Quality Road strong favorite in Saratoga’s Whitney

Quality Road will try to strengthen his challenge to undefeated

mare Zenyatta for Horse of the Year honors in the $750,000, Grade 1

Whitney Invitational Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race

Course.

The Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old is a prohibitive 2-5

morning line favorite on the strength of Grade 1 victories in the

Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and Metropolitan Handicap at

Belmont Park. He is undefeated in three starts this season and

broke his own course record at Gulfstream in the Donn.

A victory in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney will put Quality Road in

position to threaten 17-for-17 Zenyatta, who faces a weak field of

females on Saturday in the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar.

”I think he certainly belongs in any conversation about the

best horse in training,” Pletcher said. ”I think if you look at

his Donn, for example, that was just an unbelievable performance,

and then to come back and turn in a similar performance in the Met.

We believe he is the best horse in the country.”

Stephen Foster Handicap winner Blame and Mine That Bird, winner

of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, are the most accomplished of five who

will oppose Quality Road and rider John Velazquez.

The late-developing 4-year-old Blame, winner of both his 2010

starts, is trained by Albert Stall and will be ridden by Garrett

Gomez. Though less ambitiously campaigned, he has a career record

of 7-for-10 and never worse than third, identical to Quality

Road’s.

”We feel like we’re ready and the time to catch the best horse

in the country is when we’re at the top of our game,” Stall

said.

Mine That Bird, without a victory since his 50-1 Kentucky Derby

surprise, is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who said he expects a

change in running style. Mine That Bird has always raced well

behind the early pace. Calvin Borel will be aboard.

”We don’t have any grandiose idea that we can run down Blame or

Quality Road or some of these others from left field,” Lukas said.

”We’ve been training a little bit different and he’s showing a bit

more turn of foot, so we won’t be as far back, hopefully.”

Completing the field is Musket Man, runner-up to Quality Road in

the Metropolitan Handicap; Haynesfield, winner of four straight but

untested in Grade I company; and Jardim, a Brazilian import without

a victory in the U.S.

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