My favorite story about the late Marylou Whitney involves Birdstone’s upset of Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes. She was the winning owner of a horse that just won one of racing’s most prestigious races. Her first instinct, though, was not to celebrate, but to apologize to the crowd that came to see a coronation and largely went home disappointed.
You don’t need to be a follower of racing’s social scene (and trust me, I’m not) to understand and appreciate what Marylou Whitney brought to Saratoga. In addition to being a link to the aristocrats of the mid-20th century that congregated in the Saratoga clubhouse each summer, she facilitated a gigantic volume of service to the sport and those around it while asking for nothing in return.
By any measure, Marylou Whitney lived a full life. She was 93 years old when she passed away Friday, just a few weeks away from her induction into racing’s Hall of Fame as a “Pillar of the Turf.” If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s this: Saratoga is a lesser place without her in it.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: After many chances, Andretta graduated out of the maiden ranks in the third race and spoiled Pick Four and double tickets. We dropped $30.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll concentrate on the seventh race, where I like a pair of debuting runners. I’ll key #5 MERITATEN and #10 SEQUIN on top of $3 exactas that include those two, #1 FLY SO PRETTY, #7 MOM’S PASS, and #8 QUEEN OF SHADES underneath. Additionally, as a value play, I’ll use them to finish off $3 doubles that start with #6 MAMMA DEE (my longshot of the day) in the sixth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
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BEST BET: Guarana, Race 4
LONGSHOT: Mamma Dee, Race 6
#1 MARKHAN: Has won three in a row and is undefeated since coming to North America. He seems to be in career form right now, and he looms large as the one to beat in the first steeplechase of the meet; #4 RENOWN: Tossed his rider last time out, but has a solid body of work. Prior to becoming a solid steeplechase horse, he was stakes-placed on the flat and ran third in last year’s John’s Call; #7 WHITMAN’S POETRY: Always seems to fire, but is winless in his last eight starts. He can’t be ignored underneath, but he’s tough to trust on top.
#6 BUSINESS CYCLE: Has misfired in both of his 2019 starts and takes a gigantic drop in class for this event. There’s a chance he peaked last year, but he did show some late interest last time and may not have to run to his 2018 form to win; #3 BRUSH COUNTRY: Was competitive when third against $40,000 claimers last time out at Churchill. In a race full of class-droppers, he seems fairly logical, especially given that his last two races have both come at this distance; #7 HEYITSNRICOPALAZO: Makes his second start off the layoff here (almost certainly to the delight of track announcer Larry Collmus) and showed some speed last time out. This barn is 2-for-2 so far this meet, and a step forward would make him a candidate to hit the board at a price.
Borough Boy (MTO)
#9 VALUE ENGINEERING: Is one of several dropping in for a tag for this barn Sunday, and like most of the others, he looks tough. He’s been very competitive against straight maidens, and several of his prior opponents have come back to win; #8 BAD BOY: Drops back in for a tag and was competitive against similar-quality foes this past winter at Gulfstream. The return to a two-turn route should suit him; #5 CRYPTO GOLD: Merits a look underneath at double-digit odds. He crossed the wire first two back before being DQ’d and should be moving in the right direction late.
Point of Honor
#1 GUARANA: Certainly seems like the best horse in a below-average group of 3-year-old fillies, and she’s strictly the one to beat in the historic Coaching Club American Oaks. She’s never been two turns, but with her pedigree, such a trip shouldn’t be a problem; #5 POINT OF HONOR: Has won three of four starts and rallied to take a Grade 2 last time out at Pimlico. She may not get as much pace to run at here, but if nothing else, the distance won’t beat her; #3 BOXWOOD: May very well be the lone speed if Guarana’s rider opts to sit back. She was second in a solid optional claimer last time out and could hold on for a piece of it with the right trip.
Scars Are Cool
#2 PER CAPITA: Tops a strong 1-2 punch for Chad Brown, who may very well sweep the early Pick Four. He was third in a very fast maiden race last month at Belmont and has the pedigree necessary for this two-turn trip; #6 MAJORITY RULES: Was a close-up second in his debut going a mile back in May. The layoff is a bit of a concern, but he boasts a few strong local works and could improve at second asking; #4 SCARS ARE COOL: Tries two turns for the first time after running a close-up third at Churchill Downs. The pedigree says he may want turf, but this barn’s quietly had an excellent year and cannot be ignored.
