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2021 Whitney Handicap

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Joel Rosario and Knicks Go head to the winner's circle after the Whitney Stakes

The Test Stakes, Glens Falls, and Lure

Date: 08/07/2021

The $1 million Whitney Stakes (G1), run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, is the premier contest at Saratoga for older horses and is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race earning the winner automatic entry into the Classic (G1). Conditions were ideal with the main track fast and turf courses firm under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 80's.

As expected Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner Knicks Go was sent off as the even-money favorite in the compact field of 5 off his 10 length romp in the Cornhusker Handicap (G3). In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Maxfield, winner of the Alysheba (G2) and Stephen Foster (G2), and 11-2 third choice Silver State, winner of 5 straight including the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
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Down the stretch in the Whitney

Jockey Joel Rosario sent Knicks Go to a clear lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.42, 46.76, and 1:10.32 while pressed by 6-1 Swiss Skydiver and stalked by Maxfield. Turning for home, Knicks Go opened up by 3 lengths through 1 mile in 1:34.84, and finished up under wraps 4 1/2 lengths clear of Maxfield in 1:47.70. It was another 1 3/4 length back to Silver State third.
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Pgm  Horse               Jockey           Win   Place  Show
 4   Knicks Go           Rosario         4.10    2.70  2.20
 5   Maxfield            Ortiz                   2.80  2.10
 2   Silver State        Santana Jr.                   2.70

Winning Time:  1:47.70

$1 Exacta 4-5                 5.00
$1 Trifecta 4-5-2            11.20
$1 Superfecta 4-5-2-3        22.30
Results Chart

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Knicks Go in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brad Cox said, "He ran huge. There's always a concern when you ship to Saratoga and this can be a demanding surface. I thought the race at Prairie Meadows [Cornhusker] really tuned him up well. He was well within himself and that was his big work for this race five weeks ago. He had three maintenance works at Ellis and he came in here a fresh and happy horse, ready to go."

Right: Knicks Go gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "I was challenged a little bit going to the first turn, but [Swiss Skydiver] sent a little bit and I was just going to see what they were going to do and take it from there. I was a half-length in front going into the turn and I just decided to keep him going forward."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Knicks Go in the paddock before the race. Cox added, "At the 3/8 pole I was a touch concerned because they were coming to him fairly easy. They're good horses and they're gonna come to him. At the top of the lane, I thought, 'Wow, he's still there' and I liked how Joel came off the rail. It looked like he still had horse. Then at the eighth pole when he asked him to go, he was able to kick away. Joel fits this horse like a glove. Joel is a really good horseman and he gets run out of a lot of horses and this is one that he obviously fits extremely well."

Right: Knicks Go heads to the winner's circle. Rosario added, "The way he was moving he just skipped to the last quarter-pole. He loved what he was doing. He was very relaxed and going forward. I was really happy with the way he was going turning for home."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Maxfield returns after the race. Trainer Brendan Walsh said, "He ran his race. No excuse, really. I think the best horse won on the day. Jose [Ortiz] said he got to a point where he thought he was going to get him but [Knicks Go] didnít stop and didnít come back to him. But he ran well. Second is no disgrace. Weíre always proud of this horse and there will be other days."

Right: Third place finisher Silver State heads out to the track before the race. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said,"I had the best trip. The winner was much the best. We were fortunate to be third; my horse ran his race. Steve [Asmussen] is happy, the owner is happy, and Iím happy, and that is the most important thing."

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The horses break from the gate for the Whitney. Jose Ortiz aboard runner-up Maxfield (post 5) said, "My plan was to not rush my horse out of his pace. Wherever he put me, wherever he was doing it comfortable, thatís where I wanted to be, because I donít have the speed Knicks Go has. Itís impossible for me to go, and Swiss and myself with him, Iím never going to get even close to him, so I had to do my thing, ride to win. Heís a big horse, let him get his feet under him and make a run. I think he did well and made a good run."

