just where he is,” said trainer Al Stall, who last won the Whitney in 2010 with Blame.
Chester and Mary Broman have been reducing the number of horses they own, though they still are breeding them on their Chestertown farm. But Mr. Buff, winner of $1,084,536 in his career, has danced all the dances for New York-breds so far.
“There are no more New York-bred races this year, so basically this horse was going to be sitting on the fence for the whole summer unless we ran in this race,” trainer John Kimmel said. “He’s out of conditions, obviously.”
Mr. Buff has two wins and a second in five starts at the Spa, and Kimmel noted that the redone Saratoga track is more like Aqueduct, where the horse has done especially well. Still, he’s under no illusions.
“We know this place has been known as the ‘Graveyard of Favorites,’ but Mr. Buff is stepping into some deep water in this race,” Kimmel said.
By My Standards won the New Orleans Classic and Oaklawn Handicap before finishing second to Tom’s d’Etat in the Stephen Foster. Improbable is coming off a victory in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, but has never won outside of California.
Saturday’s card also has the Grade I Personal Ensign for fillies and mares, featuring last year’s winner and $7.3 million-earner Midnight Bisou, the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens, the Grade II Bowling Green on the turf and the Caress.
Why bet anyone else?
She’s My Type, a French-bred, showed good speed late to capture the $100,000 Coronation Cup for the hottest duo on the track: jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Christophe Clement.
In the shortest race of her six-race career, the 3-year-old filly covered the 5 1/2 furlongs on a firm Mellon Turf Course in 1 minute, 1.67 seconds.
It was Clement’s fourth stakes win so far and his meet-leading 13th of the meet. For Rosario, it was his 19th win of the meet and 10th with Clement. The pair also won the eighth race just before the Coronation Cup with Jewel of Arabia.
“When you train in New York, we’re so lucky, we have the most amazing jocks’ colony,” Clement said. “I do like Joel, he’s running great at the moment. He’s not the only one, I like some other ones, but I use him quite a lot and it’s working great at the moment.”
Clement said it was a special win because it was for Ghislaine Head, the wife of prominent French owner/trainer/breeder Alec Head, who turned 96 Friday and for whom Clement worked. Clement called Alec Head a mentor.
“She showed a very good turn of foot,” Clement said of She’s My Type. “She had a chance to finish and finished very well.”
Follow Will Springstead on Twitter @WSpringsteadPSV.
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