Five-Horse Whitney Field Features Clash Of Maxfield, Knicks Go

Five-time graded stakes winner Maxfield brings a quality resume against a compact-but-stellar field of fellow graded stakes winners in Saturday’s 94th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney at nine furlongs for older horses at Saratoga Race Course.

The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifying event for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6 at Del Mar and headlines Saturday’s lucrative 12-race card.

Whitney Day also features two other Grade 1 events with the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles over the Mellon turf and the $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs over the main track. Also featured on the card are the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls for older fillies and mares travelling 1 1/2 miles over the inner turf and the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure for 4-year-olds and upward over the Mellon turf.

Owned by Godolphin, who captured last Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy with reigning 2-Year-Old Champion Essential Quality, Maxfield boasts lifetime earnings of $1,265,902 and an outstanding 8-7-0-1 record for trainer Brendan Walsh.

The 4-year-old dark bay or brown son of Street Sense, who sired 2019 Whitney winner McKinzie, arrives at the Whitney off two of his best performances yet with 3 ¼-length Grade 2 victories at Churchill Downs in the Alysheba on April 30 and the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 26, garnering a respective 105 and 103 Beyer Speed Figures.

Maxfield will look to become the fifth winner of the Stephen Foster to subsequently capture the Whitney, joining Awesome Again [1998], Victory Gallop [1999], Blame [2010] and Gun Runner [2017]. His win in that race already assured Maxfield of a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“This year, we’ve got a nice body of races into him which he hasn’t done before,” Walsh said. “He hasn’t really missed a beat since December. We’ve spaced his races out good and except for one or two, he’s had four-to-six weeks between starts. He’s still a fresh horse and that’s a good position to be in at this time of year.”

A winner on debut going a one-turn mile in September 2019 at Churchill Downs, Maxfield gave Walsh his first Grade 1 victory in the Breeders’ Futurity going two turns at Keeneland next out, when making up nearly ten lengths from ninth to win by 5 ½ lengths.

Maxfield returned off a seven-month layoff to capture the Grade 3 Matt Winn in May 2020 at Churchill Downs before securing victories in the Tenacious in December at Fair Grounds Race Course and the Grade 3 Mineshaft in February at the New Orleans oval. His lone defeat took place in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.

“He’s a horse that even still is lightly raced. We were always on the back foot with him,” Walsh said. “He ran twice as a 2-year-old, and we’ve always been battling a little inexperience or a lack of seasoning. But ever since we ran him in California and his couple runs since, he’s getting to where he’s a more seasoned horse and I think that’s going to stand him well from here on in because he’s going to have to be at his best against the horses he’s up against. It’s a big test for him, so we’ll see how he stacks up against them.”

A Kentucky homebred, Maxfield is out of the Bernardini mare Velvety, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-winner and producer Sky Mesa as well as graded stakes winner Golden Velvet. He is a direct descendant of prestigious broodmares Caress, La Affirmed and Busanda, all of whom hail from the influential La Troienne line.

Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Maxfield to five of his seven wins, retains the mount from post 5. Maxfield is listed at 8-5 on the morning line.

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Riding high off last Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy triumph with Essential Quality, reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will saddle 6-5 morning-line favorite Knicks Go in attempt to give the 5-year-old son of Paynter his fourth Grade 1 win. Through a record of 21-7-3-1, Knicks Go boasts the highest bankroll in the field with over $4.8 million in lifetime earnings.

Sure to show his usual early speed, Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go captured last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 5 at Keeneland, garnering a 108 Beyer. The gray or roan horse replicated that number in his 2021 bow, capturing the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on January 23 at Gulfstream Park.

Knicks Go shipped to Saudi Arabia for the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 20, finishing a distant fourth. When returning stateside, Knicks Go cut back to one mile for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap where he flaunted frontrunning tactics but finished fourth beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Whitney rival Silver State.

Last out, Knicks Go surged to a 10 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Cornhusker on July 2 at Prairie Meadows, registering a career-best 113 Beyer, which is the highest number recorded for an older horse going over one mile in 2021.

“It gave us the confidence to try the Whitney,” Cox said. “The race solidified that the horse needs two turns, which he’ll get in the Whitney. We’re excited about getting him back in the Grade 1 ranks going around two turns.”

Knicks Go has done all his serious Whitney preparation at Ellis Park, including a five-furlong breeze in 59.60 on July 31.

“He’ll break running. We’ll see how far he can take himself around there, hopefully the whole way,” Cox said. “He’s set up for a big effort. He’s been working really well at Ellis.”

Bred in Maryland by Angie Moore, Knicks Go is out of the Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy.

Joel Rosario, who guided Frosted to a Whitney victory in 2016, will retain the mount aboard Knicks Go from post 4.

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver, the reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly, will attempt to become the first female since undefeated Hall of Famer Personal Ensign in 1988 to capture the Whitney.

