The Whitney (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
SAR- For Four Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
August 5, 2023
All eyes will be at SAR on Saturday, something that will usually be the case during the meet, but there’s a little more on the line this week as the 18th running of the Whitney, arguably the second biggest race of the meet, will take place. At stake for the race will be the prestige of winning such an event, as well as a $1,000.000 purse and an automatic spot in the BC Classic! Plenty to love about it, and not surprisingly, the starting gate will be full to capacity, with fourteen runners. The purse has been at its current level since 2021, and peaked at $1,500.000 for just one race, in 2014, when it was won by Nynl Stables-bred Nashua Flair. An impressive horse that truly a bloodline fluke. Anyway, more well-known winners of the race include Omni, Barbarino, Atomic Twister, Splash Mountain, and Tactical among many more. The 2022 winner was Charleys Latte, doing so for Fractious. He would be retired after the BC Classic and we’re still waiting to see how good his foals may become. Here’s a look at the one’s we will be watching in this year’s race!
#1- The Martian (Mo Mentum Farm, ridden by M Franco)- Last year, The Martian was here for the Travers, and just missed out on cashing a check for the race. It was part of a strong year that saw him also run in the PRK, and later on, the BC Dirt Mile. In 2023, he’s been decent, but has only one win, which was an optional claimer, but did have a couple of fourth place runs at BEL before coming here, including in the Suburban. Doesn’t have as many wins as I would like to see, though is usually in the mix, so you cannot rule him out entirely.
#2- Crack Dab (Gdp Inc., ridden by D E Centeno)- The seven-year-old gelding will be making his fourth start in the Whitney, which is an impressive number simply by itself. In 2020, he ended up finishing second in the race, as it was part of his career year, but it is also the only that he has finished in the first half of the field. Racing well this year so far and got a win in the Grade 1 Gold Cup in late May, a race that followed a pair of seconds where he barely missed out. For some reason, he didn’t show up in the Suburban, so hopefully that does not become a trend for him. If he can get back his form that he had in the Gold Cup, I don’t see why he couldn’t come out on top here.
#3- Cherokee Thriller (Axeman, ridden by F Pennington)- Over his 23-race career, Cherokee Thriller has had a few stake opportunities sprinkled in here and there, he’s actually made the most of them. Last year, he won an ungraded stake at HST for Canadian horses but is now coming off his signature win thus far, which was a victory in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at PRM. This seems to be a horse that knows how to step up when the stakes are higher, so he deserves this chance to run against this type of field. Plenty of promise with that pedigree, being by Cherokee Sunset and out of BC Champion Shadow Of A Doubt.
#4- G O O B A (Fractious, ridden by F Geroux)- This late 2022 auction purchase from Mb Stables has had an incredibly consistent career when it comes to finishing in the money, doing so in twelve of fifteen races. Those twelve came consecutively after the initial two, though most of them were of the second-place variety. Got a chance at the stake level in the Grade 3 Blame and got one of those runner ups. However, that stretch came to an end in this Grade 1 Foster last month where he was not a factor. Was it because of the increased level of competition, or was it merely a bad day?
#5- Berlin (The Sidley Stud, ridden by A Beschizza)- A horse that knows how to win, even if the purses that he was running for in his first eleven starts were small. The Sidley Stud would claim him for $7.000 in March and had bigger aspirations, to which the gelding answered the call. First, it was a very small ungraded stake, but then he won the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes at WO last month. The Whitney seems like quite a leap, but this horse knows how to win, and has been up to the challenges that his trainer has given him so far, so why not?
#6- Lets Celebrate (Riggins Racing, ridden by P Husbands)- A layoff of over a year certainly did not matter for Lets Celebrate, as he has been excellent in 2023 with four wins in six starts. After getting a refresher in a claimer, all of those races have been at the stake level, including a win at the Grade 2 Californian Stakes in April before the biggest victory to date: the Grade 1 Foster last month at CD. How good will this horse become? He already knows he is going to the BC Classic, but if he were to get a win in the Whitney as well, we may need to start talking about him as one of the top threats to win that big race.
