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Aug 05, 2011

Path to BC Classic goes through Whitney


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - One year after sending out eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame to victory in the 1 1/8-mile race, trainer Al Stall Jr. is back at Saratoga with four-year-old Apart in Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Invitational.

Blame not only won the Classic three months after taking the Whitney, the colt was voted the Eclipse Award as champion older male thoroughbred. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Blame defeated the great Zenyatta in the Classic to give the mare her only career defeat.

"There will never be another Blame, as far as we're concerned," Stall said at the Whitney post draw. "We're just hoping Apart can pick up some pieces. We're just excited to be here and happy to run for a $750,000 pot."

The Whitney is a "Win and You're In" race which gives the winning horse a guaranteed spot in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Apart, owned by Adele Dilschneider, is the winner of five of 13 career starts and a total of 10 in-the-money finishes. The colt comes into the Whitney with earnings of $692,780 and a victory on Saturday will put him over the $1 million mark.

At morning-line odds of 6-1, Apart is right in the middle of the 11-horse field and will start from post 10. He is joined at 6-1 by Met Mile winner Tizway who is the highest rated horse in the race based on the NTRA Poll.

Trained by James Bond, Tizway is third in the national rankings behind fillies Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. The six-year-old hasn't raced since Memorial Day, but apparently is ready to go.

"He?s got a great post (five). He's pretty ratable. He's sound now, and I'm able to train him every day," Bond said. "Rajiv (jockey Maragh) and I both believe he'll get the distance."

The evenly matched field is led by 4-1 morning-line favorite Flat Out who will start from the rail with Alex Solis riding. It will be the third time in his four 2011 starts that the five-year-old will break from the inside post.

"The post position doesn't make any difference to him," Flat Out's trainer Charles Dickey noted. "I like my chances, and the horse is doing well."

Owned by Preston Stables, Flat Out was put in the favorite's role off his win in the Suburban Handicap last month. The veteran runner won the 1 1/8-mile race as a 13-1 longshot, something he has been in each of his last three races.

"We've had faith in him the whole time," owner Jack Preston said after the Suburban, "he's just had problems, one after the other. He's a super horse."

The 5-1 second pick for the Whitney is Giant Oak who won the Donn Handicap earlier this year at Gulfstream Park. Since the February victory, it hasn't been easy for trainer Chris Block's five-year-old. He finished third as the 3-2 favorite to Mission Impazible in the New Orleans Handicap and fifth in both the Alysheba and Stephen Foster,

"We decided this would be the place to go after the Stephen Foster at Churchill," said Block's assistant Drew Coontz. "We didn't move early, but we did go with Duke of Mischief in the race. (Giant Oak has) been doing great."

The third 6-1 horse in the field is Mission Impazible. The four-year-old missed by a neck in the Foster Handicap after a seventh in the Alysheba.

"He seems to be coming up to the race in good order," said the colt's trainer Todd Pletcher.

Breaking from the far outside will be Duke of Mischief at 8-1 in the program. The five-year-old won the Charles Town Classic in April, sandwiched between fourth-place finishes in the Gulfstream Park and Stephen Foster Handicaps.

"With the quarter-mile stretch at Churchill Downs, I think he moved a little early (in the Stephen Foster)," trainer David Fawkes said. "He made the lead around the eighth pole and flattened out. He still ran a good race. He isn't quite as keen early in the races. He's more willing to sit back and let the races develop and make a run.

"It's a wide-open division. I don't see any standouts. I think his numbers are good enough to win this race. I'm not unhappy with the post position. Hopefully he can settle in behind the early horses and go from there."

Trainer Nick Zito won the 2005 and 2008 Whitneys with Commentator, he now has Morning Line set for the nine-furlongs. The four-year-old is 10-1 in the program and drew post three.

"We just think he's got a really good chance. He won here by 11-lengths going a mile and an eighth," Zito said. "He has to be in the race early. Johnny (jockey Velazquez) will put him into the race and get a good spot. Fitness- wise, he is very fit. I have no excuse fitness-wise. It's only a month ago he ran. He's had two great works since then. We'll see what happens.

"I thought he would be 4-1, 5-1, or 6-1. It just shows you how deep the field is and how strong it is, obviously for a horse of his magnitude to be 10-1. He's still a Grade 1 winner and he has run tremendous races. There are a lot of good horses in here. I have a theory of where you have to beat them all, and I actually think in this particular race, you have to beat them all. They look that good. Morning Line has a lot of talent. Hopefully, it works out for him."

Last year, before winning the Pennsylvania Derby, Morning Line was second and first in allowance races at Saratoga. With Saturday's race the colt will have started his last seven races at six different tracks. This year he was third and second at Gulfstream, won the Carter at Aqueduct and finished fifth at Monmouth.

Making his second start of 2011 will be Rail Trip off a second in the Easy Goer in June at Belmont Park. In four starts last year he won the Mervyn LeRoy and Californian with a runner-up finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup. The six- year-old gelding is 12-1 in the morning-line and will break from post seven.

"I'm happy with the post. I prefer being somewhere to the middle and out," noted Samantha Siegel of Jay Em Ess Stable, owner of Rail Trip. "I'm hoping he'll move forward off (the Easy Goer). He had to make the pace all by himself and he got a little tired. Rick (trainer Rick Dutrow) is very pleased with him. If Rick is happy, I'm happy."

After missing all of 2010, in four starts this year Rodman has a win, two seconds and a third. That third came in the Suburban when he was the even- money favorite. The six-year-old is 20-1, along with Headache, in the program.

Headache, trained by Mike Maker, is coming off a win in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows. Miguel Mena has the ride from post eight.

Friend or Foe, owned by Chester and Mary Broman, drew post two and is listed at 8-1 in the program.

"I always thought the horse was able and ready at this point to run in Grade 1 competition, but I was trying to give him good experience around two turns," noted trainer John Kimmel about Friend or Foe. "His two experiences here last year, he kind of got banged up in the middle of the first turn of the Travers, and he did come back and run a bang-up race in the Empire Classic. I just think he's a bigger, stronger, more mature horse and I'm real happy we drew inside. We can kind of come out forwardly and get good position on the inside and I'm very optimistic about this horse."

Kimmel gives his horse and the other 10 an equal chance to come home the winner.

"I tell you, you look up and down and you can make a case for everybody in here, and, certainly the horse that wins this will go right to the head of the leader board in the division," the trainer said. "So, I'm just excited to be in here, and I'm excited to be in here with a horse that I really think has a legitimate chance to show himself as a four-year-old this year."

The 84th running of the Whitney may not have a true glamour horse entered, but it could be the best betting race of the year.

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