two heartbreaking losses, Cross Traffic finally earned his first stakes
victory with a front-running triumph over some of the country's top
older horses in the 86th edition of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
from post position 4, just outside last year's Whitney winner Fort
Larned and Mucho Macho Man, Cross Traffic enjoyed a smooth trip to the
first turn and emerged to lead the field of eight through an opening
quarter-mile in 24.17 seconds. With Mucho Macho Man and 6-5 favorite
Fort Larned tracking him intently, Cross Traffic began picking it up
from there, running a half-mile in 47.28 and three-quarters in 1:10.24
under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
by his pursuers on the turn, Cross Traffic spun into the stretch with a
two-length advantage, and, despite an erratic run through the lane, had
enough left to repel a late challenge from Successful Dan and win by
three-quarters of a length. Mucho Macho Man held on for third, with Ron
the Greek along for fourth and Fort Larned checking in fifth.
Completing the order of finish were Alpha, Csaba and Fast Falcon.
outside of Mucho Macho Man and Fort Larned - the other two speeds - we
felt like we were in a good position," said winning trainer Todd
Pletcher. "It worked out really well. We got a great run into the first
turn. The first quarter was key. Johnny was able to get to the position
he wanted without overdoing it and kind of picked it up from there."
Cross Traffic, who returned $9.10 for a $2 win bet as the 7-2 second choice, completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89.
first quarter was the most important one; we didn't have to chase him
to be there," said Velazquez. "After that, we started picking it up
every eighth of a mile, but it was a comfortable pace. It wasn't a very
fast pace, so he was doing it easy and comfortable. I felt comfortable
the way he was going."
victory was the 4-year-old Cross Traffic's third in five career starts,
having finished second by a head in the Grade 3 Westchester in his
stakes debut and second by a nose in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap,
both at Belmont Park.
was a strongly run race throughout, and we were just hoping he could
hold on the last part after the two losses we had at Belmont," said
Pletcher, who got his third Whitney as a trainer. "Those were
heartbreaking losses, to run as well as he did in those two races and
miss by a whisker. Turning for home, I thought we had a big shot, but I
was still wanting to get there."
Whitney victory also earned Cross Traffic an automatic berth and an
all-fees-paid entry into the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita this
fall as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.
was a real quality-filled race," added Pletcher, who trains the
Unbridled's Song colt for Goldmark Farm. "To beat the Breeders' Cup
winner [Fort Larned] and runner-up [Mucho Macho Man] from last year and
some really good horses speaks volumes about his quality. It was great
to see him [win]. He certainly deserved a Grade 1 after the Met Mile. I
know we've had a couple of tough beats over the years, but that one kind
of stands out as one of the toughest."
a 6 ¼-length winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in June, was
bidding to become the first horse since Discovery (1934, 1935, 1936) to
win consecutive editions of the Whitney. Off to a flat-footed start, he
had a wide trip throughout and could not sustain his run after coming
within a length of the winner on the turn.
just walked out of the gates," said trainer Ian Wilkes of Fort Larned.
"It wasn't the start we were looking for. He got away bad. He got a
good trip on the outside. All hats off to the winner. He's run over this
track before; there's no excuse there. It was one of those days. We'll
fight another day."
Dan, who tripped and fell coming out of the paddock before the race,
was 1 ½ lengths clear of Mucho Macho Man. Charles LoPresti, who trains
the older half-brother to - and stablemate of - reigning Horse of the
Year Wise Dan, said he did not think the mishap affected the 7-year-old
happy," said LoPresti. "He ran his race the way I thought he'd run.
It's unfortunate that happened [the fall before the race], but I don't
think that took anything away from him. He was really running at the
end. I told my nephew around the three-eighths pole he was picking up
horses left and right. I knew he was going to run his race, and he did."