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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

How well do you know the Whitney Handicap?

Blame Whitney 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


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. 


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Older Comments about How well do you know the Whitney Handicap?...

One of the ominous stutter steps for the Big Red one.
Lots of cool Whitney info. Fort Larned sure has a lot of trends to overcome, but it feels like he can do it. Could be a bunch of horses that are past their primes in this field, but we shall see.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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