Updated on 09/16/2011 7:55AM

Saint Verre thickens plot for Whitney

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Left Bank no longer will have the luxury of setting an uncontested pace

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher's worst fears were realized while Bobby Frankel's greatest concern was alleviated on Thursday at the post position draw for Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

The Grade 1 Whitney drew the expected stars Street Cry, Lido Palace, Macho Uno, Left Bank, and Unshaded. But, it was the inclusion of Saint Verre that gave Pletcher, the trainer of Left Bank, angst, while providing Frankel, trainer of Lido Palace, relief.

Without Saint Verre, Left Bank appeared to be the controlling speed in the nine-furlong Whitney. Though viewed as a superior seven-furlong or mile horse - Left Bank set a track record winning the seven-furlong Tom Fool Handicap last month at Belmont - he came within a tick of the Aqueduct track record when he won the nine-furlong Discovery as a 3-year-old.

Complicating matters for Pletcher was the fact that Left Bank drew the rail and Saint Verre drew post 2.

"The two things I've been hoping for the last 24 hours was that Saint Verre didn't go in and if he did we'd draw outside of him,' Pletcher said. "Had he decided not to go, we were the natural speed and that made us a little dangerous. We're going to have to play a lot of it off the break.'

Saint Verre's presence in the race came as a relief to several trainers who feared Left Bank's potential to steal the Whitney. Chief among them was Frankel, who had said all week that Left Bank was the horse to beat.

"I feel a little better, because I wasn't going to compromise my horse's chances by running with Left Bank,' Frankel said. "I was always scared of Left Bank. It doesn't mean that horse can stay with him either. Left Bank might shake him off after a half-mile.'

Lido Palace, who blew out three furlongs in a bullet 35.45 seconds on Thursday, will attempt to become the first horse since Discovery (1934-35-36) to win consecutive runnings of the Whitney. A year ago, Lido Palace rolled by Albert the Great after running second in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont. Once again Lido Palace enters the Whitney off a second-place finish in the Suburban, when he couldn't run down a loose-on-the-lead E Dubai.

"He had an easy race,' Frankel said. "I think he's going to improve. [Jerry Bailey] never let him run until the quarter pole; he wasn't worried about [E Dubai]. If I can win this race, he did the right thing.'

Bailey, who teamed with Frankel to win the Test and Diana last Saturday, has taken off Lido Palace to ride Street Cry, who is coming off dominant victories in the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap. Jorge Chavez will ride Lido Palace.

Bailey, who has won four of the last 10 Whitneys, said taking off Lido Palace was a tough, but logical decision. In Street Cry, the 123-pound highweight, Bailey is riding the leading handicap horse in the world and probable Whitney favorite.

"It was probably the best race he could have had in the Suburban, it didn't knock him out,' Bailey said of Lido Palace. "I'd love to ride him, but I won the world's richest race on Street Cry, then he ran a huge race in the Stephen Foster. If he runs that race again I don't know if anybody can beat him.'

With Gary Stevens injured, Macho Uno, the 2000 Juvenile champion, gets a rider switch to five-time Whitney winner Pat Day. Macho Uno overcame tremendous trouble to win the Massachusetts Handicap, but had to settle for third in the Suburban, where trainer Joe Orseno said his horse was compromised by a slow early pace.

"From the sixteenth pole to the wire he was running and he was picking up horses and if you watch him gallop out when he hit the wire he opened up three or four on the field,' Orseno said. "Unfortunately, we're changing riders because I think it would have benefited Gary Stevens to know what happened and know what he did wrong. But Pat Day's a great rider and I got a lot of confidence in him.'

Unshaded won the 2000 Travers, but has only won once in seven starts since. Saint Verre won a nine-furlong allowance race at Saratoga last summer from off the pace, but has shown more speed since having blinkers added two starts back.

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