2014 Whitney Handicap Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/31/2014
The Whitney Handicap, a $1.5 million race at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 2, has had some great winners in its storied history, which dates back in one form or another to 1928. The great Kelso won it three times. Fort Larned in 2012 and Blame in 2010 both won this race to set them up for their Breeders' Cup Classic wins later in the year. Perhaps the most famous result of all in the race, though, was in 1973. Secretariat made the Whitney just his second race after sweeping the Triple Crown, but he was the victim of a stunning upset in the hands (or hooves) of four-year-old gelding Onion.
This year's edition of the race obviously doesn't have a Triple Crown winner in it, but the loaded field is as deep as it has ever been, and it does face an epic showdown - 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice against 2013 three-year-old champion Will Take Charge. The race is contested at a mile and an eighth and is open to three year olds and up. Here's how the field shapes up:
Palace Malice (1/1): The heavy favorite is on a tear this year, having won four straight high-caliber races. The last one, a June 7 win in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont over Goldencents, was truly brilliant. He has won at Saratoga before as he took the Jim Dandy last year, so we know the track works for him. He is coming off a short break since his last race, but he seems fresh in his works, and that shouldn't impact him negatively. He's unquestionably the horse to beat in this race. I won't be betting on him to win, though. If you want to argue he will win, or that he is most likely to win, I can't argue with you. The odds are very low, though, and are only likely to go lower once the public is unleashed on the horse. In a field this deep and challenging, I can't justify taking any horse at Saratoga, the so-called graveyard of favorites, at a price as low as this one. I'll look to beat him, and I will respect him even more than I already do if I am wrong.
Will Take Charge (4/1): I don't expect this price to last, but anything close to it will be a bargain. Last year's three-year-old champ has just one win so far this year, but I'm not concerned about that. The win was solid, and I have no issues with the losses. The tracks he faced at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita were ridiculous and didn't support his cause. At Churchill Downs in the Stephen Foster he was forced way outside, and that just doesn't work there. He is a better horse than the season has indicated, so this price is attractive. He is inside here, so he is going to be able to get the rail into the first turn in all likelihood, and he will have some good pace to run with in Moreno and Itsmyluckyday. If he can't shine here, on the track on which he won the Travers last year, then perhaps he isn't the horse that we thought he was.
Departing (6/1): As a three year old last year this horse had big wins in the West Virginia Derby and the Super Derby. He took some time off over the winter, and his best showing since has been a third in the Foster. He is a solid horse but needs a win - or at least a strong showing - to prove that he is a contender and not an also-ran at the highest levels of racing. He needs early pace to run with, and he doesn't respond well when he doesn't get it. That's good news for him here because there should be plenty. I think it would be a mistake to leave him out of your exotics, but I struggle to see him winning. If he had raced sooner then I might be interested, but the Foster was only his second race in nearly nine months, and now he has had a mini-layoff again. No momentum coming into here.
Moreno (10/1): This is a true speed horse, but he has the talent to hold on if he gets his race. He isn't going to be afraid here, and his connections aren't going to save him. Speed duels often don't emerge as expected, and if Moreno isn't challenged he could wire this thing. The price is right as a long shot.
Recommended Bets: Will Take Charge to win; exacta of Will Take Charge over Palace Malice, Departing and Moreno
The field (post, horse, odds, jockey, trainer)
1. Will Take Charge, 4/1, Luis Saez, D. Wayne Lukas
2. Prayers for Relief, 20/1, Joel Rosario, Dale Romans
3. Moreno, 10/1, Junior Alvarado, Eric Guillot
4. Itsmyluckyday, 12/1, Paco Lopez, Edward Plesa, Jr.
5. Palace Malice, 1/1, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher
6. Departing, 6/1, Robby Albarado, Al Stall Jr.
7. Romansh, 10/1, Jose Ortiz, Thomas Albertrani
8. Golden Ticket, 20/1, Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek
9. Last Gunfighter, 15/1, Javier Castellano, Chad Brown
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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