Friday, August 4, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Whitney Stakes (G1)

Gun Runner vs. Five Rivals in Whitney Stakes

By: Jeffrey Cobb, S. FL ThoroFan Member

It must be Summer, they're racing at Saratoga! For this edition I get to bring my analysis of the Whitney Stakes (G1). The race is 9 furlongs.  The dirt track at Saratoga has been favoring early speed and early pressers but, with the correct pace scenario, a closer can get up in time.  Six of the seven entries are early types.  This will be a major clue to solving this puzzle.  We'll have to watch the earlier dirt races and see how the track is playing Saturday.

Here is the field.  Post position one gets War Story (1) trained by the slimy Jorge Navarro and ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. In fairness to the gelding, War Story got good last year before winding up in Navarro's barn and has maintained good, consistent form so far through 2017. Castellano has had 32 starts for Navarro winning at an impressive 38% clip with a dazzling $3.01 ROI.  Trainer/jockey stats alone make War Story an attractive proposition at the M/L price of 6 to 1.  Adding to the formula, War Story is a capable gelding with an early presser run style and the tactical run style that Castellano  excels with.  Hard to go wrong with Castellano here, but there are others to consider.

The #2 Breaking Lucky is trained by Baker Reade and Luis Contreras makes the trip down from Canada for the ride. Breaking Lucky is a $1,000,000 winner off of only 3 wins, so the 5 year old horse has managed to win some big races. None of those big races have come in 2017.  Last time out, Breaking Lucky finished 8-1/4 lengths behind ML fave Gun Runner. Generally, Breaking Lucky is not fast enough to win this race, but his best Thorograph figure did come at Saratoga last September.  If he can duplicate that effort, I thinks he gets a money finish.

#3 Cautious Giant trained by Anthony Quartarolo and ridden by Jose Bracho.  Who?  Next!

#4  Tu Brutus is trained by Gary Contessa and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. Tu Brutus is a Chilean import and kind of the opposite of Breaking Lucky in that he has won 9 times but only earned a little over 200K.  This is typical for horses from South America and why I tend to dismiss them. However, Tu Brutus has posted some good efforts at Aqueduct and Belmont. Last out, he lost to War Story at 12 furlongs and his Thorograph figure dropped noticeably from his previous.  I think maybe a mile and a half is a little too far for the Brute.  He's had some time off and is cutting back to a more standard distance.  Irad Ortiz has become a top New York rider.  Tu Brutus has races fast enough to win here, but this is a big step up in class.  He hasn't locked horns on the lead with the likes of Gun Runner yet.  We'll see if he's up to the test.

#5 Keen Ice is trained by Todd Pletcher and Jose Ortiz gets the call.  Keen Ice is a one run type who will come on late, if at all, and will benefit from the anticipated fast pace. Keen Ice was quiet in 2016 but showed signs of life last out winning the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont.  In 6 tries, Keen Ice has never won at this distance leading me to not care for him so much.  On the other hand, he did win at Saratoga once.  3 to 1 is a little too short for a runner without a win at the distance.  In the money, sure.

The 4/5 morning fave is #6 Gun Runner. Steve Asmussen and Florent Geroux team up again on the speedster.  Gun Runner does his best running on the front.  He does not do as well as a stalker.  It's always tough to predict how jockeys are going to approach a race.  They read the racing form too.  In this case, I think Florent will go to the lead and try to win in wire to wire fashion.  Tu Brutus may try to go with him, I think he has to, but Gun Runner has proven his class.  One of the few runners I remember who has run a better Thorograph figure first race back from Meyden than he ran at Meyden as he did winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster last out by 7 lengths.  The one to beat.

#7 Discreet Lover has no chance and I wonder why he is even considered for this race.

Bottom line:
I've done pretty good finding prices so far this year, but I really don't want to blow smoke up your...uhh chimney. If you must try to beat Gun Runner, I would try to do it with War Story. 

I think the race will set up for him if he's good enough to take it. War Story would be my value play, but I don't see anybody beating Gun Runner here. 

Single Gun Runner in a pick 4 and hope for some long shots (of course you have to have them on your ticket) in the other legs. Then bet War Story to win in the Whitney.  If I'm right you'll miss the pick 4, but pay for it with the Whitney. 

Good Luck!

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