Ron the Greek favored in Whitney Handicap
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP)
Ron the Greek is the horse to beat in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
The nine-horse field will be without top older horses Game On Dude, Shackleford and Mucho Macho Man, but the Grade 1, 1 1/18-mile race still has a solid field.
The 5-year-old Ron the Greek has won four races since being sent to trainer Bill Mott's barn last year, most recently the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs and the Santa Anita Handicap. Mott also sends out the co-third choice in 6-year-old Flat Out, winner of last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has two horses in the race, too, in Rule and long shot Caixa Eletronica.
The Whitney could bring some clarity to the wide-open division of older male horses.
''I think the division is still very wide open,'' Pletcher said. ''You have a couple of major players on the East Coast who are not in here and will probably show up for the Woodward (on Sept. 1). It's a division that's waiting for someone to step up and take control. Maybe Game On Dude has taken control on the West Coast but it's kind of wide-open here.''
Jockey Jose Lezcano will be aboard Ron the Greek.
''He's a horse you could tell probably wasn't going to get good until later in his career. He's starting to come around at the right time and just landed in our hands at the right time,'' Mott said.
Flat Out, who will have Rosie Napravnik in the saddle, last month finished second to Rule in the Monmouth Cup.
''I thought it was the perfect race for him,'' Mott said. ''He was kind of stuffed early in the race and got out late. He was closing on the winner. It was a useful race, the type of race you'd like coming into a major race like the Whitney. It was enough but it wasn't too much.''
Also entered are Hunter's Bay, Endorsement, Trickmeister, Hymn Book and Fort Larned.
Metropolitan Handicap winner Shackleford is scheduled to run Sunday in the six-furlong Vanderbilt Stakes.