Updated on 08/06/2013 9:09AM

Whitney: Cross Traffic holds off Successful Dan at Saratoga

Barbara D. Livingston
Cross Traffic scores a front-running Whitney win under John Velazquez.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - At the three-sixteenths pole of Saturday’s 86th Whitney Invitational Handicap, Cross Traffic had turned back Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man - the 1-2 finishers from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic - and opened up a two-length lead.

In the middle of the track, however, Successful Dan was continuing a bid that had begun entering the far turn.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Cross Traffic, began to have a flashback to the Metropolitan Handicap when a hard-charging Sahara Sky flew down the center of the Belmont Park main track to nip Cross Traffic at the wire by a nose.

“Yeah, it was in my mind. I didn’t want another beat like that,” Pletcher said.

Not this time.

After wandering a path or two out from where he was in deep stretch, Cross Traffic, under John Velazquez, held off Successful Dan for a three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational before a crowd of 33,148 on the day Saratoga marked its 150th anniversary of existence.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

“He certainly deserved a Grade 1 after the Met,” said Pletcher, who trains Cross Traffic for GoldMark Farm. “We had a couple of tough beats over the years, but that one kind of stands out as one of the toughest. Just really happy to see him finish it up.”

Successful Dan finished second by 1 1/2 lengths over Mucho Mach Man. Ron the Greek was fourth followed by Fort Larned - last year’s Whitney winner - Alpha, Csaba, and Fast Falcon.

The win - against a quality field that included winners of 21 graded stakes and more than $11 million in purse earnings - earned Cross Traffic an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita as part of the “Win and You’re In” initiative that pays all entry fees and a $10,000 travel stipend.

[BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Win and You’re In schedule and results]

The Whitney had plenty of intrigue from the time it was drawn. There was even more leaving the paddock as Successful Dan fell coming onto the track, unseating jockey Julien Leparoux.

Visually, Successful Dan did not appear to be comfortable warming up and at one point Leparoux brought the gelding over to the New York Racing Association’s examining veterinarian, Dr. Anthony Verderosa. Leparoux said he was not trying to get the horse scratched.

“I felt great about it, but I just wanted to get a second opinion,” Leparoux said. “Not at any point did I want to scratch him.”

Going into the race there was intrigue in how the pace would develop. Fort Larned was coming off a front-running tour-de-force victory in the Stephen Foster, and Cross Traffic had shown blistering early speed in a pair of one-turn mile races at Belmont.

But Fort Larned didn’t break sharply, and Cross Traffic outfooted Mucho Macho to the front, opening a 1 1/2-length lead after running a quarter-mile in 24.17 seconds.

“The first quarter was the most important. We didn’t have to chase him to be there,” Velazquez said. “After that we started picking it up every eighth of a mile, but it was a comfortable pace.”

Cross Traffic maintained a one-length lead over Fort Larned through a half-mile in 47.28 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.24.

Approaching the quarter pole, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man made a run at Cross Traffic. But straightening away for home, Velazquez shook Cross Traffic up and he spurted clear.

Velazquez said Cross Traffic waits when he is by himself, and he felt that happening again Saturday.

“All by himself he waits. I had to move to the middle of the track a little bit,” Velazquez said. “The last 20 yards I felt the other horse in the middle of the tack but I never saw him.”

The other horse was Successful Dan, but his belated rally fell short.

Cross Traffic, a son of Unbridled’s Song - who died this week - covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89 and returned $9.10 as the second choice.

Pletcher, who won his third Whitney, said that depending how Cross Traffic comes out of the race, he would consider running him back in the Grade 1 , $750,000 Woodward here on Aug. 31 and then go right to the Breeders’ Cup.

Charlie LoPresti, the trainer of Successful Dan, said he would also consider the Woodward. He didn’t use the prerace incident as an excuse.

“He ran his race. It’s unfortunate that happened, but I don’t think that took anything away from him,” LoPresti said. “He was really running at the end.”

Fort Larned, the 6-5 favorite, faded to fifth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths under Brian Hernandez. Trainer Ian Wilkes said his horse likely would have been on the lead had he not broken flat-footed.

“It was a dull effort today,” Wilkes said. “Let’s find out why. We’ll regroup. We’ll be back.”

