July 20, 2024

Maxfield, Swiss Skydiver among principals in tantalizing Whitney; Search Results tops Test

Maxfield wins the Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Saratoga will feature a pair of prestigious Grade 1 races on the main track Saturday, the 94th running of the $1 million Whitney S. for older horses and 96th edition of the $500,000 Test S. for three-year-old fillies. Both races came up competitive.

$1 million Whitney S. (G1) – Race 10 (5:48 p.m. ET)

Despite attracting only five runners, the Whitney S. (G1) promises to be a fascinating matchup between Grade 1 winners Knicks Go, Maxfield, Silver State, and Swiss Skydiver. All have serious Eclipse Award aspirations at the end of the season, and the Whitney will award an expenses-paid berth to Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar as a “Win & You’re In” event.

Maxfield exits the best performance of his eight-race career, rallying boldly to a 3 1/4-length win in the June 26 Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs. That marked his first triumph at Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile distance, and the four-year-old colt’s lone career setback came when shipping west for the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1) earlier this season.

A Godolphin homebred colt by Street Sense, Maxfield appeared to benefit from the setback, recording a sharp score in the Alysheba S. (G2) prior to the Foster, and the Brendan Walsh trainee will take some beating in the Whitney. The dark bay has been installed as the 8-5 second choice, and Maxfield will be rallying from off the pace with regular rider Jose Ortiz.

Knicks Go has been pegged as the 6-5 morning line favorite following his smashing 10-length victory in the July 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3).  After unplaced finishes in the Saudi Cup (G1) and Met Mile (G1), the multiple Grade 1-winning five-year-old horse rebounded stylishly last time, registering a field-best 111 Brisnet Speed rating, and the Brad Cox-trained gray will be the one to catch with Joel Rosario.

Met Mile hero Silver State, unbeaten from four starts this year and the 4-1 third pick on the morning line, merits respect for Steve Asmussen. The improving four-year-old reeled off consecutive wins in the Fifth Season S., Essex H., and Oaklawn H. (G2) before the Met Mile, closing powerfully from just off the pace to win going away by a length on the Belmont Stakes Day undercard, and Ricardo Santana Jr. will be back up on the Hard Spun colt.

Swiss Skydiver, who showed an affinity for Saratoga when producing a 3 1/2-length win in last year’s Alabama S. (G1), will make her first start against males since prevailing the Preakness (G1) last fall. An earner of more than $2.1 million, the classy four-year-old came up short against Letruska and Monomoy Girl in the April 17 Apple Blossom (G1) last out, but Swiss Skydiver is eligible to show more for Kenny McPeek on Saturday. Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mount on the hard-knocking filly.

Multiple Grade 2 winner By My Standards, a good second most recently in the Met Mile, rounds out the superb cast. He’s listed at 10-1 for trainer Bret Calhoun.

$500,000 Test S. (G1) – Race 8 (4:34 p.m. ET)

Acorn S. (G1) winner Search Results, a neck second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) two back, heads a fine field of eight sophomore fillies in the seven-furlong Test S. (G1).

A winner in 4-of-5 career starts for Chad Brown, Search Results drew well in post 7 with Irad Ortiz. The dark bay daughter of Flatter likes to race close to the pace in the early stages.

Brown will also send out Always Carina, who figures to appreciate the cutback in distance after weakening to second as the odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose S. (G2). The Malibu Moon filly won her first two starts by a combined 13 3/4 lengths, and Flavien Prat guides the frontrunner.

Mother Goose upsetter Zaajel, a Grade 3 winner earlier this season, will try to strike from just off the pace for Todd Pletcher and Rosario. Souper Sensational enters on the upswing for Mark Casse following a sharp 3 3/4-length tally in the July 10 Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont Park.

Other runners include Eight Belles (G2) winner Obligatory, a fast-closing second in the June 5 Acorn; and Illumination, a Grade 1-placed juvenile who rolled to an eight-length score for Bob Baffert when returning from a 7 1/2-month layoff in a June 5 maiden special weight at Santa Anita.