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A New York State of Racing

What A Whitney!

Whitney Draw 615 X 400
Photo: Matt Shifman
A very salty field of nine has come together for the 87th running of the Whitney (G1). Up for grabs is a purse of $1,500,000 and a spot in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic through “Win and You’re In” challenge series. All nine horses have won at least one graded stakes race and seven of them are millionaires.

Will Take Charge ML 4-1 [Horton/Three Chimneys, Lukas, L. Saez, 20: 7-6-0, $3,774,648]
grade one wins: Clark, Travers
grade two wins: Oaklawn, Pennsylvania Derby, Rebel
grade three wins: none

Will Take Charge is the leading money winner and only champion in this field with five prestigious graded stakes wins. His best race may have been his loss by a nose in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic. That race helped him win the Eclipse Award for three-year-olds.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas: “Will Take Charge has thrived on his rigorous schedule. He has an affinity for this racetrack and he’s had a really good month.”

Prayer for Relief ML 20-1 [Zayat, Romans, Rosario, 31:8-6-6, $1,747,938]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: Super Derby, West Virginia Derby
grade three wins: Cornhusker, Iowa Derby

Prayer for Relief is the field’s veteran runner with 31 starts. He began his career with Bob Baffert, moved to Steve Asmussen, and now is trained by Dale Romans. In the summer of 2011, this Zayat Stables runner won three Derbies in a row.

Trainer Dale Romans: “This horse fits in the big races. He’s always right there. He just needs to get over the hump.”

Moreno ML 10-1 [Southern Equine, Guillot, Alvarado, 19: 2-6-3, $909,940]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: Dwyer
grade three wins: none

Moreno is best known for his great run in the summer of his sophomore season. He went from a maiden victory to a win in the Dwyer to a third in the Jim Dandy followed by his battle to the wire in the Travers with Will Take Charge.

Trainer Eric Guillot: “The Whitney is a big race, it’s Saratoga. How can you not be excited? The shorter stretch and narrow turns are an advantage. He’s gonna get the lead.”

Itsmyluckyday ML 12-1 [Trilogy/L. Plesa, E. Plesa, P. Lopez, 17: 8-3-1, $1,022,600]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: none
grade three wins: Salvatore Mile, Holy Bull

Itsmyluckyday was a major player in the 2013 Triple Crown with his second place finish in the Preakness. An injury in the Pegasus, his Haskell prep race, put him on the sidelines until March of this year. He has now strung together three wins with the Salvatore Mile at Monmouth Park being the most recent.

Palace Malice ML 1-1 [Dogwood Stable, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 16: 7-4-1, $2,631,135]
grade one wins: Metropolitan, Belmont
grade two wins: New Orleans, Gulfstream Park, Jim Dandy
grade three wins: Westchester

Palace Malice is currently on a winning streak of four graded stakes in 2014 with the Met Mile being the most recent. The Dogwood Stable runner is currently ranked #1 in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred poll.

Trainer Todd Pletcher: “The biggest difference [in Palace Malice] is that he doesn’t make mistakes like he did last year. He’s more professional. He’s an uncomplicated horse. He thrives on action.”

Departing ML 6-1 [Claiborne/Dilschneider, Stall, Albarado, 11: 7-0-2, $1,491,340]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: Super Derby, West Virginia Derby
grade three wins: Illinois Derby

Departing made his mark by winning three Derbies in 2013. His most recent race was a third place finish in the Stephen Foster.

Trainer Al Stall: “I love the way he gets over the racetrack. We think he is a grade one type horse.”

Romansh ML 10-1 [Godolphin, Albertrani, J. Ortiz, 11: 4-0-2, $513,580]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: none
grade three wins: Excelsior, Discovery

This Godolphin runner is one of the long shots in this distinguished Whitney field, yet he has career earnings of more than a half million dollars and two graded stakes wins.

Trainer Tom Albertrani: “When he shows up and he’s on his game he’s pretty tough.  I love the way he’s been training in Saratoga.”

Golden Ticket ML 20-1 [Magic City Thoroughbred, McPeek, Leparoux, 26: 5-8-3, $1,269,090]
grade one wins: Travers
grade two wins: none
grade three wins: none

Golden Ticket is most famous for his dead heat victory with Alpha in the 2012 Travers. His win in the Prairie Meadows Handicap in July of 2013 is his most recent. Trainer Kenny McPeek has not dodged the competition as Golden Ticket’s eight most recent starts have been in graded stakes company. In 2013 he surprised with a second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Last Gunfighter ML 15-1 [Gunther, C. Brown, J. Castellano, 17: 9-3-2, $1,142,205]
grade one wins: none
grade two wins: Hawthorne Gold Cup
grade three wins: Iselin, Pimlico Special, Excelsior

In a period of seven months spanning 2012 and 2013, Last Gunfighter was able to string together six consecutive wins ranging from his maiden victory to the Pimlico Special (G3). His long morning line odds come from his disappointing ninth place finish in the Suburban.



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 Meet Matt Shifman 

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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