Three of the last seven winners of the Whitney Handicap went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that same year. That’s more than the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Pacific Classic, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, over the same period, combined.
Last year’s winner, Fort Larned, should go off the favorite on Saturday, but he will need to buck a major streak to win again. While there have been a few horses to win more than one edition of the Whitney, no horse who has won back-to-back runnings since Discovery turned the trick 77 years ago.
One nickname for Saratoga is the graveyard of favorites … In the last nine editions of the Whitney, favorites have lost eight times, with the only favorite, Tizway, paying a healthy $10.20 for the win.
When Easy Goer won the 1989 Whitney, he joined Java Gold, Alydar, Nearly on Time, Key to the Mint, and Judgable as the 6th three-year-old to win during a 20-year span. No three-year-old has won since, and none will be running on Saturday.
In 1986, Lady’s Secret became the first female to win the Whitney in 38 years. It did not take long for the next female, as Personal Ensign won it two years later. No female has won since, although Serena's Song could not have come much closer ...
As Serena almost proved, beware the speed … The Whitney of late has not been kind to deep closers. In the last eleven runnings, no winner was farther back than 4th place after the initial half mile.
Another nickname for Saratoga is the graveyard of champions … When Secretariat was upset in the Whitney 40 years ago, he went off at odds of 1-10 in his second race removed from sweeping the Triple Crown in spectacular fashion. The unheralded Allen Jerkens trainee, Onion, led every step of the way.
Speaking of great horses to have run in the Whitney, Kelso is tied with Discovery as the all-time winner with three Whitney victories. The great horse won in 1961, 1963, and 1965, while skipping the race in 1962 and 1964. In his first Whitney win, Kelso finished second but was placed first when Our Hope was disqualified for interfering with Kelso in one of the few editions held at Belmont Park.
Another all-time great to win the Whitney was Tom Fool in his Horse of the Year season of 1953. It marked the fifth of six wins in the race for Greentree Stable, making them the winningest of all Whitney owners.
And finally, one for the home team … When Fio Rito went all the way and held off Winter’s Tale to win the 1981 Whitney, the gray became the first New York-bred ever to win a grade one stakes race.