A field of nine line up on Saturday afternoon in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (G1), with the winner stamping a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race, the third such race so far this year for the handicap division.
The Bill Mott trained Ron the Greek, the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Whitney has already earned an automatic starting berth in the Classic by winning the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on June 16.
Game On Dude earned his trip to the Classic by winning the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) on July 7.
Ron the Greek’s main foe in the Whitney may be his stablemate Flat Out (4-1), who is coming off a runner up finish in the Monmouth Cup (G2) on July 7, his first start off a 4 ½ month layoff.
Flat Out ran second in the Whitney last year while trained by Scooter Dickey.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out a pair as well, Monmouth Cup winner Rule (5-1) and True North (G2) winner Caixa Eletronica (15-1).
The co-feature on the Spa card is the $300,000 Prioress (G1) which drew a field of seven three-year-olds fillies.
The Rudy Rodriguez trained Agave Kiss won her first six career starts, and was sent off as the heavy favorite in the Victory Ride (G3) and she faded to finish fifth after battling for the early lead.
Ramon Dominguez has the return ride on the filly, who is the 8-5 morning line favorite.
Saturday’s Best Plays includes my strongest plays from Saratoga and Mountaineer Park, which includes the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2).
Michael Dempsey provides his selections for Saratoga each racing day. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.
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Let’s head out to Saratoga for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 10 The Whitney Handicap G1 (5:45 ET)
7 Flat Out 4-1
6 Ron the Greek 3-1
8 Hymn Book 4-1
9 Fort Larned 7-2
Analysis: Flat Out is one of two runners in here sent out by the hall of fame Bill Mott barn and likely will offer the most value among the duo. This guy was really good last summer while in the care of Scooter Dickey, running second in this race and the Woodward (G1) and then winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). He was second last out in the Monmouth Cup (G2) in his first start for Mott, which was off a 4 1/2 month break. He figures to move forward off that effort and should get a solid early pace in front of him here.
Ron the Greek is also sent out by Mott and figures to go off as the betting favorite off his game win last out in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. The five year old also won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) earlier this year to go along with runner up finishes in the Sunshine Millions Classic and Oaklawn Handicap (G2). His second in the Oaklawn ‘Cap was to Alternation, who came back to win the Pimlico Special (G3) at Pimlico in his next outing. This guy seems to have thrived since landing with Mott, with his top three career speed figs coming in his last four starts.
Hymn Book was off awkwardly and made a good late run to finish in the runner up spot in the Suburban (G2) last out at Belmont Park. The Shug McGaughey runner is another that should benefit from a fast early pace. He won the Donn Handicap (G1) back in February at Gulfstream Park earning a career top in that outing. He fits here with his best and is reunited with Velazquez who was aboard for the Donn win.
WIN: #7 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 6,7 / 6,7,8,9
TRI: 6,7 / 6,7,8,9 / 1,6,7,8,9