The three-time Grade 1 winner, trained by Kenny McPeek, has notched six graded stakes victories dating back to last March when taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in gate-to-wire fashion. From there, she added miles to the tank with triumphs in the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park last May and the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks last June.

After making her first start against males with a game second in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland last July, she recorded her first triple-digit Beyer [102] with a 3 ½-length win in the Grade 1 Alabama in August in her lone start at the Spa. Two starts later, she garnered her biggest claim to fame becoming the sixth filly to capture the Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in a hard-fought win over Kentucky Derby winner Authentic.

Swiss Skydiver has registered two starts this year, shipping to the West Coast to capture the Grade 1 Beholder Mile on March 13 at Santa Anita ahead of a distant third to Letruska and dual champion Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 17 at Oaklawn Park.

“She’s had a bumpy first half of the year,” McPeek said. “No major issues, but just stuff that kept her from showing off. She had a little hind leg infection that was bothering her. It didn’t appear to be a big deal going into Oaklawn, but it might have been why she ran a little flat that day.”

McPeek selected Swiss Skydiver for $35,000 from Select Sales consignment barn at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Through a career of 14-7-3-2, she has amassed $2,125,480.

“She doesn’t have many quirks and she loves her routine,” McPeek said. “She’s a very happy filly. She loves to eat, train and has been a pleasure for the people around her. We’re excited about it. The Shuvee would have been ideal, she’s been ready to run. I’ve always thought if you’re here, you run where you’re at. It’s a little bit out of the box, but she’s ready.”

Swiss Skydiver, listed at 6-1, will emerge from post 3 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., who will attempt to become the sixth jockey to pilot the filly to victory.

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Silver State brings a six-race win streak into the Whitney for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old Hard Spun bay has done no wrong since firing off a seven-month hiatus, winning all six starts dating back to a seven-furlong allowance on October 22 at Keeneland.

He began his season with a trio of stakes wins at Oaklawn Park, capturing the Fifth Season on January 23, the Essex on March 13 and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 17. He brought his winning form to Belmont Park, giving jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. and Asmussen their third collaborative victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 5.

Silver State arrives at the Whitney off three bullet works over the Oklahoma training track, including a five-furlong effort in 1:00.21 on July 28.

“His work the other day was exactly what we asked,” Asmussen said. “[Assistant trainer] Scott [Blasi] said he’d give you a lot of confidence and I said, ‘The only one more confident than me or you is him,’. He’s won six in a row. The Whitney will establish the leader of the division. I have nothing but respect for who’s in it, but we’re very fortunate to have a horse as good as Silver State to run in it.”

Santana, Jr. retains the mount from post 2. Silver State is listed at 4-1.

Four-time graded stakes winner By My Standards is out for redemption following a game runner-up effort in last year’s Whitney. The son of Goldencents rated in the clear from third down the backstretch and closed well down the lane, coming up two lengths shy of Improbable.

Owned by Allied Racing and Spendthrift Farm and trained by Bret Calhoun, the 5-year-old son of Goldencents was second to Silver State last out in the Met Mile

“He’s been a very consistent and good training horse,” Calhoun said. “He runs well and brings it every time. We’re unfortunate to not get a Grade 1. This will be a deep and high-quality field. He has a good shot in there, but it’s obviously very, very tough. It would be great to have the Whitney on his resume. It’s good to win any race at Saratoga, much less a graded stakes and even more so the Whitney given the reputation that race has and the weight it carries.”

Gabriel Saez, the pilot aboard By My Standards [10-1] in all but two of his starts, will ride from post 1.

The Whitney is one of Saratoga’s marquee events and pays homage to one of the Spa’s most influential families, who for generations has had a profound effect on horse racing in upstate New York and nationwide. The prominent Whitney family’s involvement in thoroughbred racing began with Jockey Club co-founder William Collins Whitney, who began owning thoroughbreds in 1898.

His son Harry Payne Whitney campaigned horses under the moniker of Greentree Stables, who hold the record for most victories in the family’s namesake race with six winners. Horses owned by members of the Whitney family have gone on to win nearly every major horse race in North America, including all three American classics.

As one of the most important races in the North American handicap division, the Whitney has been won by subsequent Champion Older Horses Improbable (2020), Gun Runner (2017), Honor Code (2015), Blame (2010), Lawyer Ron (2007), Invasor (2006), Left Bank (2002), Lemon Drop Kid (2000), Victory Gallop (1999), Criminal Type (1990) and Slew o’ Gold (1984). Prominent Whitney victors during the early years of the race include all-time greats Equipoise (1932), Discovery (1934-36), War Admiral (1938), Stymie (1946), Tom Fool (1953), Carry Back (1962), Kelso (1961, 1963, 1965), Dr. Fager (1968) and Alydar (1978).

The Whitney is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 12-race card, which offers a first post of 12:35 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.

The post Five-Horse Whitney Field Features Clash Of Maxfield, Knicks Go appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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