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Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen became the all-time winningest thoroughbred trainer in North America when he won the 9,446th race of his career on Whitney Day at Saratoga Race Course, eclipsing the mark of 9,445 victories held by the late Dale Baird since 2007. Asmussen, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2016 and won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009, broke the long-standing record when Stellar Tap won the day's fifth race, a seven-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds.

horse racing"To be surrounded by people you love and who love you, and you have a common goal, it's impossible to put into words what horse racing means to me and my whole family and to all the employees. They're family and they know so and are treated as such," said an emotional Asmussen in a winner's circle ceremony."

L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds' Stellar Tap, a first-time starter with Ricardo Santana, Jr. in the irons, tracked the early speed of Brigadier General through the opening quarter-mile before taking command and extending his lead to 5 1/4-lengths at the finish. "How fitting to do this with a 2-year-old owned by the Winchells and who came through Mom and Dad's farm in Laredo and on Whitney Day. I was definitely blessed," Asmussen said. "I'm very proud of where I came from and don't ever want to forget it. It makes you who you are. I love to be able to share this with my parents."

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Immediately before the Whitney, the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1) featured a field of 11 three-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon turf course. Epsom Derby (G1) 7th place finisher and Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Bolshoi Ballet was sent off as the 6-5 favorite. In to challenge him included 9-2 second choice Cadillac, winner of the ARM Holding International Stakes (G3) after finishing 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and 5-1 third choice Secret Protector, 3rd in the Hampton Court (G3) at Royal Ascot.

Jockey Julien Leparoux sent 24-1 Cellist to the front first time by and he set fractions of 21.96, 47.54, and 1:11.88 while pressed by Bolshoi Ballet and stalked by Cadillac. On the far turn Cellist tired as 21-1 State of Rest, 6th early, swept to the front 4 wide through 1 mile in 1:35.92. Kept to task by John Velazquez, State of Rest held off late-running 14-1 Soldier Rising to win by a length in 1:53.35. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to 10-1 Du Jour third, and 1/2 a length more to favorite Bolshoi Ballet fourth.
Results Chart

horse racinghorse racingLeft: State of Rest in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Joseph O'Brien said, "I thought Johnny [Velazquez] gave him a fantastic ride. The pace was pretty strong and he got him comfortable and came home strong. We knew he would like the firm turf and getting more distance today. He was unlucky not to win his last race. He ran really well and we knew that getting more distance today would suit him well. Weíll get him home and talk to the owners and see how he is and see where we go next.

Right: State of Rest gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "The horse is actually a very, very nice horse and he was not really paying attention out in the post parade so I was a little bit worried that his mind wasnít on the business and thatís what he did. He didnít break very well. I didnít panic. I just saved all the ground, looking for somewhere to go down the stretch and when I got him out, he responded really good."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: State of Rest in the paddock before the race. O'Brien added, "He ran well the last time and we were figuring out where we could go with him. We figured this was a lovely spot and that the conditions would suit him well. We werenít sure how he would handle this level and he had never been around these turns before, but he handled everything really well."

Right: State of Rest heads to the winner's circle.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Soldier Rising heads out for the post parade. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He missed the break a little, but it was his first time running in this country so I didn't panic. I just let him settle and be where he was happy. I tried to have a good trip after that and that's what I got, a really good trip. When I asked him, he was there for me. I had a lot of power under me. He was running home but the winner was the best horse."

Right: Third place finisher Du Jour returns after the race. Jockey Joel Rosario said, †"It was a very nice run. He responded very well. Turning for home he was a little tired and hesitated for a little bit. He ran really well today."†

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Left: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Bolshoi Ballet returns after the race. The Aidan O'Brien trainee has a record of 4 wins, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 8 starts, earning $703,454 for owners Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.

Right: Down the stretch in the Saratoga Derby.

Also on the card: The Test, Lure, and Glens Falls Stakes

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