Improbable Takes Whitney After Stumbling Start By Favored Tom’s D’Etat

Improbable notched his second consecutive Grade 1 on Saturday, taking advantage of a bad stumble at the start by favorite Tom’s d’Etat to win the $750,000 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Under Irad Ortiz, Jr., the 4-year-old City Zip colt sat off pacesetter Mr. Buff, took took command into the stretch and won easily by two lengths over By My Standards. After his bad start, Tom’s d’Etat rallied to be third, with Code of Honor and Mr. Buff rounding out the field of five.

Improbable, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.65 and paid $8.50 for the win — his sixth in 13 career starts. A G1 winner at two of the Los Alamitos Futurity, Improbable was the beaten favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2019, concluding his year with a fifth-place finish behind Spun to Run in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

He came back in 2020 with a close second behind Tom’s d’Etat in the Oaklawn Mile and then returned to Southern California to win the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 6.

Baffert won the 2019 Whitney with McKinzie.

The Whitney is a Win and You’re In Challenge Series race for the $7-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run at Keeneland on Nov. 7, with a fees paid berth to the winner along with $10,000 in travel expenses for horses outside of Kentucky.

Improbable joins previous Classic “Win and You’re In” qualifiers Capital System’s 6-year-old Mozu Ascot, winner of the February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 23; GMB Racing’s 7-year-old Tom’ d’Etat, winner of the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on June 27, and Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables and Starlight Racing’s 3-year-old Authentic, also trained by Baffert, who won the Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 18.

Plagued by starting gate problems throughout his career, Improbable was fractious while waiting for the gates to open but broke smoothly. Tom’s d’Etat, however, went to his knees at the start under Joel Rosario and was several lengths behind the field by the time he recovered.

“He stumbled coming out,” said Rosario. “There was a lot going on. He was standing fine, he just missed the break. The horse to the inside of him was moving a little bit, he was straight, he just stumbled a little bit. It changed my plan because I had to really get riding from there. I couldn’t take my time.”

Mr. Buff led the way through slow fractions of :25.12, :49.74 and 1:13.36, with Improbable his closest pursuer in the run down the backstretch. Tom’s d’Etat trailed.

Approaching the far turn, Ortiz asked Improbable for run, and the colt responded. He led into the stretch, the mile in 1:36.53 and was geared down in the final yards.

“Finally, he’s grown up a little bit,” Irad Ortiz Jr. said of Improbable, a horse he previously rode just once in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. “He turned into a nice horse. Mr. Baffert did a great job with him. He broke really good today. Honestly, I just took a little hold. I know Mr. Buff, he’s the speed of the race and I sat second. Last time, [Drayden] Van Dyke rode him second in the clear and he ran so good, so I just tried to do the same thing.

“He got up really quick and he put me in the race,” Ortiz added. “I just took a little hold because Mr Buff looked like the speed of the race. I put him in second in the clear, like we wanted and went from there. He was comfortable. By the backside, we felt pressure but by his own he started picking it up. I let him do his thing because they were going really slow so I let him go early. When I asked him turning for home, he responded really well.”

John Velazquez, aboard Code of Honor, said the 2019 G1 Travers winner was dull throughout. “With a slow pace he should have been on the bridle right behind those horses.” Velazquez said. “He broke well enough and I was right behind them and then he just ran kind of flat from there.”

Produced from the A.P. Indy mare, Rare Event, Improbable was bred in Kentucky by St George Farm LLC and G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

“The Whitney is a race that everybody wants to win and WinStar has yet to win one, so it was a great win for us SF, China Horse Club and the whole team,” said WinStar CEO Elliott Walden. “To do it with this horse, who has been so good for three years, he’s danced every dance. He’s given us a lot of pleasure. He was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and he won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old. We talked about whether we should run in the Pacific Classic or the Whitney, but the Whitney is such a prestigious race and Tom’s d’Etat was the leader of the division at the time and I felt like he deserved to run against him and Code of Honor, too. Even though it was a small field, it was a spectacular field. He did it the right way and completely dominated, which was great.”

The post Improbable Takes Whitney After Stumbling Start By Favored Tom’s D’Etat appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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