Hot List: Whitney Handicap

July, 31, 2014

Picks by Shawn Rychling

This weekend's race: Saturday, August 2

The Whitney Handicap

With the Travers Stakes -- or Midsummer Derby as it was often called -- still three weeks away at Saratoga, older horses grab the spotlight this weekend in the 87th running of the Whitney Handicap.

A truly all-star field has been assembled for the race, with last year's Travers winner and 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge leading the pack. He is joined by 3 of other top 5 finishers from that race, including runner-up Moreno and fourth-place finisher Palace Malice -- who is the best horse in training right now. Also in the field is 2012 dead-heat winner of the Travers Golden Ticket.

Here's how we see the race:

The discussion really begins and ends with Palace Malice. After an impressive middle-part of last year that included a win in the Belmont Stakes, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt tailed off toward the end of 2013. But any lingering doubts about this horse's ability have been put to rest after he reeled off four straight wins between March and June of 2014. He has done it by stalking the lead and charging to the front. Last time in the Met Mile, Palace Malice had to alter course and gamely split horses in the final eighth of a mile to get up for the victory. He has posted eight consecutive triple-digit speed figures and it is hard to make a case against him in this race.

Beginning with last year's Jim Dandy run on this track at the same distance as the Whitney, Will Take Charge finished 1st or 2nd in eight straight races. He was second to Palace Malice that day, but used his race as a stepping stone to the Travers victory a month later. Will Take Charge tailed off after his Oaklawn win, but D. Wayne Lukas has him working well and we know he loves Saratoga.

Moreno returns to the Spa where he ran his best race in last year's Travers when he was caught in the final stride. He flopped in the Met Mile, but is working his way back to a triple-digit Beyer. The three bullet works are nice and he was out winging on the lead in the Suburban last time before fading slightly. Cutting back a furlong in distance today from that race is a big help.

Departing is 7 for 11 lifetime and goes out for Al Stall who knows how to pick his spots and won this race in 2010 with Blame.

As for how the race will be run we see Moreno going out to the lead with Palace Malice and Will Take Charge stalking and trying to run down the pacesetter. In the end we have to give the nod to Palace Malice, but you should at least box the three in the trifecta and don't be afraid to play horses like last Gunfighter and It'smyluckyday in the 3 and 4 spots of your exotic tickets in this deep field.

Hot List Picks

1. Palace Malice (A)
2.Will Take Charge
3. Moreno (A)
4. Departing

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Hot List Key

A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* minus-4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.

Do you have questions? Email Bob at

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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