The Ol' 1-2 - By Evan Hammonds

Now that Saratoga is settling into its more traditional “August Place to Be” mode, we’re finding it is pretty fertile hunting ground for New York-breds. The one-two finish in the Aug. 4 Whitney Stakes (G1) by Empire State-breds Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits is testament to that. The program got another lift the following day when state-bred Sandy’z Slew scored in the Troy Handicap (G3T).

State-bred programs are the bread and butter of most racing states, filling cards with large fields for maiden and entry-level allowance races from Del Mar to Maryland. While some handicappers like the field size, others eschew the races which are are often lacking in form. Economics has changed that scenario for the better in New York.

New York-breds’ winning grade 1 races at Saratoga are nothing new. Fio Rito single-handedly put the state-bred program on the map by winning the Whitney in 1981, and Tracy Farmer’s Commentator won not one, but two, Whitneys in 2005 and 2008 (and was third in the 2009 running). While Fourstardave didn’t win a grade 1—he won a pair of grade 3s and three state-bred stakes at the Spa—he does have a grade 1 race named for him.

The purse structure of the New York-bred program at the New York Racing Association tracks is the envy of the nation, thanks to the influx of money from Resorts World Casino New York City. The $75,000 maiden special weight races for 2-year-olds at Saratoga, and the plethora of $100,000 stakes races, have attracted a crowd. As the mare population has improved in New York, stars are emerging in open company.

“The testament of a true breeding program is the quality of its racing, and there aren’t many races more prominent than the Whitney Stakes. To have two New York-breds in the same field on the same Saturday in the same Whitney as the top two choices and finish 1-2 really goes to show where the New York-bred program has come,” said Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

“When Fio Rito shocked everyone in the Whitney, it was partially due to the fact he was a New York-bred,” Cannizzo continued. “This weekend when Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits finished 1-2 in the same race, the feeling was the exact opposite. It was expected. That’s the difference 37 years later—New York-breds belong.”

To us, a bonus comes from the fact that the Whitney exacta was also achieved by New York-breds by New York-based sires (if mares are bred to a stallion outside of the state, they must return to New York within 90 days of the last cover and remain continuously through foaling).

Diversify, bred by Breeders’ Cup chairman Fred Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, is by Bellamy Road, a former Kentucky stallion now at Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions near Stillwater, and Mind Your Biscuits—bred by Samantha Will Baccari’s Jumping Jack Racing—is a son of Posse, a four-time leading sire in New York who has since been relocated to Uruguay.

The one-two Whitney also comes at a pretty good time for New York breeders as their showcase sale of preferred yearlings takes place Aug. 10-11 at Fasig-Tipton across the street from the track. They hardly need the upsell. Dovetailing with the purse structure, the sale has seen tremendous growth in gross, average, and median. Last year’s take was $16,214,000 for 182 yearlings sold, good for a record average of $89,088 and a median of $69,500. Last year’s topper was a Cairo Prince colt for $500,000.

This year’s sale features the largest catalog in its history, with Fasig-Tipton’s president Boyd Browning telling us they’ve added a small barn to accommodate a few more horses. Both Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits are on the catalog cover, along with Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1)-third Audible, among others.

In this business,  money makes the mare go, so expect the program and the competition to continue to improve…during any month of the year.

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