Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) — Race 8 (5:03 p.m. ET)
Sprint champion Whitmore has won 15 of 41 career starts and more than $4.4 million, but the eight-year-old has a mere two Grade 1 wins to his credit. On Saturday, the popular gelding will attempt to add to prior top-level scores in the 2018 Forego (G1) and 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga over six furlongs.
Runner-up to Volatile in last year’s Vanderbilt, Whitmore is seeking his first win of the season after several tough defeats. Second to C Z Rocket in both the Hot Springs S. and Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at Oaklawn, Whitmore followed up with a head loss to Flagstaff in the Churchill Downs (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day.
“His record says he’s 0-for-3 this year, but he’s 3-for-3 in effort,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “All we can ask is for him to try. Are there some things that may have resulted in a better outcome? Probably. But at the same time, he brought his A-game. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. It’s all about bringing the effort.”
Whitmore could take a back seat in the wagering, however, to Mischevious Alex, who kicked off his 2021 campaign with three stellar performances in a row, including blowout wins in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) and Carter H. (G1). He wasn’t quite as sharp last out when a fading third behind Silver State in the Metropolitan H. (G1).
“I think six to seven (furlongs) is his best distance. This race is six and the (Forego) will be seven. I think that’s most suitable,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire, like Whitmore, has had a long and distinguished career, though he’s tended to do his best work at Belmont rather than at Saratoga, where he’s just 1-for-7. Firenze Fire was upset by Mind Control after a race-long duel in the John A. Nerud (G2) last out at odds of 2-5.
“If he’s on the outside he probably runs that race but it’s all a part of the game. It was a duel with Mind Control last time, and we just missed,” owner Ron Lombardi said.
Others likely to get attention are Special Reserve, who enters off back-to-back wins in the Maryland Sprint (G3) and Iowa Sprint; Churchill Downs runner-up Lexitonian; and recent Smile Sprint (G3) victor Miles Ahead.
Bowling Green S. (G2) — Race 10 (6:13 p.m. ET)
Another 2020 Eclipse Award winner, turf male champion Channel Maker, will look to end his own losing skid in the $250,000 Bowling Green S. (G2) over 1 3/8 miles.
Channel Maker has raced exclusively in the Middle East so far this season, finishing second in a $1 million handicap on the Saudi Cup undercard and then eighth in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) to the world-class Mishriff.
Channel Cat, upset winner of the Man o’ War (G1) two back, was less effective in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan (G1) when last seen on Belmont Stakes Day. He’s joined by another Man o’ War rival, Moon Over Miami, who missed by a neck in that 1 3/8-mile test at Belmont.
Multiple Grade 1-placed Rockemperor recently got a confidence-boosting win against allowance company, his first visit to the winner’s circle since his improtation from France. Fellow Chad Brown trainee Breakpoint, a multiple Group 1 winner in Chile, was recently fourth in his U.S. debut, while Cross Border placed several times against graded company earlier this season.