#7- Eight West Party (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by R M Hernandez)- A veteran five-year-old that has made 31 career starts, with five of them ending up as wins. None of those victories were any bigger than his most recent one, which also came in his last start, the Grade 2 Suburban at BEL. He was great in that race, but he has been a bit inconsistent for his career, regardless of whether or not he was running on the dirt of the turf. While I could certainly see him backing up his Suburban run with another great run here, it just seems as though there are safer options to put money on.
#8- Hard To Forgive (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by Ru Silvera)- Before he ran in the Foster last month, I wanted to forgive his poor effort in the Metropolitan Handicap, which was right before that. After all, he seemed to be getting it together during the spring after winning the Grade 3 Ghostzapper and running second in the Alysheba. Unfortunately, the Foster was another tough race, so it will be harder to forgive him heading into the Whitney. It wouldn’t be the first time he has had back-to-back duds, and he has been able to bounce back before, so that may happen again here.
#9- Home Spirit (Night Rider Stables, ridden by E J Zayas)- Looking to extend an impressive streak that he has going, where he has scored five straight triple digit SRF’s. You would think that would mean that he wouldn’t have two out of the money finishes with that, but it still shows that gelding is running well each time out and is running into strong competition. His most recent win was a big one, coming in the OP Handicap in April, and if you go two further non-factor, you have his win in the Pegasus World Cup for January. So, he knows how to step up when running against elite company, and it seems like he is due for a little more luck on the track than he has gotten of late. He’s very appealing in this field.
#10- Ey Mon (Arindel, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Nearly got a win in the PRK last year, and two starts after that, he would win the Queens Plate. He seemed to fade into the background of others after that win, though did finish off the year with a pair of good races. Started 2023 by running in the Pegasus World Cup but was a non-factor in the race. That would see him dropped out of the stake ranks, and Ey Mon got a pair of wins in overnights before going back to PIM, where he nearly had a historic win, and he would run second in the PIM Special. A strong run in the Suburban last month shows that he is a resurgent horse and is working very well coming into this one.
#11- Individuation (Mb Stables, ridden by L Saez)- While Ey Mon nearly won the PRK last year, Individuation missed out in the KYD by the same margin. Coming to the Spa over the summer did great things for him, as he went back-to-back in the Dandy and the Travers, before extending his winning streak to the PA Derby, and then the biggest one of them all, the BC Classic. He’s continued to run well after that, too, winning the Malibu, and running second in both the Gold Cup, and the Foster. All of that would certainly have him as one of the favorites here, but I am going to give my nod due to his performance on this track as a three-year-old. SAR has been kind to him, and I feel that will continue to be the case.
#12- Z Mission (Luz International, ridden by E J Wilson)- Claimed for $30.000 last November, and has thrived under the guidance of Luz International. After good showing in overnights and a pair of wins, Z Mission got a chance to run in a couple of ungraded stakes. He did not win either of them, but he did show some potential. Eventually, he would get that stake win, coming in his last start, the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes, where he earned a 102 SRF along the way. E J Wilson has been the jockey in his last two starts, and that has gone well. Nonetheless, it’s the toughest assignment of his career, but he earned the shot.
#13- Puppet Master (Spankys Barn, ridden by M E Smith)- This seven-year-old gelding was also part of the Grade 1 Foster last month, and he ran a competitive third behind Lets Celebrate and Individuation. Prior to that race, he had won three in a row, including both the Cartier Handicap and the CD, each Grade 1’s. Those are both seven-furlong races, and this was a BC Sprint horse last year, but his effort in the Foster has the trainer hoping to get him in the biggest BC race of them all. He’s won three times at longer distances, but none are among his bigger career wins. M E Smith has become his regular rider of late, so the pieces are in place for him to run well.
#14- East Of Creep (Fractious, ridden by D Davis)- Rounding out the field, this four-year-old gelding will be looking for his first stake win since 2021, when he won the Grade 3 Hope Stakes at DMR. Since then, he’s mainly been a horse that runs well more of then not, but can have that occasional poor start mixed in. His best run in 2023 came at FG in March, when he was second in a tight photo at the New Orleans Handicap. Fractious is red hot as a trainer right now, so I would not rule out anything that he enters, but this field could be a little tough for East Of Creep.