With the first weekend almost in the books let us look ahead to the second weekend
of the Saratoga meeting. On August 2nd, Saratoga will host the Grade I Whitney Stakes. This race
is highly anticipated because it is supposed to attract some of the top handicap horses in the country.
VOLPONI, MEDAGLIA D’ORO, and MILWAUKEE BREW are just three of the horses that are
expected to run. With MINESHAFT probably waiting until the Woodward for his next start VOLPONI,
last year’s Breeders Cup Classic winner was probably not going to run in the Whitney if MINESHAFT
was. The two met up recently in the Suburban handicap on July 5th at Belmont Park. MINESHAFT easily
defeated VOLPONI, never really being asked for run by jockey Robby Albarado. With that win he
solidified himself as the top handicap horse in the country until someone proves otherwise. In three
starts this year VOLPONI had finished second all three times. However, in the Whitney he will get back
to a true two turn race as opposed to the one-turn route races at Belmont, except for the Suburban which
started on the turn. VOLPONI is better suited to the two turns as evidenced by his huge win in the
Breeders Cup Classic. He will be one of the favorites come August 2nd.
MEDAGLIA D’ORO, who has not raced since April 5th when he won the Oaklawn Park
handicap at 1-9 is also expected for the Whitney. Two for two this year since his second place finish
in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind VOLPONI, MEDAGLIA D’ORO looks to have improved on his
three year old year. Trained by Bobby Frankel, it would almost be a shock if he didn’t win this race
considering he wins almost every Grade I in North America. His tactical speed and his fondness for the
Saratoga main track (won both Jim Dandy and Travers in 2002) makes him the one to beat if he makes
the race on August 2nd.
Another leading contender for the Whitney handicap is yet another Bobby Frankel trained runner,
MILWAUKEE BREW. Interesting enough just like the other two, MILWAUKEE BREW also competed
in the Breeders’ Classic, he finished third behind VOLPONI and MEDAGLIA D’ORO. Always known
as a come from behind horse MILWAUKEE BREW has changed his tactics with the addition of blinkers.
He finished second in his first start of the year behind CONGAREE in the San Antonio handicap and
then followed that up with a head victory over CONGAREE in the Santa Anita handicap. The addition
of blinkers has helped keep MILWAUKEE BREW closer to the pace and he still has that strong late kick.
If both Frankel horses do run in the Whitney and race uncoupled you will definitely get an overlay on
Another interesting side note is that the connections of AZERI still have not ruled out the
possibility of running their champion mare in the Whitney but it is not likely.
If that wasn’t enough for the weekend, the next day is the Jim Dandy stakes. This race is expected
to see EMPIRE MAKER make his return to the races after winning the Belmont Stakes back in early
June. With the Haskell being run on the same day at Monmouth Park many of the top three year olds
will run there instead. The purse of the Haskell stakes is double that of the Jim Dandy making the
Haskell more appealing to the connections of those three year olds. FUNNY CIDE, who fell short
of the Triple Crown is expected for the Haskell along with PEACE RULES (Bobby Frankel trainee) and
SKY MESA, who recently returned to finish third in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont. If all goes well we
might see a stirring renewal of the Travers. Hopefully, the EMPIRE MAKER/FUNNY CIDE rivalry can
continue on in the Midsummer Derby.
In addition to some of the stats we provided last week about the trainers and jockeys we have
some profitable trainer/jockey combos courtesy of the Daily Racing Form’s Saratoga Players Guide.
At Saratoga Gary Contessa had a good meeting with nine winners for an average win payoff of
$14.74. However, when he hooked up with Pay Day he went 2 for 4 with an average win payoff of $17.70.
Richard Migliore also hooked up with Gary Contessa for 2 wins out of four mounts and his average win
payoff was even better at $23.30.
Another trainer to watch during this meeting is Nick Zito. He had 10 wins from 75 starts with an
average win payoff of $15.30. His main go to riders were Victor Carrero, who was an apprentice last year,
and Javier Castellano. Carrero won three races for Zito for 30 mounts but had a nice average win payoff
of $17.73. Castellano, on the other hand had a better winning percentage with 4 wins from 23 starts and
a slightly lower average win payoff of $17.55. Carrero, however, has been riding this summer at Monmouth
so we don’t expect to see him up at the Spa that much.
Next week we will focus the first week of both Saratoga and Del Mar. Good Luck!