As many as six horses may enter the starting gate this Saturday at Saratoga for the $1 million Whitney Stakes, but it could be a two-horse contest between Life is Good and Olympiad.
They are simply the best older route horses in training in the U.S. right now. Life is Good, trained by Todd Pletcher, can beat you in a sprint or a classic race, proving that with a dominant effort at Belmont Park in July in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud Stakes and, earlier this year, in the nine-furlong Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January.
To quote DJ Khaled, however, all Olympiad has done this year is “win, win, win, no matter what.” The Bill Mott-trained horse has won five in a row, including four graded stakes — his most recent victory being a gutsy effort in the Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs in July.
Both horses have their knocks, though their hard to find. Life is Good had an inexplicable flop overseas in March, finishing fourth in the prestigious Dubai World Cup. Olympiad, on the other hand, has yet to win a Grade 1 race.
But they are also up against some legitimate threats to steal the Whitney, including Hot Rod Charlie, the Dubai World Cup runner-up who finished a shocking second in Monmouth Park’s Salvator Mile back in June; Happy Saver, last seen finishing a distant second to the speed demon Flightline in the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park; and Americanrevolution, who was second to Olympiad in the Stephen Foster Stakes — but whose participation in the race is up in the air.
As this is another Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, the Whitney winner will get an all-expenses-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this November at Keeneland.
The Whitney Stakes
Saturday, Aug. 6
Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, NY
Distance: 1 1/8 Miles
Conditions: Three year olds and up
Purse: $1 million
TV: NBC (coverage 5-6 p.m.)
Analysis and picks
Yet again, it’s a small field in a Saratoga stakes race, but in this instance, the condensed group of runners are more of a reflection of quality, not quantity.
You can make arguments for almost all of the runners to win this race (except Zoomer, who’s better suited for an allowance race), but it’s hard to oppose Life is Good. He’s been a legitimate, although lightly raced, champion in sprint races, one-turn miles and two-turn routes. In nine lifetime starts, he’s lost only twice — but one of those losses came at Saratoga last year, when sprinting phenom Jackie’s Warrior beat him in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes.
The trip to Dubai certainly didn’t take anything out of Life is Good in his easy John A. Nerud Stakes victory last month. If anything, he looked like he was just getting warmed up for the bigger contest ahead in the Whitney.
Life is Good seems to run his best races on the lead, and it figures he’ll jump out of the gate and go to the front this Saturday. Hot Rod Charlie, another front-running stalker, will likely give chase all the way around the oval.
Should the early pace prove too hot, that would bode well for closers like Olympiad and Happy Saver. Olympiad should have no excuses and run his race; the only question is whether he can gut out a victory over Life is Good. If he does, he’ll prove himself a legitimate threat for Horse of the Year honors.
Happy Saver, however, is a horse not to be counted out. He has hit the board in all 10 of his starts dating back to June 2020, a credit not just to the horse’s ability but also his trainer Todd Pletcher’s knack of finding the right spots for him. The main drawback? It’s been a long time since Happy Saver won a race; his last victory came in a May 2021 allowance at Belmont Park.
As mentioned, Americanrevolution may have been entered in the Whitney, but there’s a good chance he may scratch out of the start. Horse Racing Nation reported that Elliot Walden of WinStar Farms, which owns the colt, indicated the horse could drop out of the race, especially if the Saratoga track isn’t wet on Saturday. Weather forecasts indicate scattered thunderstorms in Saratoga Springs this Saturday, so an off-track is a possibility.
It’s hard to pick against Life is Good here, but Saratoga is “the graveyard of favorites,” the summer place for upsets in American racing. If anyone’s going to beat Life is Good, it’s going to be either Olympiad or Happy Saver. Swap out either horse with Americanrevolution should he remain in the Whitney, and the Saratoga dirt track is good, muddy or sloppy come post time.
Our picks: Life is Good, Happy Saver, Olympiad