Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be seeking his first win in the $1 million Whitney (G1) on Saturday when he sends out the 7-5 morning line favorite McKinzie against seven foes in the 92nd running of the Saratoga fixture.
The colt is coming off a troubled second in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park in his last outing. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is in to ride the son of Street Sense, who will break from the six post.
The Whitney is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). McKinzie has only run out of the exacta once in his career and that was in last year’s Classic where he faded to finish a well beaten 12th.
He faces a solid field that includes Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner Vino Rosso (6-1), two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) champ Thunder Snow (3-1) and Suburban (G2) winner Preservationist (3-1).
Completing the field are multiple Grade 1 winner Yoshida (10-1), Iselin (G3) winner Monogahela (12-1) and longshots Forewarned (30-1) and Imperative (30-1).
The Whitney is one of five stakes on Saturday’s 11 race card. The supporting stakes include the $500,000 Test (G1) for three-year-old fillies and the $200,000 Troy (G3) for three-year-olds and upward going 5 ½ furlongs on turf.
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McKinzie shipped east from Del Mar for Baffert who is confident the colt is ready for a big effort on Saturday.
“We’re excited and really looking forward to running in this race, “Baffert said. “He’s trained forwardly since the Met Mile and he’s come out of that race really well. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the trip we really wanted there, but now going a mile and eighth hopefully will give him a little more time to work out a better trip.”
The Whitney will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network at 5:00 ET.
Let’s head out to Saratoga for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 9 The Whitney G1 Post time 5:46 ET
6 McKinzie 7-5
5 Vino Rosso 6-1
4 Thunder Snow 3-1
8 Preservationist 3-1
The Bob Baffert trainee is going to be the short priced favorite, but the colt looks primed for a top effort in this spot. Her put in a solid effort in the Met Mile (G1) last out despite the fact he is better going two turns. The colt had a tough trip. He saved ground early down along the best part of the surface that day but got caught in behind foes, then lacking room and checking of the heels of Thunder Snow just inside the eighth pole. Smith got him angled out and he finished strongly to finish in the runner up spot, beaten ¾ of a length by Mitole. The stretch out to nine furlongs and two turns will suit him He has earned triple digit Beyers in seven of his last eight starts, the one exception his dud in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Smith has options here and he could be on the lead but seems more likely to take a tracking role here. The price is going to be on the light side, but this guy looks tough in this spot.
This colt got the job done as our top pick in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) paying $10.20 and he beat a tough foe in Gift Box in that win. The Pletcher trainee earned a career top speed fig and appreciated the stretch out to 1 ¼ miles. He put in a decent effort two back in the Carter Handicap (G1) in a fourth-place finish at seven furlongs, not his best distance. The winner of that race was World of Trouble, who came back to win the Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs and the Jaipur (G1) at Belmont Park in his next two starts. He sat just off a fast pace last out showing some versatility in what was a breakthrough effort for this colt.
The $16 million earner was third beaten length in the Met Mile (G1) and it was a solid effort at not his best distance. It was his first start since taking the Dubai World Cup (G1) two back at 1 ¼ miles. His two starts in the U.S. last year were solid—a neck loss in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The stretch out to two turns will suit him although he is more effective at 1 ¼ miles.
WIN: McKinzie to win at 7-5 or better.
EXACTA: 5,6 / 4,5,6,8
TRIFECTA: 5,6 / 4,5,6,8 / 4,5,6,7,8