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Saratoga Opening Day
Invasor and Fenando Jara after the Whitney Handicap
The $750,000 Whitney Handicap (G1) is one of the premier races on the Saratoga calendar, with the best older horses on the east coast competing over 1 1/8 miles, one complete lap of the main track. A crowd of 29,918 was on hand, down from the record 32,287 last year. In this year's edition, last year's Jim Dandy and Travers winner Flower Alley was sent off as the 3-2 favorite, having won the Salvatore Mile at Monmouth in his last start. Also in the race were Suburban and Pimlico Special winner Invasor as the 9-5 second choice, and 7-1 third choice Sun King, winner of the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup but second in his two starts since then.
The horses break from the gate for the Whitney with Siphon City leaping to the front.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Invasor Jara 5.50 3.80 3.10 9 Sun King Bejarano 5.70 4.80 6 West Virginia Gomez 6.50 Winning Time: 1:49.06 $2 Exacta 2-9 39.00 $2 Trifecta 2-9-6 269.50 $2 Superfecta 2-9-6-1 3,263.00
Invasor in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Fernando Jara said, "I just try to do my best. I wanted to stay close to (Flower Alley) because he was the horse to beat. When (Invasor) got to the lead, I thought he was waiting on horses. Once Sun King got to him, he just gave me more. He never let him by after the finish line. I'm very happy for the horse and for Kiaran."
Marylou Whitney presents the trophies for the Whitney Handicap to the winning connections. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is on the far left. McLaughlin said, "I was worried at the eighth pole. We had been in a fight throughout and Sun King came to us. We were in a dogfight; it was a great race. Today, he dug in and showed a great desire to win. I thought we won, but I had to watch it over again. Two more wins, and we might have Uruguay's Horse of the Year and America's Horse of the Year. He does everything right. He makes us trainers and jockeys looks good when you have a horse like this. This is a special horse. This is a great win. It has been an unbelievable year. Hopefully, we can keep these big wins coming. We're not sure about the Woodward or the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Sheikh Hamdan (bin Rashid al Maktoum) asked me to run him once more before the Breeders' Cup. He was training very well, and he was very happy the last week. It's hard to win and great to win such an important race."
Mary Lou Whitney's husband John Hendrickson helps her back to the car that brought her to the winner's circle. This was her first public appearance since she had a stroke back over Memorial Day weekend. She had to cancel her annual Whitney Ball for the first time since 1960 due to her poor health. The crowd was glad to see her and gave her a big cheer when she arrived.
Invasor in the paddock prior to the race. (left)
Invasor in the post parade. (right)
Second place finisher Sun King in the post parade. His trainer Nick Zito said, "Every big race, he's right there. In hindsight, the allowance prep set him up perfectly for this. When the overnights came out, I just didn't like post 9. But the kid (Rafael Bejarano) did a great job. It's heart-breaking. He's a great horse. Did you hear the crowd? They were all rooting for Sun King. But what are you going to do? " Jockey Rafael Bejarano added, "We sat behind the pace and let the front-runners go at each other. Going around the far turn, we started to pick up horses. Coming down the stretch, we were getting closer to Invasor. I knew we were ahead at one point, and at the wire, I thought we had the race won. Sun King has a lot of heart, but Invasor is a tough horse." Sun King has now run second in three straight races, including a head loss to Silver Train in Belmont Park's Metropolitan Mile.
Third place finisher West Virginia in the post parade.
Seventh place finisher and beaten favorite Flower Alley in the post parade. His trainer Todd Pletcher said, "Flower Alley came up a little empty at the three-eighths pole and I'm not really sure why right now. We'll go back to barn and check it out. West Virginia (stablemate) closed well and got a piece of it (finished third)."
A young fan shows her support for Flower Alley. (right)
The feature race on Sunday was the $150,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course. Only 5 went to post here with last year's Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller sent off as the 3-5 favorite. However, 9-2 second choice Remarkable News got away quickest from the gate, set an easy pace of 24.54 and 48.22 while loose on the lead, and had plenty left at the top of the stretch to draw away to a 2 1/2 length win over 5-1 third choice Ashkal Way in 1:40.81. Favorite Artie Schiller raced in midpack third early but showed nothing through the stretch to finish a disappointing fourth.
Winning trainer Angel Penna said, "Everything went right, and he responded. I think he is the first horse to go wire to wire this meet on the grass. Today, I wanted to see if this horse belonged here. He proved it to me. We're going to keep him at a mile."
Garrett Gomez aboard beaten favorite Artie Schiller said, "He left the gate in good shape. When it came time to answer the questions, he just didn't answer any. He was empty at the quarter-pole."
Results Chart from DRF.
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