Sunday, August 3, 2014

Graveyard of Favorites Claims Another Victim

Marylou Whitney waves to the clubhouse crowd prior to the
running of the Whitney Handicap Saturday | WMML Photo
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Graveyard of Favorites claims another victim, this time in the name of Palace Malice.

Moreno, the horse who got nipped at the wire by Will Take Charge in the 2013 Travers Stakes went wire-to-wire to win the $1.5 Million Whitney Handicap, the richest race in the history of Saratoga Race Course.

Junior Alvarado, the rider on Moreno, said to media he felt the race was his as his horse turned for home.

Itsmyluckyday angled outside after Alvarado angled inside, but couldn't get the kick he needed to get past Moreno.

Moreno would win by better than a length.  Will Take Charge finished third.
Moreno hits the wire first in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap
WMML Photo

The Whitney score was the first Grade 1 for the four year old horse by Ghostzapper, and only his third career trip to the winner's circle.  He faded in the stretch to finish three lengths back of Zivo in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.  The win boosted his career earnings to over $1.7 Million Dollars.

Palace Malice, the 3/5 favorite, never fired in the stretch and faded to an uncharacteristic sixth place finish in the Whitney Handicap, the richest race in the history of Saratoga Race Course.

"I don't know what went wrong," jockey John Velazquez told media after the race.  "He didn't run at all."

The favorite entered the race fresh off a length victory in the Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont Park, rattling off four straight victories.  He hung in third behind Moreno and Golden Ticket, however, had nothing for the stretch run.

And They're Off!  Horses spring from the gate in the
Grade 1 Whitney Handicap | WMML Photo
The win was trainer Eric Guillot's second career Grade 1 win at Saratoga.  In 2010, he trained Champagne d'Oro's path to the winner's circle in the Test.

However, it was bittersweet for Gulliot, who saw his two year old colt, Sir William Bruce, fatally fall following his run in the fifth race.

At this time there's no word where Moreno will race next, though the Woodward on closing weekend is a possibility.

However, one thing will be on Guillot's mind.  Moreno now has an expense-paid trip to Santa Anita in the fall, as the Whitney is a "Win And You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic.


Moreno before receiving making his way to the winner's circle
WMML Photo
Over 36,000 attended the races on Saturday, which is approximately 10% better than last year's Whitney card.  However, the 36,000 figure is questionable as NYRA released a statement to the media that their 2014 daily attendance figures have counted the nearly 6,000 season pass holders.  

$3.75 Million Dollars was wagered on the Whitney through mutuals and single-race exotics, which is 10% better than the money that was wagered last year when Cross Traffic went wire-to-wire.

NYRA boosted the purse of the Whitney Handicap this year, doubling the purse from $750,000 to $1.5 Million, effectively making it the richest race at Saratoga Race Course.  The attempt was to persuade owners and trainers to keep their horses out east.  

In addition, NYRA added three stakes races to the Whitney card, the Test and the Vanderbilt as well as the overnight Lure Stakes.  They also boosted overnight conditional races, resulting in Allowances being worth over $100,000.

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