SARATOGA SPRINGS — Eight apparently is not enough for Whitmore.
The popular gelding is 8 now, but not nearly ready to retire from racing, after having won the Eclipse Award for Top Male Sprinter in 2020 with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at betting odds of 18-1.
He hasn’t won from three starts in 2021, but is expected to be a prominent factor in Saturday’s Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga, one of three graded stakes on a card that also includes the Grade II Jim Dandy for 3-year-olds and the Grade II Bowling Green on the turf.
Whitmore has run three times at Saratoga, winning the Grade I Forego in 2018 and finishing seventh in that race and second to Volatile in the A.G. Vanderbilt in 2020.
He hasn’t missed by much this season, finishing a neck behind C Z Rocket in the Hot Springs, second by two lengths to C Z Rocket in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap and third by a head behind Flagstaff and Lexitonian in the Grade I Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
“His record says he’s 0-for-3 this year, but he’s 3-for-3 in effort,” trainer Ron Moquett told the New York Racing Association. “All we can ask is for him to try. Are there some things that may have resulted in a better outcome? Probably. But at the same time, he brought his ‘A’ game. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. It’s all about bringing the effort.”
Whitmore is 15-13-4 from 41 lifetime starts for almost $4.5 million in purse earnings, and his record at the Vanderbilt six-furlong distance is 13-9-2 from 26 starts.
This year’s field, in post-position order from the rail out, will be Lexitonian, Mischevious Alex, Firenze Fire, Strike Power, Three Technique, Whitmore, Miles Ahead, Montauk Traffic and Special Reserve.
Mischevious Alex is the 2-1 morning-line favorite after having had a three-race winning streak stopped with a close third to Silver State, who is running in next Saturday’s Whitney, in the Grade I Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day.
Firenze Fire, fourth in the Vanderbilt last year behind Volatile, Whitmore and Mind Control, is 3-1, and Whitmore is 4-1.
In what appears to be a competitive eight-horse field for the Bowling Green, Channel Maker is the 5-2 favorite in his first start since an eighth-place finish in the Group 1 Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup Day in March.
He has attempted the Bowling Green/Sword Dancer double for the last three years, winning the Bowling Green in 2018 and the Sword Dancer last year.
The field for Saturday’s Bowling Green, in post-position order from the hedge out, will be Channel Cat, Cross Border, Breakpoint, Rockemperor, Channel Maker, Red Knight, Moon Over Miami and Shamrocket.
Bill Mott trains Channel Maker, Red Knight and Moon Over Miami, who is the 7-2 second choice off a third by a neck to Channel Cat in the Man o’ War at Belmont, and Chad Brown (Breakpoint, Rockemperor) also has multiple entries.
The Mike Maker-trained Cross Border (9-2) has started three times at each of the last two Saratoga meets and has finished first five times with one second, although last year’s Bowling Green and Sword Dancer were the only starts in graded stakes. He was awarded the Bowling Green victory last year via disqualification of Sadler’s Joy before finishing second by 5 3/4 lengths behind Channel Maker in the Sword Dancer.
Darley America announced Friday that 2006 champion 3-year-old colt Bernardini was euthanized because of a bout with laminitis.
Bernardini won the Preakness, Jim Dandy, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup that year before finishing second to Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
He went on to become a successful sire and broodmare sire.
His first crop of foals included three Grade I winners, Stay Thirsty (2011 Travers), To Honor and Serve and A Z Warrior.
AROUND THE TRACK
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won two races on Friday, one at Ellis Park and with American Xperiment in the sixth at Saratoga to pull within six of the all-time record for career wins in North America, held by the late Dale Baird (9,445).
Asmussen has horses entered in nine races on Saturday, three at Saratoga, including Strike Power in the Vanderbilt, one at Monmouth Park, two at Ellis Park and three at Louisiana Downs. …
A large group of family and friends is expected for the trophy presentation after Saturday’s second race, named in honor of the late John Cansdale.
Cansdale, who died in 2018, served as the executive director of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board from 2005-09.
Next Saturday’s Whitney field is shaping up to include By My Standards, Knicks Go, Maxfield, Silver State and Swiss Skydiver, and Happy Saver and Informative might join the field, too.
The probables for Saturday’s Grade I Test include Always Carina, Dayoutoftheoffice, Illumination, Make Mischief, Obligatory, Ova Charge, Search Results, Souper Sensational and Zaajel, with Bella Sofia possible.
The Saratoga Derby Invitational is shaping up to include Bolshoi Ballet, Cadillac, Cellist, Du Jour, Flashiest, Hard Love, King Fury, Palazzi, Secret Protector, Soldier Rising, State of Rest, yes This Time and possibly Original and Tango Tango Tango.
Swiss Skydiver and King Fury had been pointing toward the Shuvee and Jim Dandy, respectively, but have been in quarantine because of a horse in their barn testing positive for Equine Herpesvirus-1, so trainer Kenny McPeek settled for some alternative target races that fall shortly after the quarantine is due to expire.
Next Sunday’s busy stakes roster includes the Grade III Saratoga Oaks Invitational, Grade II Adirondack and De La Rose.
The Oaks field is likely to include Con Lima, Creative Flair, Gam’s Mission, Higher Truth, Messidor, Out of Sorts, Rocky Sky and possibly Oyster Box and Plum Ali.
Horses for the Adirondack could include Boss Lady Kim, J L’s Rockette, Mainstay, Microbiome, Ontheonesandtwos and Wicked Halo.
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