Moreno wins record-breaking $1.5 million Whitney at Saratoga
A narrow loser in the $1 million Travers last summer, Moreno returned to Saratoga Race Course to earn an even more lucrative prize Saturday.
The gelded 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper led from start to finish to beat 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge and heavily favored Palace Malice in the Grade 1 $1.5 million Whitney, the richest race in Saratoga's 146-year history.
As a ''Win and You're In'' Breeders' Cup Challenge race, Moreno earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
Trained by Eric Guillot for owner Southern Equine Stables and ridden by Junior Alvarado, Moreno beat Itsmyluckyday by 1 1/4 lengths, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.05 and paying $22, $9 and $6.60.
Itsmyluckyday returned $7.90 and $4.60, finishing three lengths ahead of late-running Will Take Charge, a nose winner over Moreno in the 2013 Travers who paid $4.60 to show. Palace Malice, the 3-5 favorite in a field of nine older horses, wound up sixth.
''When they crossed the wire, it took me a while to believe it,'' Guillot said. ''It was great. How can it not be? It's the Whitney.''
Under Alvarado, the front-running Moreno emerged from post eight and went straight for the lead through moderate fractions of 47.50 seconds for a half-mile and 1:11.31 for six furlongs. He had plenty left to hold off bids from Itsmyluckyday and Will Take Charge to earn the $800,000 winner's share, which pushed his earnings to $1,709,940 in 20 lifetime starts.
Palace Malice looked to be in a striking position around the far turn but faded down the stretch for his first loss in five races this year.
''We got the trip we were hoping for,'' trainer Todd Pletcher said. ''It wasn't his day.''
Prayer for Relief, Last Gunfighter, Palace Malice, Romansh, Departing and Golden Ticket completed the order of finish.
On the undercard, Filimbi won the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose, Palace took the Grade 1 $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Sweet Reason captured the Grade 1 $500,000 Longines Test, and Big Blue Kitten won the $100,000 Lure.