Whitmore spent much of 2019 chasing the now-retired Mitole, the eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint winner and champion male sprinter for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Now a year later, he's chasing another one of his speedsters — Volatile— a colt with the potential to perhaps turn out just as good.
At Saratoga Race Course July 25, Volatile showed off his immense talent, leading throughout over Whitmore, Mind Control, and Firenze Fire in the $250,000, Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.
Though he was the least accomplished entrant going into the race, the Vanderbilt was never a fair fight. The race surprisingly lacked speed for a six-furlong race of high quality, and Volatile, who has largely stalked or pressed the pace over his career, became the pacesetter by default under Ricardo Santana Jr.
He cruised the opening quarter-mile in :23.46, and though his rivals did their best to stay within striking distance, they proved unable to challenge him thereafter, even as the pace quickened. He neared the top of the stretch with a half-mile in :46.67, and then accelerated over the closing quarter-mile to clock 1:09.61 for the distance.
Whitmore, who stalked the pace in third early, followed the winner with an inside trip and gave futile chase to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind. Moments before, he had broken through the starting gate prior to the official start, though he was quickly apprehended and eventually reloaded.
Mind Control, who offered only token pressure on Volatile down the backstretch, outgamed a wide-rallying Firenze Fire for third.
Lexitonian was scratched by stewards on the advice of the track veterinarian prior to the start, just moments after Whitmore had broken through the gate.
The Vanderbilt was the second stakes victory of Volatile's career following an eight-length romp in the Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs June 6 in stakes-record time of 1:07.57. On the strength of that win, he was the overwhelming 2-5 favorite in the Vanderbilt. He paid $2.80.
Though he didn't run as quickly Saturday as he did in the Aristides, such a time would have been near impossible in light of the pace. His closing split Saturday was :22.94, a final fraction more often produced by a quickening turf horse than a dirt sprinter.
The 4-year-old son of Violence, owned by Three Chimneys Farm and Phoenix Thoroughbreds, has now won five of six races and $341,040. He is 3-for-3 this year.
His triumph gave Asmussen his third victory in the Vanderbilt following earlier triumphs by Majesticperfection in 2010 and Justin Phillip in 2013. Santana won the Vanderbilt for the first time.
Mitole was third in the race last year behind Imperial Hint and Diamond Oops, his only defeat in six starts in 2019. He returned to win the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego Stakes Presented by Encore Boston Harbor at Saratoga later during the summer meet before heading to Santa Anita Park that fall and winning the Sprint.
Volatile could follow suit with a start in this year's Forego Aug. 29 — a race on the itinerary of Vekoma, winner of the both the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter Handicap and Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile this year in New York.
Bred in Kentucky by Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and Stretch Run Ventures, Volatile is the second stakes winner produced by the stakes-winning Unbridled's Song mare Melody Lady. Her first, Buy Sell Hold, a full-sister to Volatile, won the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs for Asmussen in May 2017.
Volatile's second dam, Lady Tak (by Mutakddim), excelled sprinting at Saratoga, winning the Grade 1 Test Stakes and Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap there.