How to Bet the Whitney Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 2nd, 2018

He may have been a last-minute entrant, but #6 Diversify certainly looms as the horse to beat in Saturday’s $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, a prestigious “Win and You’re In” prep race on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).

Simply put, Diversify has been a beast in his home state of New York. Trained by Richard Violette, Jr., Diversify has won his last five starts at Belmont and Saratoga, a record that includes victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and Suburban Handicap (gr. II) against top-class competition. For good measure, Diversify also won the Evan Shipman Stakes by 11 lengths over the same track and distance as the Whitney last summer.

With three 110+ BRIS speed figures under his belt, including a 114 from the Suburban one month ago, Diversify is unquestionably the fastest horse in the Whitney field. After a slow start to the season, he’s rounding back into form quite nicely, and his terrific tactical speed ensures that he’ll be very tough to catch. The only concern is that the Whitney wasn’t originally on his agenda—his connections had planned on waiting for the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) in September—but Diversify’s bullet five-furlong work on July 29th at Saratoga suggests that he’s ready to roll.

His main challenge could come from #2 Backyard Heaven, a lightly-raced four-year-old trained by Chad Brown. After finishing second in his debut last September, Backyard Heaven won three straight races while posting triple-digit BRIS speed figures in each one, a streak that culminated with a decisive 4 ½-length romp in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.

Backyard Heaven subsequently disappointed when fading to sixth in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), but that race was conducted on a very hot evening and Backyard Heaven didn’t seem to fire. The expected cooler conditions on Saturday should be to his liking, and he’s got the tactical speed and tractability to work out a nice trip stalking Diversify through the early stages of the race. Perhaps he won’t win, but I do expect him to rebound and give a good account of himself.

#4 Mind Your Biscuits has won nearly $4 million during a productive career and missed by just a nose in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) last time out, but he’s never run beyond a one-turn mile, so it remains to be seen whether he can be as effective traveling nine furlongs around two turns. #1 Tapwrit won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last year, so we know he has class, but he’s gone 0-for-3 since then and was no match for Diversify when fifth in the Suburban.

I’m more tempted to consider #7 Good Samaritan, who won the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) over this track and distance last summer. Although he could only finish seventh in the Metropolitan, the one-turn nature of that race may have been too sharp for him, and I think he can contend while stretching back out to his preferred distance.

So how do we make money betting the Whitney? Here’s my strategy:

$2.50 trifecta: 2,6 with 2,6 with 1,4,7 ($15) $1.50 trifecta: 2,6 with 1,4,7 with 2,6 ($9) $0.50 trifecta: 2,6 with 1,4,7 with 1,4,7 ($6)

Good luck!