Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Whitney Stakes

Head-to-Head: Handicapping the 2020 Whitney Stakes
Photo: Photo courtesy of Keeneland

A couple of late defections left us with a field of five for the 2020 Grade 1 Whitney Stakes. What the field lacks in quantity is made up for in spades by the quality of the field as this could nearly be anyone’s race. Bob Baffert will be seeking to make it back-to-back Whitney wins having notched a victory with McKinzie last year. Meanwhile Albert Stall, Jr. will hope to capture the historical race for the first time in ten years.

Who will come out on top of this talented field? Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

Laurie

Ashley

1. BY MY STANDARDS

Fair Grounds darling By My Standards was handed his first defeat in four starts at the hooves of Tom’s d’Etat after By My Standards was further away from the pace than usual. He’s never won outside the Fair Grounds, but on the plus side, Saratoga’s current leading rider Jose Ortiz jumps into the saddle.  The rail post doesn’t hurt, either. He’ll be part of the pace. Exotics.

 

2020 has been a good year for 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner By My Standards. The colt has notched three wins since his layoff following last year’s Kentucky Derby, only losing when facing Tom’s d’Etat last out. Jose Ortiz will need to make sure not to make Corey Lanerie’s mistake of not being closer earlier in the race. He may make up some ground on Tom’s d’Etat, but I don’t think he will beat him.

 

2. IMPROBABLE

Improbable ships in fresh off of his Santa Anita Gold Cup victory. Previously, he was bested by Tom’s d’Etat in the Oaklawn Mile. This Baffert trainee hasn’t strung two victories together since he was a 2-year-old, and I don’t expect him to regain that pattern anytime soon. Like By My Standards, Improbable likes to be part of the pace. Exotics.

 

Improbable caught an easy field in the Gold Cup (G1), something he definitely has not managed here. Personally, while Improbable is undeniably a good horse, I find him to be inconsistent and certainly not one of the best in the division. (Watch him win now that I’ve said that.) He had every chance to beat Tom’s d’Etat when they last met, but that one ran right past him in the stretch at Oaklawn. I expect the same here.

3. CODE OF HONOR

It isn’t a bad thing to be a closer in a race filled with speed. Code of Honor is two-for-two at Saratoga, and the extra distance will play to his advantage. He’s the main threat to Tom’s d’Etat. Win Contender.

 

Code of Honor should get some pace to run at, giving him a shot at upsetting Tom’s d’Etat. As Laurie pointed out, Code of Honor loves the Saratoga track, and while some in here are getting jockey changes due to pandemic restrictions, Code of Honor will continue on with regular jock John Velazquez.

4. MR. BUFF

Mr. Buff will help ensure a fast pace. He’s an excellent state-bred stakes type but isn’t in the same class as the big boys. Expect him to fade right around the half-mile pole. Pass.

 

Laurie, I think you have summed up Mr. Buff perfectly, leaving me with nothing to say. Pass.

5. TOM’S D’ETAT

Could Tom’s d’Etat get any better? He’s riding a 4-race win streak, can sit off a fast pace, and is the one to beat. He ran a monster race in the Stephen Foster, winning by 4 1/4-lengths, hitting a career-best 112 Brisnet speed figure in his last start, an 11-point jump. Signs that he may regress slightly in the Whitney. Even if he regresses a bit, that’s probably still good enough to win it, since he likes Saratoga. Win Contender.

 

It’s not very often we get to see an intact horse still racing at age 7; it’s ever rarer that said horse is in career best form at that age. Boy has Albert Stall, Jr. brought along Tom’s d’Etat beautifully! With the outside post, Rosario has the option to send Tom early or sit off the pace, either of which will be fine for the versatile son of Smart Strike. This is their race to lose. Win contender.

Final Thoughts

Laurie: Most every horse in this race is a pacesetter or presser, except for Code of Honor and Tom’s d’Etat. I’m concerned about the monster effort Tom’s d’Etat put forth in the Stephen Foster, so I’'m going with Code of Honor for the mild upset.

Ashley: I think Rosario will have Tom’s d’Etat sitting just in behind the pace, giving them the opportunity to make the first run at the pacesetters. While he did run a monster race last out, he didn’t have to work very hard to do it. I think Stall, Jr. has his charge in a good place and set to make it five wins in a row.

SELECTIONS

Ashley

 

Laurie

 

#5 Tom’s d’Etat

#3 Code of Honor

#3 Code of Honor

#5 Tom’s d’Etat

#1 By My Standards

#1 By My Standards

#2 Improbable

#2 Improbable

 



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing s stars, equine and human alike.

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