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Ron the Greek Seeks Grade 1 Trifecta in Whitney

Ron The Greek, with Jose Lezcano aboard wins the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia California on March 03, 2012.
Nine of the top older horses in the country will convene Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course for the 85th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap, a race which could have far-reaching implications in the division.

 

In the past 10 years, four Champion Older Males have boasted the Whitney on their resumes, most recently Blame in 2010. Lawyer Ron (2007), Horse of the Year Invasor (2006) and Left Bank (2002) also won the 1 1/8-mile race, and with no older dirt horse yet having seized control on the East Coast, Saturday’s edition could go a long way in sorting out the division.

 

Between them, Hall of Famer Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher will be saddling four starters, with Mott – who has never won the race – sending out 3-1 favorite Ron the Greek and 4-1 co-third choice Flat Out.

 

The most accomplished runner in the group with two Grade 1 victories this year, the 5-year-old Ron the Greek has been first or second in seven starts since joining Mott’s barn late in 2011. Victorious in the Sunny and Mild overnight stakes and the Queens County at Aqueduct Racetrack in his first two starts for Mott, Ron the Greek went on to annex the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March and in his most recent start, won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16.

 

“He’s a huge, gorgeous horse, actually, but a horse you could tell probably wasn’t going to get good until later in his career,” said Mott, who trains the son of Full Mandate for Brous Stable. “I think it’s just a timing issue, as most things are in this business. He’s starting to come around at the right time and just landed in our hands at the right time.”

 

Flat Out, who last year won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, has made one start for Mott, coming off a five-month layoff to finish second to the Pletcher-trained Rule in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup on July 7.

 

“I thought it was a perfect race for him,” said Mott of Flat Out, who carried the colors of Preston Stables. “He probably didn’t get to run full out the whole way. He was kind of stuffed early in the race and got out late. He was closing on the winner. It was a useful race. I think it was the type of race you’d like going into a major race like the Whitney. It was enough, but it wasn’t too much.”

 

Ron the Greek, who drew post position 6 under top weight of 120 pounds, will be ridden by Jose Lezcano, while Flat Out will have Rosie Napravnik aboard from post position 7.

 

Pletcher, who won the Whitney in 2007 with Lawyer Ron and in 2002 with Left Bank, is represented by Rule, 5-1 on the morning line from the rail, and Caixa Eletronica, who was tabbed at 15-1 from post position 3.

 

Bred and owned by WinStar Farm, Rule has hit the board in all three starts at the Spa, finishing second in a maiden race in 2009, winning the Birdstone Stakes last year, and finishing third in the 2011 Grade 1 Woodward, in which he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

 

Stablemate Caixa Eletronica, who carries the colors of Repole Stable, fared well at the Spa last year with two starter handicap victories, one at six furlongs carrying 127 pounds, and one at the Whitney distance toting 131. He won the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic this year and most recently was fifth to Pacific Ocean in the Grade 3 James Marvin on opening day.

 

“We’ll be able to save ground around the first turn,” said Pletcher. “There appears to be plenty of pace in there so hopefully we’ll be able to save ground and work our way into a good position.”

 

Joe Bravo will be aboard Rule, while Javier Castellano rides Caixa Eletronica.

 

Second choice at 7-2 on the morning line is Fort Larned, who has a 2-0-1 record in four graded stakes starts this year, including victories in the Grade 3 Skip Away in March at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 3 Cornhusker on June 30. Since trainer Ian Wilkes outfitted him with blinkers late in 2011, the 4-year-old E Dubai colt has been a consistent performer, with the exception of an eighth-place finish behind Ron the Greek in the Stephen Foster.

 

“I went into the Stephen Foster with a pretty horse; I didn’t have a racehorse,” said Wilkes of Ford Larned, who is owned by Janis Whitham. “So, he didn’t run much that day. The owner was willing to take a shot [two weeks later for the Cornhusker Handicap].”

 

With Brian Hernandez in the irons, Fort Larned will leave from post position 9.

 

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey also is a two-time winner of the Whitney, having taken the 1988 edition with the 4-year-old filly Personal Ensign and the 1989 running with 3-year-old Easy Goer, both of whom were later inducted into the Hall of Fame themselves.

 

McGaughey will try for a Whitney hat trick with Stuart Janney, III’s Hymn Book, a fast-closing second to Mucho Macho Man last time out in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap earlier this year, the 6-year-old gelded son of Arch will be making his Saratoga debut on Saturday with 2012 Hall of Fame inductee John Velazquez aboard from post position 8.

 

“[The post position] doesn’t matter with him,” said McGaughey of Hymn Book, 4-1 on the morning line. “If he gets away good, he’ll get a position going around that turn. With Johnny riding him, you know you’re going to get the best. If the pace is fast, he’ll be laying back, and if the pace is slow, we’ll be laying up fairly close.”

