The Whitney Handicap is now almost 100 years old, the first running being held in 1928. From then until 1940, the race was run at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. The race is now run at 1 1/8 miles and is a Grade 1 even for three-year-olds and up.
The Grade 1 Woodward is also a premier race at Saratoga for three year old and up horses, but most of its history has been formed at Belmont Park, with the race being moved to Saratoga only just in 2006. It will probably take a little bit more time for the Woodward to be thought of as the centerpiece of the Saratoga meet. The Woodward, like the Whitney is also run at 1 1/8 miles.
Essentially the conditions for the two races are the same then – and even the purse money of $750,000 is the same.
Well known horses such as Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, and Ghostzapper are among the top class horses that have won the Woodward recently, and have surely added to the luster of the race.
However, some quality horses have won the Whitney as well in recent years. Blame who is notorious for denying the beloved Zenyatta a perfect 20 for 20 undefeated career in the Breeder’s Cup Classic won the race in 2010, and Commentator was an outstandingly gifted middle distance runner who won the race in both 2005 and 2008.
Lawyer Ron established the Whitney Handicap and Saratoga course record for 1 1/8 miles of 1:46.64 in the 2007 running.
The Whitney will be run on August 6, 2011, and features a great card, including the Grade 1 Test Stakes for three year old fillies at seven furlongs. The Woodward will be run on September 3, 2011 and features the Grade 1 Forego Stakes on its undercard. Often the importance of a race is reflected in its undercard. The Kentucky Derby, for example, is filled with Grade 1 races on its undercard. Both the Forego and the Test are considered very important and coveted races to take, so it is clear the officials at Saratoga feel that both races have a great deal of respect due to them.
Among Woodward winners, there are so many to choose from. You could pick Rachel Alexandra who became the first filly and in fact the first female to take the Woodward, just holding off a late charging Macho Again. What about Ghostzapper who engaged in an epic stretch duel with Saint Liam in the 2004 Woodward Stakes. And don’t forget about Cigar who won the race back to back in 1995 and 1996.
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy in Whitney history was when longshot Onion upset Triple Crown winner Secretariat in the 1973 running, defeating him by a length. And Kelso who is one of the greatest horses ever won his record third Whitney in 1965.
Both of these races have had many memorable moments. The relative popularity of each may depend on how renown the horses that win the respective races are. The more “name brand” horses that run, the more publicity each race will get.
Saratoga is considered one of the most prestigious racing meets throughout the year. Some of the best horses in the country will make it to New York to compete during Saratoga’s summer meet.
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