August 6, 2010

Whitney Wonderland

Quality Road is the kind of talent that makes you believe in superheroes. Born with the ability to leap tall buildings and outrun speeding bullets, he has proven to be able to run like the wind and carry his speed for at least nine panels. Tomorrow’s Whitney Handicap, at a mile and an eighth, falls into the realm of his track record breaking history. Therefore it stands to reason that we are just hours from adding his name to an illustrious list of past winners. Horses like War Admiral, Tom Fool, Kelso, Dr. Fager, Alydar, Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Easy Goer, and Invasor have snared the Whitney. But wait, not so fast my friends, just ask Secretariat about counting Whitney chickens before they have hatched. Big Red was shocked in this very race by Onion, 37 years ago. Two big reasons not to hand the trophy over to the Road early, come in the form of Blame and Musket Man.

Blame is all racehorse. Bred to run long and improve with age, the next time Blame runs a bad race, will be the first. As honest as they come, he fires every shot, is getting better on a monthly basis, and is for 1 for 1 over the Saratoga strip. The winner of four consecutive graded stakes, Blame has never faced a magnificent monster like Quality Road before, but after tomorrow’s run, we may be saying the same about Quality Road never having faced anyone like Blame before.

Gritty is a word that best describes Musket Man. Not the quickest horse in the world, nor is he blessed with a Forego like closing kick, but this mucker and grinder knows how to get things done. The winner of six of his first nine races, Musket Man is currently on a three race losing streak, but the luck of the draw has clearly not been on his side. He ran a bang-up race last time in the Met Mile, only to be repelled by Quality Road. Can he turn the tables in the Whitney? Stranger things have happened, and getting nine pounds from the chalk can’t hurt his chances.

Other Whitney contenders include the underrated recent winner of the Suburban Handicap, Haynesfield, who will be looking for a fifth consecutive victory, and the somewhat forgotten Mine That Bird, winner of the Derby, 2nd in the Preakness, and 3rd in the Belmont last year, he is making only his second start of 2010.

Who will win the Whitney? Most likely, Quality Road. At nine furlongs, without much speed, I expect him to be extremely difficult to beat.  But even an impressive win tomorrow will not prove that he will beat the best at 10 furlongs this Fall at Churchill Downs.  Who will I bet in the Whitney? On this one, the author makes no choice, 2-5 is low, real low, even for Superman.


ja.raymond said...

I'm SO glad they took QR off the circuit to work with him on his gate issues (as if they had a choice). I'm almost willing to wager that it was Monty Roberts they called in to fix the problem, cuz QR's been a freighttrain ever since! :)
At any rate, Musket Man will be no factor to The Big Guy; it's Blame that worries me! I really, REALLY dont want to see QR lose; he's on such a role - I want to see him win his next 5!! Go Roadie!!! <3

LDP said...

I love QR. The rain and mud possiblity is being overblown IMO, just look he lost to in his 2 starts in the muck. One was a throw out, too, IMO. Blame will be there, Haynesfield will flatline if he tries to keep up w/ QR. MTB might have a shot at the board.

Brian Zipse said...

He worked with Bob Duncan on his gate issues, Jane.

Sounds like everyone is on a Quality-Blame exacta, and I can not disagree, but I know Musket Man is tough as nails!

Heather said...

Great article, Brian. I think this is one of the best G1 races of the year. I LOVE QR dearly and so want him to win this race. I do think Blame is a serious threat, but I believe QR will pull it out in the end. He's amazing -- QR is a reflection of human traits - overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness.

I would also like to see Mine that Bird do well. The little Bird has potential, but I think they should have left him with Chip Wolley. The guy freakin' DROVE MB to the Derby, for heaven's sake! LOL.

Brian Appleton said...

I think it's going to be an overpowering performance in the Whitney from Quality Road again. Blame is very good but I think Musket Man could run a better race if there is a really good pace and with Quality Road running near or on the lead there probably will be.
Mine that Bird could also get a nice setup if he's up to the task.
Haynesfield seems to be mostly getting overlooked because he shares a similar running style as Quality Road.