Who Will Win the Whitney?

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

Saturday is shaping up to be an action-packed day of racing from coast to coast, with the $1 million Whitney S. (G1) at Saratoga leading the way.

The prestigious 1 1/8-mile "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) has drawn half a dozen entries, representing some of the best horses in training. Five are proven Grade 1 winners, including the brilliant #6 Life Is Good, who figures to start as the favorite.

It's hard to knock anything Life Is Good has accomplished while recording seven victories from nine starts. He was sensational last fall, parlaying a blowout Kelso H. (G2) triumph into an easy score in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He was just as impressive in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) to kick off 2022, leading all the way to beat Breeders' Cup Classic hero Knicks Go by 3 1/4 lengths.

Life Is Good faltered when stretching out over 1 1/4 miles in the Dubai World Cup (G1), but he set a fast pace that day and was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths. He subsequently bounced back with an impressive score in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud S. (G2) at Belmont Park one month ago, dueling Grade 1 winner Speaker's Corner into submission before pulling clear to win by five easy lengths.

So isn't Life Is Good a lock to win the Whitney? Not necessarily. Life Is Good is arguably at his best as a sprinter/miler, and although he won the Pegasus over 1 1/8 miles, he appeared to be growing a bit leg-weary down the homestretch while running the final furlong in :13.71. I wonder if the Whitney distance is just a bit longer than ideal for Life Is Good.

In some respects, Life Is Good reminds me of Quality Road, a brilliant sprinter/miler who dominated the 2010 Metropolitan H. (G1) and won the 2009 Amsterdam S. (G2) by setting still-standing Saratoga track record for 6 1/2 furlongs. Quality Road successfully stretched his speed over 1 1/8 miles on multiple occasions, including when trouncing the 2010 Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream, which was the precursor to the Pegasus World Cup.

But when Quality Road squared off against a deep field in the 2010 Whitney, he was caught in the final strides by Blame, an up-and-coming Stephen Foster S. (G1) winner with stamina to spare. Blame had won four straight graded stakes leading into the Whitney and later added the Breeders' Cup Classic to his stellar resume.

All this is a way of saying, if Life Is Good has parallels to Quality Road, then might #4 Olympiad be this year's Blame? Certainly there are some striking similarities.

For starters, Olympiad has won four straight graded stakes against increasingly tough competition. He's actually 5-for-5 this year and 5-for-5 since stretching out around two turns, with his winter/spring campaign including scores in the Mineshaft S. (G3), New Orleans Classic S. (G2), and Alysheba S. (G2).

For another, Olympiad enters the Whitney off a victory in the Stephen Foster S. (G2). In the Foster, Olympiad tracked and pressed sharp fractions of :23.05, :46.45, and 1:10.64 before seizing a clear lead and holding off 2021 Cigar Mile (G1) winner #1 Americanrevolution to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

This effort produced a powerful 111 Beyer speed figure, one point higher than the 110 Life Is Good posted in the Pegasus World Cup. Olympiad combines tactical speed with a relentless finishing power well-suited to running long, so I'm optimistic he can use his stamina to run down Life Is Good in the final furlong and spring a mild Whitney surprise.

Americanrevolution and Dubai World Cup runner-up #2 Hot Rod Charlie are logical contenders for the minor awards, but don't forget about #5 Happy Saver. The 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner has never missed the trifecta and enters the Whitney off four straight runner-up efforts in tough graded stakes. He put up a good fight to finish second behind Olympiad in the Alysheba and most recently occupied the runner-up spot behind superstar Flightline in the Metropolitan H. (G1), counting Speaker's Corner and 2021 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West among his beaten rivals.

Happy Saver has done his best work running 1 1/8 miles or farther, so I can definitely envision a scenario where he grinds out a top-three finish in the Whitney, possibly at solid odds if bettors throw support behind Hot Rod Charlie and Americanrevolution.


1st: Olympiad
2nd: Life Is Good
3rd: Happy Saver

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Whitney?


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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.

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