SARATOGA SPRINGS — First he was the underdog, the New York-bred with the amusing name.
Then the role was reversed, a target squarely on his back, the one to beat.
Twenty-two races into a career — at a time when Triple Crown winners are retired with just six starts — a racehorse’s identity should be firmly established.
But sometimes when you have a fast, gutsy horse who loves his job and there are still new horizons to explore, you look for fresh ways to apply those qualities and reach for greater glory.
Thus, Mind Your Biscuits will run in Saturday’s mile-and-an-eighth Whitney at Saratoga Race Course, the first time in the 5-year-old’s career that he will have raced longer than a mile and around two turns, a not-insignificant shift for a horse who some may view as merely a pure sprinter. A great one, who has won a $2 million, six-furlong race in Dubai — twice — but a sprinter nevertheless.
His connections don’t plan to stop at the Whitney. If the race suits him, they’ll proceed with preparations to run Mind Your Biscuits in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at a mile and a quarter on a track upon which he has never raced, Churchill Downs.
“I feel good,” trainer Chad Summers said last Friday, after Mind Your Biscuits had a sharp breeze on the main track. “There’s a lot of people who think he can’t do it, but maybe they know something I don’t know. Maybe they’re talking to Miss Cleo or something.
“He’s never gone two turns before, so I don’t know why he can’t do it now. We’ll find out Saturday. Either we’re right or we’re wrong, that’s what horse racing is all about.”
Mind Your Biscuits breezes under Joel Rosario in prep for the Whitney pic.twitter.com/vqXBvZOujo
— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) July 27, 2018
The $1.2 million Whitney will be drawn on Tuesday.
Mind Your Biscuits is expected to be the morning-line favorite even though he is stretching out in distance and has a spotty record at Saratoga, where made his career debut on Aug. 10, 2015.
In five races at the Spa, Mind Your Biscuits has just one win, in the Amsterdam two years ago. He never got going in the Forego last year and finished a well-beaten sixth.
Meydan Racecourse in Dubai and Belmont Park are different stories.
Mind Your Biscuits, who races in the silks of principle owner Shadai Farm and is co-owned by multiple partners, including Summers and his father Scott and brother Dan, won the Dubai Golden Shaheen the last two years.
In 2017, he and regular rider Joel Rosario won the Grade II Belmont Sprint Championship and just missed by a nose against Bee Jersey in the Grade I Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day this June, one of the most exciting finishes in a big race this year.
“I thought turning for home he was going to be the horse in front,” Rosario said. “Unfortunately, that horse in front found another little gear and kept going. It was a fast race. It’s hard to keep winning all the time.”
“In that race, we were coming and coming, and I was hoping the wire was a little farther away, maybe,” Summers said. “Three jumps after the wire we were in front. Unfortunately, we came up a little short. All credit to Bee Jersey, he’s a nice horse and he’s had a good year, but we would relish running against him again.”
That’s been the theme throughout Mind Your Biscuit’s career, and tackling the Whitney and perhaps the BC Classic only reinforces that.
There certainly is motivation from a breeding perspective for the horse’s owners to establish him as more than a sprinter, especially since both his racing resume and pedigree, as a son of Posse, scream “sprinter.”
As always, the Mind Your Biscuits camp is brimming with confidence for the next assignment.
“We’ve spent his entire career never ducking anybody, and we’re not going to start now,” Summers said.
“We wanted a chance to run against Justify at some point this year. I guess that’s not going to happen anymore. But you face who you can face. If some of the West Coast’s best come out to this meet, whether it’s Accelerate or Pavel or whoever, on the East Coast we have Backyard Heaven and Tapwrit, some top horses out here, Diversify at some point, we’ll see him somewhere down the road.”
“He’s been training even better than last year when he ran here, I think, so we’re looking for bigger stuff,” Rosario said.
Mind Your Biscuits, with support from horses like Diversify, is the standard-bearer for the New York-bred program.
The Whitney has been a great platform in that regard, after Commentator won the race in 2005 and came back to win it again in 2008 before finishing third in 2009 as an 8-year-old.
There is also some precedent for a horse with a history of shorter races coming to the Whitney and being successful.
Left Bank not only won the 2002 edition, but tied the track record for nine furlongs. He did so off a long series of races ranging from six furlongs to a mile. Summers has tweaked Mind Your Biscuits’ training schedule all year to reflect the goal of shooting for the BC Classic, which he and the owners discussed as far back as January.
“Fast horses are fast horses at any distance,” Summers said. “You look at a horse like Ghostzapper, what he was able to accomplish for Bobby Frankel. That was a horse that was a brilliant sprinter and able to stretch out.
“Could Biscuits have done this as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old? I don’t think so, but the way that he is now, it allows us the opportunity to stretch him out. And I don’t think nine furlongs is necessarily his limit, either. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to Saturday.”
Either way, fans on Whitney Day should expect a show from Mind Your Biscuits.
His running style is to come from the middle or back of the pack. No matter where he is as the race unfolds, the rest of the field will have to keep their eye on him.
“We’re going to come with our ball and our bat and we’re here to play Saturday,” Summers said.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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