Saturday’s $1 million Whitney (G1) at Saratoga has been won six times in the past 10 years by the post-time favorite, five of whom were odds-on choices. That’s good news for Cody’s Wish, who was installed the 1-2 morning line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Challenge race for this year’s Classic (G1) at Santa Anita.
The bad news for Cody’s Wish, who has won nine of his last 10 starts, is that early speed has been hard to beat in the Whitney over the same period. There have been six wire-to-wire winners during that span, while three others were never worse than second at any call. The only one to buck the trend was 2015 winner Honor Code, who barely got up to beat loose-on-the-lead Liam’s Map after dropping more than 19 lengths off the pace.
None of it might matter to Cody’s Wish, whose background story and performance on the racetrack has dazzled race goers and the general public for multiple seasons. The Godolphin homebred enters the Whitney 2-for-2 on the year, having turned in stirring rallies to win the Churchill Downs (G1) over seven furlongs and the Metropolitan H. (G1) over one mile by comfortable margins.
What Cody’s Wish hasn’t proven yet is his ability over the Whitney distance. The son of two-time Classic winner Curlin has lost both of his attempts beyond a mile, though he only missed by a neck in the 2022 Challenger (G3) over 1 1/16 miles by a neck (his last defeat) and was obviously far from the finished article when six lengths third in a nine-furlong maiden at Saratoga in his second lifetime start.
“We’re just guessing [he can do it],” trainer Bill Mott said. “He closed well at a mile last time and galloped out nicely. I think it was a good effort for him.”
Neither Zandon nor White Abarrio were any match for Cody’s Wish in the Met Mile when finishing heads apart for second and third, though both have winning experience over nine panels. However, none were recent. Zandon has dropped seven straight since winning the 2022 Blue Grass (G1), while White Abarrio has a single one-turn victory in eight outings since taking the 2022 Florida Derby (G1).
Charge It finished fourth in the Met Mile, but seems better suited to longer trips. He showed as much winning the 1 1/4-mile Suburban (G2) by 4 3/4 lengths last month, though the field he defeated was arguably the most modest in the historic fixture’s long history.
Expected to show pace in the Whitney is Giant Game, who registered a 9-1 upset of the Cornhusker H. (G3) at Prairie Meadows in wire-to-wire fashion. That race was used by eventual Horse of the Year Knicks Go in advance of a victory in the 2021 Whitney. The Whitney field is rounded out by Last Samurai, who has rarely replicated his graded quality form outside of the Oaklawn Park winter/spring meet.