Three hours after mourning the sudden death of his 2-year old colt Sir William (who dropped dead from coronary collapse after being unsaddled after finishing 5th in his racing debut), Eric Guillot was celebrating his 3-year old Moreno’s wire-to-wire victory in the $1.5 million Whitney Stakes at Saratoga with the biggest win of his career as a trainer, soundly beating Todd Pletcher’s Palace Malice, the 3-5 favorite, and currently rated the top horse in the country, as well as D.Wayne Lukas’s Will Take Charge, 2013 3-year old champion.
Moreno, who was 2 for 19 coming into the race, broke 8th out of 9 horses, but rushed straight for the lead under the steady guidance of jockey Junior Alvarado, while John Velazquez aboard Palace Malice shadowed him in third, but was never considered a threat, and eventually faded to 6th, 11-lengths off the lead. In the meantime, Will Take Charge under jockey Luis Saez raced off noticeably off the pace, although he did rally to show, 4-1/2 lengths behind Moreno. 7-1 shot Itsmyluckyday came in second, while 48-1 long-shot Prayer for Relief came in 4th.
The race was a vindication of sorts for Moreno who finished third behind Palace Malice and Will Take charge in last year’s Jim Dandy Stakes, before leading the 2013 Travers Stakes up to the bitter end, before losing it in the last jump to Will Take Charge. After the loss, Guillot accused Will Take Charge’s jockey Luis Saez of using a buzzer (an illegal electric device) to prod to encourage his horse to run deeper. However the New York State Racing Commission later cleared Saez.
Moreno finished the 1 ⅛-mile Whitney with “plenty to spare,” finishing in 1:48.05 on a fast track, returning $22, $9, and $6.60 while Itsmyluckyday paid $7.90 and $4.60. Will Take Charge paid $4.60.