Whitney Diaries: Sensational Saturday

The Life

Saturday at Saratoga dawned as a perfect, beautiful morning – which was a huge relief, since rain and chilly weather was threatening in the forecast. When I arrived at the track at about 11 a.m., there was already a huge crowd pouring into the Spa, and fans were posing in front of the iconic fountain at the Clubhouse entrance.

There was also a very cool car parked right out front – now that’s arriving in style!

Saratoga truly is one of the most beautiful race courses in the nation – if you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend walking all over the grounds to really get a feel of everything the track has to offer. From the spectacular vistas to the fabulous fashion, the Spa is a visually stunning spectacle; and on huge race days like Whitney Handicap day, the place truly shines.

Every little detail is perfect at Saratoga; even the statue of Sea Hero in the paddock was decked out in Marylou Whitney roses for the occasion!

And what an occasion Saturday was: there was seriously top-notch racing lined up, including three Grade 1 Stakes races, which is the toughest level of equine competitions.

The first major race of the day was the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, a ¾-mile dash for horses running on the dirt. A field of seven horses aged 3-years-old and up were set to duke it out for a $350,000 purse, and as the horses made their way to the starting gate the crowd pressed forward to get the very best view of the track.

Saturday was Palace’s day, which felt appropriate because the afternoon was fit for royalty! He won the race by a length, besting the favorite Happy My Way.

Up next was the Test Stakes. I always love this race; it’s for fillies and mares (AKA female horses) going 7/8 of a mile on the main track, and I had very high hopes for a filly named Sweet Reason. She’s a gutsy little horse, and I last saw her run – and win – on Belmont Stakes day in June. But as the field made their way from the paddock to the starting gate, I knew that she was in for a very tough race – there were some seriously talented Thoroughbreds lined up to test her.

Thankfully, in the end, Sweet Reason prevailed, much to the delight of her trainer Leah Gyarmati and her team. It seems that a lot of people in the racing game have a soft spot for Sweet Reason, since there was huge applause as the filly returned to the winner’s circle to have her photo taken.

Below is her trainer Leah Gyarmati (right) waiting to congratulate Sweet Reason.

And, of course, the winner’s circle photo!

Then it was time for the crown of the day: the Whitney Handicap! This is an iconic race, and this year’s winner would gain an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles on November 1. It seemed like all of Saratoga was at the track for the race – I even caught a glimpse of Marylou Whitney herself taking in the festivities from her finish line box.

I headed straight to the paddock to make sure that I saw all of the top-class horses preparing for the Whitney. It was a beautiful sight, with the elegant Thoroughbreds parading under the towering shade trees in front of hordes of fans.

As the horses made their way to the track before the race, Mrs. Whitney had made her way down to the winner’s circle to present the trophy to the eventual winner.

As race time drew nearer, the rail by the racetrack was mobbed with fans hoping to get a preview of the next Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in action.

And with a roar from the crowd, the gates sprung open and the Whitney field was off!

From start to finish, it was Moreno's day – the 4-year-old gelding was dominant, winning by more than a length versus a very talented field.

As his connections made their way to the winner’s circle, Moreno and his jockey Junior Alvarado returned to the home stretch to have their photo taken. The smile on Junior’s face was massive, and he couldn’t stop petting Moreno in gratitude for the win.

The scene in the winner’s circle was jubilant, and a mob of photographers was gathered to try to get a shot of the newly minted Whitney champion.

As the sun set over Whitney Handicap day at Saratoga Race Course and the crowds began to disperse, I realized just what a wonderful day of racing we had been treated to; and, in the phrasing of the Breeders’ Cup: the best is yet to come! Thank you so much for joining me, and I’ll be back next weekend with more action out of Saratoga Springs!

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