SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Commentator, the oldest horse in the 11-horse field, turned the clock back three years on Saturday, recording a gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.
The win brought back memories of 2005, when Commentator went gate to wire to win this race by a nose over the eventual Horse of the Year, Saint Liam. Saturday, the margin was a much more comfortable 4 3/4 lengths as Commentator, under John Velazquez, took control soon after the start and led his rivals on a merry chase through fractions of 24.16 seconds, 47.73, 1:11.80, and 1:37.02 before covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.23. He returned $10.80 as the second choice.
Student Council rallied to be second, 8 1/2 lengths ahead of Grasshopper. They were followed in the order of finish by Notional, Rising Moon, Merchant Marine, A.P. Arrow, 7-2 favorite Solar Flare, Timber Reserve, Tasteyville, and Cowtown Cat.
Rising Moon was vanned off with an apparent leg injury.
As part of the Win and You're In program, Commentator earned a spot in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, should his connections opt to go in that race. But the Whitney had been the major goal for owner Tracy Farmer and trainer Nick Zito since they brought Commentator back to the races this year.
At age 7, Commentator became the second-oldest horse to win the Whitney. Kelso won it at age 8 in 1965, the third time in five years he won the Whitney.
"I compare the horse to George Foreman - he's timeless," Zito said. "It's a good illustration for everyone whoever gets old - don't give up. The older you get the better you get."
The victory was the 12th from 18 starts for Commentator, a New York-bred gelded son of Distorted Humor. He has now earned $1,459,936.
After a day and a half of gorgeous weather, the rain returned to Saratoga about 50 minutes before the Whitney was run. Though the track was still labeled fast, there was some moisture still in it. By the time the Whitney was run, the rain was gone and the sun returned.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch
Saratoga, 10th Race - July 26, 2008