07/20/2013 3:01PM

Saratoga: Top Whitney contenders get their work in

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned works five furlongs in 1:10.89, a little slower than trainer Ian Wilkes would have liked.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap won’t officially be run until 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 3. It could have been run 5:45 a.m. Saturday.

Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man – definite starters for the $750,000 Whitney – and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who is a doubtful Whitney starter, all worked at virtually the same time early Saturday over Saratoga’s main track.

The main track was listed good, but it was deep owing to heavy rains that fell Friday night, well after the opening-day card was completed.

Wise Dan, who is more likely to run in the Grade 2 Fourstardave on Aug. 10 on turf than the Whitney, broke off first under exercise rider Damien Rock. He went his first quarter in 26 seconds and with slight urging from Rock came home in 25.25. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.33.

“That’s all we wanted him to do,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “Rock said he was full of run; he said, ‘I was sitting against him the whole way.’ He galloped out really good. They got him out [six furlongs] in 1:18, and down the backside it looked like he had plenty of horse. He wanted to go around again.”

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While LoPresti said he wouldn’t mind trying Wise Dan in the Whitney, he said owner Morton Fink is leaning more toward running him in the Fourstardave, a race Wise Dan won last year.

“I think that’s what he wants to do,” said LoPresti, who added that Fink already has reservations to come to Saratoga on the weekend of Aug. 10.

LoPresti said Wise Dan would work on the turf next week.

About an eighth of a mile behind Wise Dan was Fort Larned, last year’s Whitney winner and defending Breeders’ Cup Classic victor.

In his first work since arriving here from Kentucky, Fort Larned worked a slow five furlongs in 1:03.89, getting his last quarter in 24.64 seconds under exercise rider Kate Merritt.

Ian Wilkes, trainer of Fort Larned, said he was looking for something a little quicker and added he may come back with another work as early as Tuesday.

“A little frustrated because I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got time to adjust,” Wilkes said. “The adversity of training horses. It was a work to set up a work.”

As Fort Larned was in the middle of his breeze, Mucho Macho Man, second to Fort Larned in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, broke off at the five-furlong pole and covered that distance in 1:01.89, his last quarter in 25.63 under exercise rider Nick Petro.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo had originally planned to work Mucho Macho Man in company, but scrapped those plans seeing how aggressive the horse was Friday afternoon and again Saturday morning.

“He was very ready to work this morning,” Ritvo said. “I didn’t want to engage him anymore.”

Successful Dan may join Whitney

About three hours after he worked Wise Dan, LoPresti sent the gelding’s older half-brother Successful Dan out for a workout. LoPresti said he figured Successful Dan would go in 1:04 or 1:05 and quipped if he goes in 59 you’ll see him in the Whitney.

Well, it wasn’t 59, but Successful Dan worked a very good five furlongs in 1:00.73, a move that has LoPresti giving serious consideration to running him in the Whitney. Successful Dan is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill on June 15, a performance that had LoPresti perplexed.

“It’s making me think more about the Whitney now,” LoPresti said. “I was really on the fence what I was doing with this horse based off the Stephen Foster. Now, what I saw today, I don’t know any horse that worked any better than him.”

LoPresti said he could keep Successful Dan out of the Whitney and wait for the Woodward on Aug. 31.