Knicks Go, Bella Sofia and State of Rest enjoyed Grade 1 victories on Saratoga’s Whitney Day card. And the New York Racing Association enjoyed a record, all-sources handle for that Whitney Day card.
That record all-sources handle came in at $36,820,234, surpassing last year’s take of $35,796,435 that came without fans at the Spa. This year’s Saratoga attendance was 38,525, producing an on-track handle of $6,707,742. While that on-track handle fell short of 2019’s $7,078,192 in-person total, this year’s handle blew away 2019’s all-sources handle of $31,835,864.
Much of that money came in on Saturday’s flagship race, the Grade 1 $1 million Whitney Stakes. Those betting on Knicks Go cashed a $4.10 win ticket on a $2 wager after he went gate-to-wire for an easy 4 ½-length victory. Knicks Go’s second consecutive blowout victory came with a 111 Beyer Speed Figure and an all-expenses paid trip to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar in November.
After finishing fourth in February’s Saudi Cup and June’s Met Mile – both one-turn races – Knicks Go captured his last two races, the Cornhusker Handicap and the Whitney, by nearly 15 lengths. He left the likes of runner-up Maxfield, third-place Silver State, and fourth-place Swiss Skydiver in his wake.
Next Knicks Go stop TBA, expect a two-turn trip
Trainer Brad Cox hasn’t plotted the next move for his star 5-year-old, who won his fourth Grade 1 race, but he told the New York Racing Association he wants to send Knicks Go out one more time before the Breeders’ Cup.
“We’ll let the dust settle, but my thoughts would be to give him a race five to six weeks out (from the Breeders’ Cup),” Cox said. “I haven’t really dug into it yet. The biggest thing is how he came out of yesterday’s race. It would be nice to get a race into him between now and then, but where that might be, I don’t know.”
While Knicks Go knows where the graded-stakes winner’s circle is, Bella Sofia discovered it for the first time. The 3-year-old filly captured the Grade 1, seven-furlong Test Stakes by an impressive 4 ¼ lengths in her graded-stakes debut. Her career-best 101 Beyer brought Bella Sofia’s record to 3-1-0 in four starts.
Bella Sofia a filly to follow
More impressively, this 4 ¼-length victory was the shortest of Bella Sofia’s three wins. Unraced as a 2-year-old, Bella Sofia broke her maiden at first asking in May. She blitzed a Belmont Park maiden field by 11 ¼ lengths over six furlongs. After a runner-up to Australasia in the Jersey Girl in June, Bella Sofia followed that with a 6 ½-length romp in a July allowance at Belmont Park.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said Bella Sofia has never clocked a Beyer lower than 90. “I know we asked a lot,” Rodriguez said after the race. “We’re just happy to have her in the barn. The day she broke her maiden, she put everyone away impressively.”
She did the same on Saturday, beating a field that included Souper Sensational, Search Results, Always Carina, Illumination, and Zaajel. Souper Sensational beat Search Results by 1 ½ lengths for second.
Whitney Day features a surprise Grade 1 winner
While Bella Sofia paid a healthy $10.40 to win, there was State of Rest. He captured the third Grade 1 of the day: the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby Invitational, at 21/1. His length victory over Soldier Rising returned $44.20. Meanwhile, Du Jour outkicked favorite Bolshoi Ballet for third, ensuring there won’t be a Turf Triple sweep for the third consecutive year.
That gave the Irish-bred son of Starspangledbanner his first North American victory and second career victory in his eighth start. Last out, State of Rest finished third in the one-mile Celebration Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland.
“He was unlucky not to win his last race. He ran really well and we knew that getting more distance today would suit him well,” trainer Joseph O’Brien said. “We’ll get him home and talk to the owners and see how he is and see where we go next. He ran well the last time and we were figuring out where we could go with him. We figured this was a lovely spot and that the conditions would suit him well. We weren’t sure how he would handle this level and he had never been around these turns before, but he handled everything really well.”