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Ron the Greek, inside, rallies to win Stephen Foster Handicap

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

There’s an old saying that goes “Grade 1 winners win Grade 1 races,” and the 85th running of the $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1) could prove that saying to be true. Among the field of nine are three previous Grade 1 stakes winners, along with a pair of Grade 2 winners and a trio of Grade 3 winners. Four in the field have banked more than $1 million in their careers. Among those, Ron the Greek gets the highest marks of accomplishment, having won the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) in his most recent race and taking the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in March. Flat Out won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last fall and enters the Whitney off a runner-up effort to Rule in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2). Hymn Book won the Donn Handicap (G1) in February and also enters the race off a runner-up finish, in the Suburban Handicap (G2). Caixa Eletronica has won 18 races in his career including the True North Handicap (G2) and Charles Town Classic Stakes (G2) this year. Rule won the Monmouth Cup last month in his first start since last fall and appears to have a big chance, while Hunters Bay enters the race off a pair of Grade 3 stakes wins, most recently in the Dominion Day Stakes last month. Fort Larned has won both the Skip Away Stakes (G3) and Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) in 2012 and is another with a chance for success if he steps up his game. Endorsement won the Texas Mile Stakes (G3) earlier in the year but faded badly to last of seven in the Suburban and would need a strong rebound. Trickmeister rounds out the field, coming into the Whitney off a third-place finish in the Suburban after leading from the start and with a running style that suggests he will take the field a long way on the front end once more.

Ron the Greek is having a career year as a 5-year-old, having earned more than $872,000 while winning two important Grade 1 races - the Santa Anita and Stephen Foster Handicaps. Ron the Greek started his 2012 campaign with a runner-up effort in the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes, earning a strong 115 Equibase Speed Figure at the distance of the Whitney. Following that effort, Ron the Greek easily won the Santa Anita Handicap before a runner-up effort in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) then he redeemed himself in the Stephen Foster in mid-June with an impressive effort when victorious by a head. No worse than second in his last seven races going back 13 months, Ron the Greek appears to have both the physical and mental ability of a champion and should be very tough to beat in this year’s Whitney.

RON THE GREEK WINNING BIG 'CAP

RonTheGreekEclipse

Hymn Book is a horse that usually drops back to last or nearly so early in the race and finishes with a flourish, as he did when rallying to win the Donn Handicap in February by a nose with a career best 121 speed figure effort. Although non-threatening in both the Oaklawn Handicap and Pimlico Special Stakes (G3) following the Donn, Hymn Book showed his usual big finishing kick when rallying from seventh to second last month in the Suburban Handicap, with a 117 figure effort that can be repeated or improved upon in the Whitney.

Caixa Eletronica is brilliant on occasion while disappointing at times, with no rhyme or reason for the poorer efforts. Caixa Eletronica won the Charles Town Classic (at the distance of the Whitney) four races ago in April with a career best 122 speed figure, then finished a well-beaten fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1). Returning to top form when winning the True North Handicap (G2) in June, Caixa Eletronica once again regressed and was a non-threatening fifth in the James Marvin Stakes (G3) last month. With a pattern that suggests an “A” effort is forthcoming in the Whitney and with his best races more than competitive with the best of others in this field, Caixa Electronica has a strong chance for success in this event.

The rest of the Whitney field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure: Endorsement (118), Flat Out (118), Fort Larned (116), Hunters Bay (113), Rule (116) and Trickmeister (116).

My Selections:

Ron the Greek

Hymn Book

Caixa Eletronica

$750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1)

Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, 5:45 p.m. EDT

1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and older

PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds

1. Rule, Joe Bravo, 117, Todd Pletcher, 5-1

2. Hunters Bay, 115, Emma-Jayne Wilson, Reade Baker, 20-1

3. Caixa Eletronica, Javier Castellano, 116, Todd Pletcher, 15-1

4. Endorsement, Joel Rosario, 115, Eoin Harty, 20-1

5. Trickmeister, Ramon Dominguez, 116, Rick Dutrow, 15-1

6. Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano, 120, Bill Mott, 3-1

7. Flat Out, R. Napravnik, 116, Bill Mott, 4-1

8. Hymn Book, John Velazquez, 118, Shug McGaughey, 4-1

9. Fort Larned, Brian Hernandez Jr., 117, Ian Wilkes, 7-2

WHITNEY HEADLINES BIG WEEKEND AT THE SPA

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Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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