08/01/2013 1:41PM

Weekend Warrior for Aug. 3: Picks for Whitney, West Virginia Derby, Seagram Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Successful Dan should get sufficient pace to set up his closing kick in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

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There are two Grade 1 races on Saturday, and they are right where you would expect to find them this time of year, at Saratoga and Del Mar. Saratoga’s main event is the $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap, while Del Mar’s feature is the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes. It is also a big day at Mountaineer Racetrack, where all nine races are stakes events, topped by the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby.

Whitney Invitational Handicap

I will admit it, I am a Fort Larned fan. He is a solid handicap horse who can be brilliant on occasion. I liked him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall, and in the Stephen Foster Handicap last time out, and he was good to me, winning those races at nice prices. So you can understand when I say that I take no pleasure in going against Fort Larned on Saturday, which I’m doing because of what I view as an adverse pace scenario.

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Fort Larned is not a one-dimensional front-runner. He won last year’s Whitney after stalking the pace from close range to the far turn before breaking the race open with a quick move into the stretch. But Fort Larned is demonstrably better when he ambles on the front end. That was his approach when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic on a speed-favoring track. And that’s what he did in the Foster, a race in which he was the controlling speed, setting a solid pace and winning off most impressively.

The thing is, Fort Larned is not the main speed in this Whitney. Cross Traffic, who breaks immediately to his outside, is. And Fort Larned also faces possible early pressure from the potentially declining Mucho Macho Man, who breaks immediately to his inside. If Fort Larned tries to go early with Cross Traffic, it will surely cost him dearly late. If Fort Larned concedes the lead to Cross Traffic, which is the more likely scenario, then Fort Larned will have to win using a rating style that isn’t his best.

I did give Cross Traffic a long look here since I project Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man letting him go early, at least to some extent. There is no question that Cross Traffic is good enough to win. He was brutally unlucky to be narrowly beaten in the Westchester and Met Mile in his last two starts, particularly the Met Mile, in which he broke slowly and then tried to win setting a fast pace on a Memorial Day weekend when front-running winners on Belmont’s main track were rare. But I ultimately decided against Cross Traffic, for two reasons. It’s a tall order to ask even a highly talented horse like him to win the Whitney in his first start around two turns. And while there have been a couple of front-running winners going two turns on the main track so far at the Saratoga meet, it’s generally been very difficult winning on the lead in routes there.

I was completely against Successful Dan in the Foster, but I’m doing a 180 and picking him here. I didn’t like Successful Dan in the Foster because his comeback win in the Ben Ali was uninspiring, the pace scenario was unfavorable for him and his odds were low. After a dismal-looking fourth in the Foster, his price will be nice this time. More importantly, Successful Dan, who traded decisions with Fort Larned last year in the Alysheba and Cornhusker, gets a far more favorable pace setup Saturday as he is most effective as a closer. And what I also find interesting about Successful Dan, beside his two sharp works over the track, is the way trainer Charles LoPresti turned around his older barnmate Turallure earlier in the Saratoga meet. Turallure’s poor recent races made it look like he was finished as a high-level performer, but he rebounded with a near-miss in a tough allowance race last week, a race he would have won were it not for trouble. I’m anticipating a similar turnaround for Successful Dan.

West Virginia Derby

The trick to this race is to not be blinded by Overanalyze’s recent class lines. Yes, he won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and competed in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. But the fact is, Overanalyze has been slow this year. Maybe he will get faster this time with blinkers on, but Overanalyze has just been too slow to take at a short price.

I’m between Departing and Say Ow. When you’re between two horses, always take the bigger price, so I’m going with Say Ow. Say Ow’s early form might have been darkened by starts on Polytrack, turf, and wet dirt. But he blossomed in his last two starts, which came going two turns on Betfair Hollywood’s Cushion Track. More than any other synthetic surface, that track is widely believed to be more like the sort of dirt track he runs on Saturday, and he ran both races in adjusted times fast enough to win this.