 

Completing the field are Casner Racing’s Grade 3 winner Endorsement, 2-1-1 from five starts this year; Canadian import Hunters Bay, who has won three straight at Woodbine, including the Grade 3 Eclipse and the Grade 3 Dominion Day, and the speedy Trickmeister, most recently third in the Grade 2 Suburban.

 

 

 

What the Nation is saying about Ron the Greek Seeks Grade 1 Trifecta in Whitney...

Big differences between Kelso and Ron the Greek. At that time, the older horses were stronger. Ron the Greek hasnt defeated any elite competitors. He's won two minor races against minor competition. You look at the field in this years Preakness and Derby and put it up against this years Stephen Foster and Santa Anita HC, no comparison.
  • VisionandVerse · The KD and Preakness are not the end all be all. First of all it's restricting races 3 yo facing 3 yo. So even though the fields were great they weren't going against open fields of older horses. In the last 20 years only 4 3 year olds have one the BCC. In the 28 runnings only 9 3 year olds have one. The top 3 year olds this year are dropping like flies. The classic winners are already retired. That's the measure of greatness? · 628 days ago ·
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  • VisionandVerse · Also the older horses have been putting up much better speed figures than the 3 yo. RTG, GOD, Alternation, Successful Dan, MUcho Macho Man, Wise Dan, Shackleford have all put up numbers no 3 yo has matched. · 628 days ago ·
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In the last 41 years, only 12 3 year olds have been able to win Horse of the Year. That's a strong proof that older horses are typically stronger. Prime example Bernardini was brilliant his 3 yo campaign and could not handle Invasor who was coming off a 2 month layoff in the Classic.
He's 5. Even so, Ron won the Stephen Foster and the Santa Anita Handicap. Then the Whitney. You would have me believe the Whitney and the Stephen Foster are equal to the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby? No way.
  • CraigBradshaw · you would be comparing apples to oranges to compare the whitney, stephen foster, s.a. hcp. to the kd and the preakness. what you have to look at is how the 3 yr. olds matriculate into the open or handicap races. · 630 days ago ·
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  • VisionandVerse · Until those 3 yos that ran in the KD/Preakness start beating the older horses then you are right there is no comparison. In the last 20 years only 4 3 year olds have won the Breeders Classic. · 628 days ago ·
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A 3 yr old should have to win high profile races against great competition. It doesnt matter if they are 3yr olds, old horses or fillies.
  • VisionandVerse · It does matter. Just because a 3 yr old can beat those in his division doesn't mean they can step up and beat older horses. What made Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Havre De Grace racing superstars is that they stepped out of their divisions. · 628 days ago ·
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I agree, t-vic.
Kelso, Forego, Exterminator and John in that order
THE GREATEST GELDING. Keep your Exterminator/Forego/John Henry crap out, King Kelly was the best.
IHATC, I was only using the Kelso era as one example. Others are Funny Cide in 2003 (Mineshaft was HOY), War Emblem in 2002 (Azeri was HOY), Smarty Jones in 2004 (Ghostzapper was HOY). And there are candidates for HOY among the older horses besides Ron the Greek. Acclamation & Game on Dude for example. Yeah, IHA beat quality fields of 3 yos but all 3 yos are untested at that time of the year.
I like all the closers in this race, Ron the Greek, Hymn Book and Caixa Eletronica, maybe some Fort Larned and Flat Out. http://handicrapper.blogspot.com/
Save your logic. This groups knows nothing of horses olde than current memory and have NEVER seen the likes of that great gelding and the weigh he carried the horses he beat and at surfaces and distances you NEVER see them at today.
Yes it does matter. At this time of the year the competition is much stronger among older horses. In 1961 Carry Back won the Derby & Preakness. Who was HOY? Kelso. In 1963 Chateaugay won the Derby & Belmont. Again, Kelso was HOY. In 1964 Northern Dancer won the Derby & Preakness. Kelso again! There are a lot of other examples of this.
I don't think Ron the Greek will win The Whitney. On a fast track I have him handicapped no better than 3rd. Just my opinion.
Kentucky Derby & Preakness notwithstanding, a 3 yo should have to beat older horses to be HOY.
Ron the Greek looks really good for this race, but Hunter's Bay and Rule intrigue me. I wouldn't leave them off my exotics
^ I agree IHATC never an equal. Did RTG go up against a star-studded twenty horse field and win? I think not
you have to be DOMINANT to win vs older in August
Is RTG a 3 yo? That would have been interesting to see those two race.
A victory in the Whitney for Ron the Greek would equal I'll Have Another's three grade one wins. Then the discussion gets interesting!

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