Commentator aims for triple in Whitney Handicap

The old man tries to make history today at America's oldest thoroughbred track.

Commentator, the speedy 8-year-old gelding trained by Nick Zito, goes for a record-tying third victory in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., one of three venues totaling seven Grade I races this weekend.

The Arlington International Festival of Racing also is this afternoon at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill., highlighted by turf runners Einstein, Gio Ponti and Presious Passion in the Arlington Million.

On Sunday, unbeaten Zenyatta goes for her 12th consecutive win in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar, Calif.

Owned by Tracy Farmer, Commentator can join Kelso (1961, 1963, 1965) and Discovery (1934-36) as three-time winners of the Whitney, a 11/8-mile test for older horses in its 82nd year. The New York bred and son of Distorted Humor is the defending champion. A victory would make Commentator the oldest Whitney winner at 8 years, 135 days (Kelso was 8 years, 127 days) and push him over $2 million in career earnings. He has 14 wins from 23 starts and faces six foes, including 2008 Sam F. Davis third-place finisher Smooth Air.

Commentator drew Post 7 and will be ridden by John Velazquez. His first Whitney win came in 2005, when Sun King, another Farmer-Zito runner, captured the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. Sun King is retired and stands at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky.

"Sun King has been a successful stallion," Farmer said. "I see him all the time.

"But Commentator is just in another world running into this age. I've never experienced anything like this in my career in racing."

Farmer said he couldn't predict if this will be Commentator's last race.

"We always thought he would tell us (the time to retire)," he said. "I don't know the answer to that now."

The Whitney is one of two Grade I races at Saratoga, joined by the $300,000 Test (Race 9, 5:14 p.m.).

There are three Grade I events at Arlington Park: Arlington Million, $750,000 Beverly D. and $400,000 Secretariat (Race 7, 4:05 p.m.). The Arlington Million, Beverly D. and Whitney are qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 6-7.

A pair of Grade I races are at Del Mar: today's $300,000 Bing Crosby (Race 8, 8:30 p.m.) and the Hirsch (8:30 p.m.) Sunday.

MORE HORSES: Oldsmar trainer Gerald Bennett came within one of equaling Jamie Ness' record for consecutive winners at Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio. Bennett's streak of eight winners ended July 31. Ness, a Downs trainer, set the mark in May.

GREYHOUNDS: Backwood Nan of Campbell Greyhound Racing clocked the fastest 660-yard time of 37.54 seconds at the Derby Lane meet Aug. 1 in St. Petersburg. She is trained by James Campbell.

Fast facts

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• $1 million Arlington Million for 3-year-olds and older at 11/4 miles on turf (Race 9, 5:42 p.m.) and $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes for fillies and mares 3 years old and older at 13/16 on turf (Race 8, 4:52 p.m.) at Arlington Park

• $750,000 Whitney Handicap for 3-year-olds and older at 11/8 miles (Race 10, 5:47 p.m.) at Saratoga

Commentator aims for triple in Whitney Handicap 08/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 11:53pm]

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