Gun Runner, Invasor, Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Lady’s Secret, Alydar, Dr. Fager, Kelso, Tom Fool, War Admiral, Discovery … the roster of Whitney Stakes winners reads like a “who’s who” of unforgettable champions and Hall of Fame inductees.
Only time will tell if Saturday’s renewal of the historic 1 1/8-mile race will produce a winner of similar caliber, but there’s no doubt the 2020 Whitney is shaping up to be among the best races of the summer. Although just five horses were entered in this “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, they represent some of the most accomplished older horses in training.
Certainly, Tom’s d’Etat (#5) has to be considered a division leader. A 7-year-old by Smart Strike, Tom’s d’Etat is the definition of a late-maturing horse. He didn’t win his first stakes race until December 2018, but over the last year he’s developed into a beast, winning four straight starts while facing tough company.
Tom’s d’Etat secured his first Grade 1 win in the 1 1/8-mile Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs last fall, rallying strongly from midpack to score by 3 1/4 lengths. And after kicking off 2020 with a powerful late-running triumph in the Oaklawn Mile Stakes, Tom’s d’Etat ran his best race to date in the June 27 Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs, tracking the pace before drawing clear to dominate the 1 1/8-mile event by 4 1/4 lengths.
This performance yielded impressive speed figures: a 109 Beyer Speed Figure and a 112 Brisnet speed rating. Both ratings stamp Tom’s d’Etat as the fastest horse in the Whitney field, and considering he’s gone 3-for-4 at Saratoga — with all three wins coming at 1 1/8 miles — the track and distance of the Whitney should be perfect for this aging, yet rising talent.
Tom’s d’Etat has already beaten three of his four Whitney rivals. He edged future Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Improbable (#2) in the Oaklawn Mile, ran away from three-time Grade 2 winner By My Standards (#1) in the Stephen Foster, and trounced the talented New York-bred Mr. Buff (#4) in the Clark. Pending a sharp reversal of form, Tom’s d’Etat should maintain his advantage over these three rivals in the Whitney.
It’s the one Whitney entrant that Tom’s d’Etat has yet to defeat who might be capable of springing an upset. Code of Honor (#3) is 2-for-2 at Saratoga, most notably strolling to a three-length victory in the historic 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes during the summer of 2019. A talented 4-year-old conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor is a five-time graded stakes winner entering the Whitney off two deceptively strong efforts at Belmont Park.
In the one-mile, Grade 3 Westchester Stakes, his first start of 2020, Code of Honor overcame a wide trip on a muddy track to rally and win by a well-measured half-length. Code of Honor subsequently tackled the prestigious Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at the same distance, a race in which he was compromised by racing wide in a slow-paced race. When the front-running winner Vekoma sprinted the final quarter-mile in :23.31, Code of Honor never had a realistic chance to catch up. But he sure gave it his best shot, sprinting home in about :23 flat to finish just 1 1/2 lengths behind in third place.
Stretching back out in distance should benefit Code of Honor, since a mile is probably a bit sharper than he prefers. Returning to Saratoga can also enhance his chances. Code of Honor doesn’t rank far behind Tom’s d’Etat on the speed-figure scales, so with the right pace setup, he can rally to spring a mild surprise in this competitive race.
If you’re betting on a small budget, boxing Code of Honor and Tom’s d’Etat in the exacta seems like the way to go — if they run 1-2, in either order, you’ll cash a winning ticket.
But if you want to seek a larger score, favoring Code of Honor on top in the superfecta offers the potential to produce a more lucrative payoff.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$5 exacta box: 3,5
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, ninth race, $5 exacta box: 3,5
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$3 superfecta: 3 with 5 with 1,2,4 with 1,2,4 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, ninth race, $3 superfecta: 3 with 5 with 1,2,4 with 1,2,4
$2 superfecta: 3 with 1,2,4 with 5 with 1,2,4 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, ninth race, $2 superfecta: 3 with 1,2,4 with 5 with 1,2,4
Good luck, and enjoy the race!