08/03/2011 12:48PM

Saratoga: Whitney has gallery of talent

Barbara D. Livingston
Suburban winner Flat Out is the 4-1 morning-line favorite for the Whitney, which drew a field of 11.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – With the exception of last year, the Whitney has been a pretty special race for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher hopes to create another memorable moment Saturday when he sends out Mission Impazible against 10 rivals in a stellar renewal of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap Invitational, which tops an 11-race card at Saratoga that also includes the Grade 1 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

The 11 horses entered in the Whitney have combined to win 31 stakes including 21 graded events. There are four Grade 1 winners in the field.

“It’s what you’d expect,” Pletcher said. “It’s positioned well on the calendar to attract the best dirt horses from everywhere. I suppose that’s what it should be.”

Additionally, the Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, meaning the winner gets an automatic berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November complete with pre-entry and entry fees paid, as well as $10,000 in travel expenses.

The contentious nature of the Whitney is borne out in the morning line of the New York Racing Association’s linemaker, Eric Donovan, who has Suburban winner Flat Out a tepid 4-1 favorite and seven horses positioned between 5-1 and 8-1.

“I’ll tell you how much of a field this is, for Morning Line to be 10-1 . . . I’m surprised,” said Nick Zito the trainer of Grade 1 Carter winner Morning Line.

Mission Impazible, beaten a neck by Pool Play in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster last out, will seek to give Pletcher his third Whitney trophy.

In 2002, Left Bank equaled a 28-year-old track record when he ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.04 – equaling the 1974 time of Tri Jet, at least when translated to fifths of a second. In 2007, Lawyer Ron shattered that record, by running 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.64.

“Left Bank’s win set the track record beating Street Cry was certainly one of my favorite wins,” Pletcher said. “Lawyer Ron came back breaking that track record was a huge performance. Obviously, those two horses winning champion older male, their wins in the Whitney played huge roles in that. As far as handicap races go for older males, with the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it’s as prestigious and as big as any of them get.”

Last year’s Whitney was less memorable for Pletcher as his horse, Quality Road, got caught late by Blame, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

“Haven’t thought about it once, to be honest with you,” Pletcher said when asked about last year’s Whitney.

Mission Impazible won the Louisiana Derby at 3 and finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby before being forced to the sidelines. He has already raced five times this year, winning the New Orleans Handicap and finishing second three times, including the Stephen Foster, where Pool Play rallied down the center of the Churchill Downs stretch to nail him at the wire.

“Javier [Castellano] said that horse surprised our horse the last part,” Pletcher said. “If he had a little longer to reengage him we might have been able to get our nose down.”

While Pool Play isn’t in this year’s Whitney because of injury, the Stephen Foster’s third- through sixth-place finishers – Apart, Duke of Mischief, Giant Oak, and Flat Out – are in this field.

Flat Out is the only one from that field to have run back, and he was flat-out awesome winning the Grade 2 Suburban by 6 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park. It was the first graded stakes victory for Flat Out, who had been plagued by foot problems that have limited him to nine starts midway through his 5-year-old year.

Alex Solis will ride Flat Out, opting for that one over Friend or Foe, who will be ridden by Jose Lezcano. On Wednesday, Friend or Foe blew out three furlongs over the main track in 37.15 seconds. Though the New York-bred Friend or Foe is the only member of the field not to have won a graded stakes, his trainer, John Kimmel, is very confident in his chances.

“Let me put it this way, if I had my choice to trade horses with anyone else in the race I wouldn’t do it,” Kimmel said. “That’s how I feel about this horse.”

Whitney Handicap
1. Flat Out - Alex Solis - 117 - 4-1
2. Friend Or Foe - Jose Lezcano - 115 - 8-1
3. Morning Line - John Velazquez - 118 - 10-1
4. Giant Oak - Shaun Bridgmohan - 119 - 5-1
5. Tizway - Rajiv Maragh - 118 - 6-1
6. Mission Impazible - Javier Castellano - 118 - 6-1
7. Rail Trip - Ramon Dominguez - 117 - 12-1
8. Headache - Miguel Mena - 116 - 20-1
9. Rodman - Edgar Prado - 114 - 20-1
10. Apart - Julien Leparoux - 117 - 6-1
11. Duke of Mischief - Joe Bravo - 117 - 8-1
Track odds
TV: Versus 5-6 p.m.; 5:44 post.