Departing must be respected, however. He was making a grinding run into contention on the far turn in the Preakness only to flatten out after moving near the inside, which was by far the deeper part of the track.

Seagram Cup

James Street and Alpha Bettor are hard-hitters who will take some beating in this feature at Woodbine, but I’m going with Patrioticandproud as potential value.

Patrioticandproud’s recent form is clouded by starts in unsuitable spots. Last time out, he went 12 furlongs on yielding turf. Two starts back he went one turn. Three and five starts back he ran on dirt. None of those things is his game. Patrioticandproud is best as a two-turn synthetic track horse. He improved the second half of his 3-year-old campaign last year in such races at Woodbine, showing he can compete with these, and he was a much-the-best winner at Keeneland last April the last time he raced under these conditions.


Greg Stevens More than 1 year ago
RON THE GREEK...enough said
Mark More than 1 year ago
Looks great on track.
pennyandy More than 1 year ago
Departing should be sufficiently rested from rigorous spring campaign to edge this batch of 3 year olds!
Jerry Chasin More than 1 year ago
Mike, I may be dead wrong but I totally disagree with your Whitney scenario. Fort Larned should get a very good trip, sitting 2nd or 3rd behind a fast pace from Cross Traffic. Getting the first run at the top of the stretch will be key and I don't think Fort Larned can be passed at the wire. Also, if Cross Traffic slows it down, Fort Larned will be there to take over the pace.
jttf More than 1 year ago
not sure how you can ignore asmussen's record in the west virginia derby. departing has been improving all year until he ran on the deep track in preakness.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Dead on analysis about Successful Dan. I believe CL has this spot hand picked all year. Works illustrate the point. Loved Turralure also. Being last and checked inside cost the horse the race. Departing is my best bet. Preakness a toss off weird bias.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Yes Departing had bad inside trip in Preakness nothing could move on. If ready should handle these. Whitney is a tough field
Mark More than 1 year ago
Alpha looms second out from Dubai second back on lasix 3/3 on surface white hot barn at meet stalking trip off potential collapse up front. Using in exotics. Should float up off ml. With cross traffic and fort larned
mikedelg More than 1 year ago
i think alpha will run a big one as well, but i disagree on your take on his starting price. i would be thrilled to get him at his ml of 10-1. But when you have Joel Rosario jumping on to ride, the horses 3-3 record at saratoga, and the bullet workout a week ago, and you get a horse that will definitely take money. I expect to see both Fort Larned & Cross Traffic to drift up from their morning lines, and Alpha to go off in the neighborhood of 5-1 ...
Mark More than 1 year ago
successful dan will be the horse bet down from ml. I agree with Andrew that alpha has not run a race on par with the likes of fort larned and mmm or cross traffic but with pace and fort off layoff along with all the factors I stated above I think if alpha is ever to get in the number with this type its today. I disagree with the 5-1 . and if he is not near the 10-1 ml I want no part .
Steve Morehouse More than 1 year ago
No way alpha is 5-1! No way in hell !
AndrewD More than 1 year ago
Alpha? The horse is a Grade III animal.
Mark More than 1 year ago
well done with him. no improvent at all. grade 3 on his best day . congrats Cross Traffic and connections .
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
The Whitney is the way a Grade 1 is suppose to be competed. Even the longshots have angles in this quality test.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
If your stuck between horses its best to stay out of the race then. Now your drawing straws.
mikedelg More than 1 year ago
nope. play the pick 4's & use em both ...
patrick toal More than 1 year ago
Say Ow, IMHO should be a good bet at a price and I am going for a closer in The Whitney,am still working on that and The Seagram.Enjoy! Its starting to feel like BC time.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
I agree with you on Say Ow. He just topped his dirt race sprint at Santa Anita in January and as a three year old can move forward. He also has my last out top fig. Hoping for a decent price.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I'm staying out of the race, but will root for Say Ow. I can't bet him in this spot. He beat nothing in his last two.