Favorite in the Falls, Wildcard in the Whitney

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Did you know there are approximately 50 stakes slated to take place across North America from Aug. 5-8? It's going to be an epic week of high-class racing, that's for sure!

Saratoga is leading the charge with an action-packed Saturday card featuring four graded stakes, including the $1 million Whitney S. (G1). Let's dig in and review two of the most exciting races:

Glens Falls S. (G2)

It might be premature to call a lightly raced filly with five starts and zero Grade 1 wins a "superstar," but I do believe we'll see a standout performance from #3 War Like Goddess (8-5) in the Glens Falls. And by the end of the year, "superstar" might just prove to be an appropriate description for the four-year-old filly.

A daughter of grass champion and successful sire English Channel, War Like Goddess has rattled off four victories from five starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. A wicked turn-of-foot is her strong suit, as she's repeatedly demonstrated under challenging circumstances.

Did you happen to see War Like Goddess' performance in Keeneland's April 23 Bewitch S. (G3) racing 1 1/2 miles, the same distance as the Glens Falls? After dropping as many as 10 1/2 lengths behind modest early fractions of :24.46, :49.73, and 1:15.96, War Like Goddess unleashed a breathtaking burst of acceleration, sprinting the final quarter mile in approximately :22 1/5 to win easily by 3 3/4 lengths.

Across her four victories, War Like Goddess has earned Brisnet Late Pace ratings of 100, 111, 112, and 107, so we know she has a powerful turn of foot. The Equibase result chart for the Bewitch actually described her acceleration as "electrifying." Slow fractions don't seem to bother War Like Goddess; her homestretch sprint is strong enough to overcome slow early/fast late race shapes, which is the mark of a special deep closer.

War Like Goddess hasn't run since the Bewitch, so it's possible she'll be a bit short of her best while returning from a 3 1/2-month break. And she's facing a potentially tricky task in running down Robert G. Dick Memorial S. (G3) winner #6 Dalika (9-2), who looms as the lone speed horse on paper.

But if War Like Goddess brings anything close to her A-game in the Glens Falls, I expect her to win for fun, with the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) looking like a viable long-term goal.

Whitney S. (G1)

A small but elite field is slated to contest the Whitney, a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Classic. There's #1 By My Standards (10-1), a four-time Grade 2 winner who finished second in the 2020 Whitney. There's #2 Silver State (4-1), whose six-race win streak includes an upset triumph in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1). There's the champion filly and Preakness S. (G1) winner #3 Swiss Skydiver, plus reigning Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner #4 Knicks Go (6-5). And don't forget about the once-beaten Stephen Foster S. (G2) winner #5 Maxfield (8-5).

Many handicappers will view the Whitney as a two-horse race between Knicks Go and Maxfield, but I'm not convinced this will be the case. Knicks Go was certainly flashy when dominating the 1 1/8-mile Cornhusker Handicap (G3) at Prairie Meadows last month, leading all the way to prevail by 10 1/4 lengths with a 111 Brisnet Speed rating. But Prairie Meadows is a fast track that can play kindly toward speed horses (seven of the nine races on Cornhusker day were won by pacesetters), and Knicks Go was previously beaten to fourth place in the Metropolitan Handicap.

Meanwhile, Maxfield couldn't have been more visually impressive in the Stephen Foster, unleashing a powerful burst of acceleration around the far turn to draw off and win by 3 1/4 lengths. But Maxfield hasn't been facing the toughest competition this year, and his lone attempt at the Grade 1 level produced a surprising third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1). He also came home a bit slowly in the Stephen Foster, running the final furlong in just :13.09.

So why not take a shot against the favorites with Silver State? The four-year-old son of Hard Spun hasn't tasted defeat in six starts since returning from a layoff last fall. He's 4-for-4 against stakes company this season and showed impressive determination to rally up the rail and win the Metropolitan by one length over By My Standards, with Knicks Go 3 1/4 lengths behind at the finish.

Silver State is versatile in terms of running style and knows how to win a tough fight; three of his wins this year have come by half a length or less. I can envision a scenario where Silver State saves ground behind Knicks Go before pouncing in the final three furlongs to post another upset victory.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like this weekend?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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