#6 MAMMA DEE: Was second against similar company at Belmont and comes back to two turns, a configuration she ran very well at this past winter at Gulfstream. Turf closers have run with aplomb so far this meet, and she figures to get a pace to run at; #1 CHESTNUT STREET: Has not run in nearly 11 months and drops in for a tag for the first time. She showed some talent here a season ago, but neither of those are strong signs for a 5-year-old mare that will likely be favored, so I’ll try to beat her; #9 ART BUFF: Comes back to turf, and while her lone prior turf start was a disaster, there’s reason to think she’ll improve. Her dam was a stakes-winner on the lawn, she boasts a strong 310 turf Tomlinson figure, and this barn’s horses tend to need some time to get going.
Fly So Pretty
#10 SEQUIN: Fetched $500,000 at auction, and the pedigree says she’s a runner. Early returns on young sire Bayern are promising, and her dam is a half-sister to both Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve and Grade 1-placed filly Mother Mother; #5 MERITATEN: Debuts for a barn that can have first-time starters ready to roll. Her dam is a full sister to multiple Group 1 winner The Gurkha, and she was also Grade 3-placed in Ireland; #1 FLY SO PRETTY: Was third in her debut despite a very wide trip and draws more favorably here. Javier Castellano hops aboard, and the Mark Casse barn merits respect.
#6 BASIN: Was beaten a nose by By Your Side, who went on to roll in the Grade 3 Sanford earlier in the meet. That flattering result, plus the potential for improvement at second asking, make this one the one to beat; #2 THREE TECHNIQUE: Was a good second in his debut, and the colt owned by Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells is another that could take a step up. The pedigree screams “turf router,” but this barn has done well with 2-year-olds; #3 YANKEE EMPIRE: Ran well when chasing my second selection in his unveiling, and did so for a barn whose firsters aren’t always fully-cranked. The recent bullet workout looks very attractive, and I think he’s a must-use in the exotics.
Bernin’ Thru Gold
#10 HOBOE: Ran well here twice a season ago and has the right running style for how the turf is playing. The outside post isn’t ideal, but he likes two turns and will be rolling late; #7 MORRISON: Is another with solid local experience, as he won an optional claimer here last year before running a competitive fourth in the West Point. He likely needed his last start off of a long layoff, and if you’re looking for a price to light your fire, this one may be it; #1 VARIANT PERCEPTION: Lost a photo last time out at Monmouth, but did so to a next-out winner after coming home very quickly. If he brings that form north, he’s definitely a contender for powerhouse connections.
#2 RESTORING HOPE: Wired a solid field of optional claimers in his 2019 debut at Gulfstream back in March and returns here. This distance should hit him right between the eyes; let’s just hope his journey here doesn’t spark as much outrage as his last one in New York did; #8 BORRACHO: Rallied to finish third in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, and it’s a bit surprising to see him turn up here rather than in a stakes race. The faster they go early, the better his chances are; #9 MAJESTIC AFFAIR: Steps up in class off a win for Robertino Diodoro, but loves this seven-furlong trip and gets Jose Ortiz. The outside post and a perfect stalking trip could make him a contender.
#4 SIGNIFICANT FORM: Overcame a slow pace to win her return to the races in the Grade 3 Intercontinental last time out. The cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs is a question mark, but she showed some maturity in her 2019 debut, and I think she can handle it; #5 MORTICIA: Is the other logical top choice in here and always seems to fire. She’s hit the board in 19 of 22 career starts, won nine times, and has a win over this turf course; #2 BROADWAY RUN: Was a close-up fourth behind Significant Form last time out, but seven furlongs may have been a tad long for her. She won a stakes race at this route a season ago and could relish the shorter trip.
Daddy Knows (MTO)
#10 PIPES: Gets my top pick in what I consider the toughest race of the meet to handicap to this point. I can’t feel too strongly about anything here, but he checked hard last time out and lost all chance, so if nothing else, this is a value play for me; #11 BAD GUY: Has tried two turns on turf once in the last year, and that race was his lone win in that time span. The outside post is an obstacle, but he should be running well late; #8 INTERNET OF THINGS: Tries turf for the first time and may not have to be much to pick up a check. Chad Brown’s numbers with first-time turfers are strong (shocker), and he’s shown some versatility in the past.
She’s a Julie
#5 WOW CAT: Gets a tepid top selection in a very strong renewal of the Grade 3 Shuvee. I don’t like the layoff, but there’s a lot of early speed signed on (including her stablemate), and that could set the table for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up; #1 SHE’S A JULIE: Has developed into a very good 4-year-old for Steve Asmussen and won a Grade 1 two back at Churchill. She was second in last year’s Alabama, so we know she likes the track, and she should have enough speed to use the rail to her advantage; #3 GOLDEN AWARD: Has a resume that looks far better if you draw a line through the Grade 3 Doubledogdare. She was a good second last time out, when she was beaten a nose by a next-out winner at this level, and the recent bullet workout is attractive.