Whit­ney win­ners are elite group

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - Michael Veitch

The in­flu­ence and pres­tige of the Whit­ney Stakes was il­lus­trated again at the Breed­ers’ Cup.

The point was made when Gun Run­ner cap­tured the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic, a vic­tory which is likely to se­cure him Eclipse Award hon­ors as Horse of the Year and cham­pion older male.

Gun Run­ner won the Whit­ney and Wood­ward at Saratoga this past sum­mer.

Run for the first time on Aug. 11, 1928, at 1 ¼ miles, the in­au­gu­ral Whit­ney was won by the 5-year-old mare Black Maria.

It was part of a card that also in­cluded the Saratoga Special, won by Col. E.R. Bradley’s Blue Lark­spur, who went on to win the Bel­mont Stakes, With­ers, and Ar­ling­ton Clas­sic in 1929 on the way to cham­pi­onship hon­ors.

From the start, the Whit­ney has been one of the na­tion’s pre­mier events for older horses, and with each suc­ceed­ing decade has been a de­sired prize for top thor­ough­breds.

Hall of Fame mem­bers Equipoise, Dis­cov­ery, and Eight Thirty, plus Triple Crown win­ner War Ad­mi­ral won it in the 1930s.

Four more Hall of Famers won it in the 1940s, they be­ing Challe­don, Devil Diver, Stymie and Gal­lorette.

The lone Hall of Famer in the 1950s was Tom Fool.

How­ever, four more fol­lowed in the 1960s with Kelso, Carry Back, Gun Bow and Dr. Fager.

With the ad­vent of for­mal vot­ing for cham­pi­ons in 1971, Whit­ney win­ners who won Eclipse Awards through 1999 are Key to the Mint, Slew o’ Gold, Lady’s Se­cret, Per­sonal En­sign, Easy Goer, Crim­i­nal Type, and Vic­tory Gal­lop. Also in this pe­riod are Hall of Fame mem­bers An­cient Ti­tle and Aly­dar.

In this cen­tury, Gun Run­ner will be the sev­enth Eclipse Award win­ner to have won the Whit­ney if the vot­ers agree in a few weeks. He is pre­ceded by Lemon Drop Kid (2000), Left Bank (2002), In­va­sor (2006), Lawyer Ron (2007), Blame (2010), and Honor Code (2015).

While the Travers Stakes is the sig­na­ture race for Saratoga Race Course, it ap­pears at this writ­ing that the Whit­ney will have one more cham­pion than the Mid-Sum­mer Derby at this point in the cen­tury.

Travers win­ners who have

earned Eclipse Awards as cham­pion 3-year-old male are Point Given (2001), Bernar­dini (2006), Sum­mer Bird (2009), Will Take Charge (2013), and Ar­ro­gate (2016).

A sixth is likely to be this year’s win­ner West Coast.

Go­ing into the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic, Ar­ro­gate had the most to lose, and he did.

He ended his sea­son, and ca­reer, with con­sec­u­tive losses in the San Diego, Pa­cific Clas­sic, and Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic. The Clas­sic was sad to watch, as Ar­ro­gate broke poorly and seemed to have no in­ter­est in the race.

On the other hand, Gun Run­ner en­tered the Clas­sic with con­sec­u­tive Grade 1 wins in the Stephen Foster, Whit­ney and Wood­ward.

He au­thor­i­ta­tively turned the ta­bles on Ar­ro­gate, who ear­lier de­feated him in last year’s Travers and this year’s Dubai World Cup.

The Gun Run­ner we Florent Ger­oux cel­e­brates af­ter rid­ing Gun Run­ner to vic­tory in the Clas­sic dur­ing the Breed­ers’ Cup horse races, Satur­day, Nov. 4, 2017, at Del Mar Thor­ough­bred Club in Del Mar, Calif. saw at Saratoga de­liv­ered when it counted most in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic. Michael Veitch writes about horse rac­ing Wed­nes­days in The Sarato­gian and The Record. He may be reached at patelin@ny­cap.rr.com.

GRE­GORY BULL - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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