Whitney winners are elite group
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.