Trainer Bill Mott will send Ron The Greek—winner of the Santa Anita and Stephen Foster—and Flat Out to headline a fine field of nine thoroughbreds on Saturday's Whitney Invitational Handicap at the Saratoga Racetrack.
Ron The Greek has won twice on four starts this year, both Grade I wins. He will be going for his third Grade I win this year and looms large over this fine field, although it won't be an easy race by any means.
Flat Out will be making his second start off a long layoff, where he was transferred to Mott's barn after being previously trained by Charles Dickey.
He finished second last year to Tizway in this very same race when he was at the peak of his condition. Jockey Rosie Napravnik will be on the saddle again after riding him to a second place behind Rule at the Monmouth Cup on July 7th.
Hymn Book always gives a great effort on every race. After being a mild surprise by winning the Donn Handicap on February, he has yet to replicate that success. Regular rider John Velazquez is back aboard for the race.
Fort Larned continues his rise on the handicap ranks. After finishing a close second at the Alysheba—where he defeated Mucho Macho Man—he disappointed at the Stephen Foster.
He bounced back though to capture the Cornhusker Handicap on June 30, defeating Successful Dan in the process. Jockey Brian Hernandez was aboard on that race and repeats the mount.
Rule returned from a nine-month layoff to win in impressive fashion the Monmouth Cup, where he battled Sloane Ranger until the top of the stretch and held off Flat Out in the final furlong. He earned a 101 for that effort and jockey Joe Bravo returns to ride him.
Trickmeister is the speed of the race and the horse everybody will have to come get in the stretch. He has yet to win a graded stakes, but his best career start came here at Saratoga where he won by 11 lengths—that was two years ago.
The returning mount of two-time defending Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez should make him a top contender here.
Hunters Bay, Caixa Electronica and Endorsement complete the field.
Hunters Bay is a winner of three straight—on synthetic—and steps up a bit in class here. He was beaten on dirt by Caixa Electronica in March of last year.
Caixa Electronica is a perfect two-for-two at nine furlongs and could relish the added distance. He had to cut back to a mile and under for his last three races.
Endorsement comes off a very disappointing, distant last-place finish at the Suburban on his last start. Breaking from the rail, he was a non-factor on the race after coming from being caught in the final strides by Alternation and Nehro at the Pimlico Special at 9.5 furlongs.
This pace for this race presents lots of speed with Trickmeister being the fastest off the gate, but with Endorsement, Rule and Fort Learned stalking not too far behind.
Hunters Bay and Caixa Electronica—who is always close at this distance—should follow the main pack, and close behind them should be Flat Out, Hymn Book and Ron the Greek.
The best Beyers correspond to Fort Larned with three 108 scores at three different tracks, which squeezes his disappointing 80 Beyer effort at the Stephen Foster.
I would like to scratch that as an off race due to his bounce forward on his last race. Besides, at 7-2 and breaking from the outside, he is worth a shot.
Ron the Greek will be giving an advantage of two pounds or more to his rivals today but he is definitely the horse to beat on the race. The early pace on the race sets up perfectly for his closing style and he should be included in all bets.
According to Accuweather.com, there is a high chance of thunderstorms hitting the Saratoga area. If there is an off-track, all win bets should go to Hymn Book. He is four-for-five on the slope, all that remains to be seen is how he handles his first start at the Spa.
The possible longshot to watch is Caixa Electronica. Thanks to racing under a mile on his last three races, the horse will be eager early today, and jockey Javier Castellano will have the seven-year-old veteran horse closer to the pace on the rail today.
His best chance is to be the first to attack the pack, and it could turn it into a come-and-get-me situation on the stretch. At 15-1, he could be a good bet on all exotics.
Whitney Invitational Handicap | Grade I | Purse: $750,000 | Distance: 9.0 Furlongs | Post Time: 5:45 p.m. ET
|1||Rule||Joe Bravo||Todd A. Pletcher||117||5-1|
|2||Hunters Bay||Emma J. Wilson||Reade Baker||115||20-1|
|3 ||Caixa Electronica||Javier J. Castellano||Todd A. Pletcher||116||15-1|
|4 ||Endorsement||Joel Rosario||Eoin Harty||115||20-1|
|5 ||Trickmeister||Ramon A. Dominguez||Richard E. Dutrow Jr||116||15-1|
|6 ||Ron The Greek||Jose Lezcano||William I. Mott||120||3-1|
|7 ||Flat Out||Rosie Napravnik||William I. Mott||116||4-1|
|8||Hymn Book||John R. Velazquez||Claude R. McGaughey III||118||4-1|
|9||Fort Larned||Brian J. Hernandez Jr||Ian R. Wilkes||117||7-2|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.