Paul F More than 1 year ago
Successful Dan was coming had to check up
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
You might say the horse "wandered a path or two out " that just might have been the veteran jockey.. Johnny V.ala Gary Stevens on Silver Charm in the Derby... way back when I had my last derby winner! I think the finish is much closer if SD doesnt alter course let alone the bizzare incident coming on to the track.Take nothing away from CT, he still had a little spurt in him at the end...nice horse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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edb More than 1 year ago
Still have questions about CT and the distance. Horse comes to play and always gives a good effort, but he stole the race. Nice ride and good win, but won't be in my box at Breeders unless Dude is sidelined. Nothing worse than a frontrunner not having the lead, ask FL. CT was wobbling down the stretch and will be caught by a real closer. Hopefully we get 12 starters in the Classic.
morton erskine More than 1 year ago
6-5 on Fort Larned ? The great Tom Ainslie said to never wager on a horse with front wraps. This guy might have peaked. We will not see him in the winners circle at the Breeders Cup again. He may win again at less important races.
Big Bob More than 1 year ago
FL never wins as the favorite.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Yeah, I read Tom Ainslie's books... About 30 years ago, I liked a horse named Suspencer at Hazel Park. Suspencer was making his first start of the season. On paper, he looked to me as a good bet. I just finished reading that passage about front bandages in Ainslie's book before going to the track that day. Suspencer came out with front bandages. I got all excited and bet something else instead (like the dumb kid I was at the time). Suspencer won and paid $55. (When your local track is a bush track, front bandages are the norm not the exception. However, sometimes they are used to protect the ankles rather than support them. Sometimes they are even used for fools like me to keep the odds up on a horse. Leave the decision about bandages to the trainer. If the horse looks good on paper, bet him. Generally, if a horse has swelling in his ankles it will show on paper too.) (The past performances show Fort Larned wearing front bandages at least since March 31, 2012. He had 5 wins since then.) However: The question with Fort Larned was whether or not he would be opposed for the lead, not that he was wearing front bandages. In the Stephen Foster, there was no credible speed and he got the lead without any effort. In addition, even Ainslie would tell you that "pace makes the race". Cross Traffic came out of the Met Mile that featured a blistering pace. Conversely, Fort Larned came out of the Stephen Foster on an easier, uncontested pace. I am sure Ainslie would have bet Cross Traffic, even if Fort Larned was not wearing bandages.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
Cross Traffic is very consistent. That's what we like in a top class horse! Kudos to Todd Pletcher...
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Interesting comments on At the Post re: not just the Whitney and riding tactics today but more importantly about how purses are distributed today 3yo's vs Older.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Silence is indeed a worthy reward.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Crackin' cold! I think FedEx will ship in dry ice. Long trip Cali to Carolina.
Mad Vaper More than 1 year ago
SImple fact of the matter is unless Ft Larned is loose on the lead or tracking a cheap horse he is not that good. I told my 2 best horseball friends as much...one was with me on Cross Traffic and the other stuck with FL. AT a 1 1/8 miles at Toga if there's quality speed its foolish to play a closer so it was down to these 2. Wilkes is smoking something funny when he thinks FL would have been on the lead 'had he not broke flat footed' He doesn't have 44 and change speed and theres no way he was going to outrun CT....then when JV stole the opening qtr in 24 and a sneaky 2qtr move in 23.1 it was all but over for those chasing him. Perhaps the outcome may have been different with a speed dual but either way when FL doesn't have a clear lead or rating behind cheap horses h's not that good. Besides...its pretty hard to find a single real excuse for FL...he tracked kindly right off CT....but he was behind a quality horse in CT so as expected he turned average. The only way he beats a quality field is loose on the lead and there was zero doubt he wasn't getting that yesterday. The interesting thing about CT is he's still green. The other interesting thing about the division is all these decent horses are speed types. Game on Dude, Fort Larned, Cross Traffic, Graydar, etc all do their best work on the front end. FOr the guy who is saving his ducats to lay into the game on dude, cross traffic exacta in the BC do me a favor and let me book that bet...if all these guys make it to the dance its going to set up nicely for someone laying off it a bit.....but thats a long way off still.....
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
WOW! what a collection of rants,very diverse and very opinionated to say the least. i agree and disagree with many of their observations. However, lets stick to the race itself: the venerable and historic Whitney Handicap. What i saw was a very lightly raced 4 year old who always runs his race,and who looks like the real thing.In fact,when they line up together at Santa Anita in the Classic, there is only one horse in America, and the world, that can beat Cross Traffic. His name is Game On Dude, and I see a 2 horse race and a cinch exacta by boxing those two horses. It's several months away,and anything can happen,ie. injuries,illness,track conditions, etc. but I'm stockpilling my ducats in anticipation of an easy score.
J.L. Boey More than 1 year ago
Pop Quiz: when was the last time two front-running favorites came in first and second in the BC Classic? Something has to give. By the way Palace Malice ran faster than Cross Traffic going 9f and he's only 3. In the 29-year history of the BC Classic, 4yo's have won it 13 times, 3yo's 9 times and 5yo's 7 times. Even if you don't automatically eliminate 6 and 7yo horses, you can count on Game on Dude to break poorly.
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
excellent! someone that knows a thing or two about the game and its history.your stats are right on,and yes i did overlook palace malice's great race.and pop quiz answer is never. its refreshing to hear a voice of reason after reading some of those ridiculous comments earlier.I did go out on a limb but i still think Cross Traffic is the real deal and still has room for improvement.
Scott More than 1 year ago
J.L. - thanks for the stats! I've always said that a good older horse usually will beat the top 3 olds and your stats bare that out nicely. 20 to 9! I didn't realize that you could throw out the 6 and 7 year olds, but it seems to be the case. I hit the Trifecta singling Blame over Zenyatta, but I didn't do it because Zenyatta was 6. I only mention her because she very nearly beat history (again). I figured she would get within about a length or two of Blame, but not a nose. I wonder if they carried the same weight if he would have completely fulfilled my prediction. I also agree that two frontrunners won't finish 1 - 2 in the BCC. They tend to burn each other out or one just fades away, because they don't like the dirt in their face (as Fort Larned did in the Whitney).
Phillip Rodgers More than 1 year ago
just send me your money before you waste it
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
ok phil its a long way away and too much can happen but im sticking to my guns on this one. i think Cross Traffic has more upside and continues to improve.