07/27/2008 12:00AM

Commentator wires Whitney

Barbara D. Livingston
At age 7, Commentator became the second-oldest horse to win the Whitney.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Commentator, the oldest horse in the 11-horse field, turned the clock back three years on Saturday, recording a gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

The win brought back memories of 2005, when Commentator went gate to wire to win this race by a nose over the eventual Horse of the Year, Saint Liam. Saturday, the margin was a much more comfortable 4 3/4 lengths as Commentator, under John Velazquez, took control soon after the start and led his rivals on a merry chase through fractions of 24.16 seconds, 47.73, 1:11.80, and 1:37.02 before covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.23. He returned $10.80 as the second choice.

Student Council rallied to be second, 8 1/2 lengths ahead of Grasshopper. They were followed in the order of finish by Notional, Rising Moon, Merchant Marine, 7-2 favorite Solar Flare, A.P. Arrow, Timber Reserve, Tasteyville and Cowtown Cat.

Rising Moon was vanned off with soreness in his left foreleg, according to on-site veterinarians.

As part of the Win and You're In program, Commentator earned a spot in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, should his connections opt to go in that race. But the Whitney had been the major goal for owners Tracy and Carol Farmer and trainer Nick Zito since they brought Commentator back to the races this year after his seventh-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

"I wanted to get the trophy from Mrs. Whitney; this is her town and she's the queen, and it meant a lot to me personally to receive the trophy from her," said Farmer, who is close friends with Marylou Whitney. "It's the culmination of a dream that we were planning for that worked.

"Everyone says 'When are you go going to retire him,' " Farmer continued "He has a nice paddock on my farm any time, and he'll tell us when. I assure you he's going to be well taken care of."

Asked if he would entertain running in the Breeders' Cup, Farmer said, "That's up to Nick. I'm not worried about getting the horse to Santa Anita - I'm worried about getting Nick to Santa Anita."

At age 7, Commentator became the second oldest horse to win the Whitney. Kelso won it at age 8 in 1965, the third time in five years he won the Whitney.

"Seven's the new 4," Farmer said.

"This one of the greatest feats of all time," Zito said. "He gets in that league with Kelso and Forego, which I wanted him to be in so they couldn't take him out."

The victory was the 12th from 18 starts for Commentator, a New York-bred gelded son of Distorted Humor. He has now earned $1,459,936.

After a day and a half of gorgeous weather, the rain returned to Saratoga about 50 minutes before the Whitney was run. Though the track was still labeled fast, there was some moisture still in it. By the time the Whitney was run, the rain was gone and the sun returned.