Leading thoroughbred Palace Malice and champion colt Will Take Charge renew their rivalry, along with seven other horses, in Saturday's $1.5 million Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program, a victory in the 1 1/8- mile Whitney guarantees a place for the winner in this November's Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Palace Malice, the even-money favorite for the Whitney, and Will Take Charge, the 4-1 second pick, have faced each other several times, most notably last year at Saratoga as 3-year-olds.
In 2013 at Saratoga, Palace Malice won the Jim Dandy Stakes with Will Take Charge a length behind in second and four weeks later in the Travers it was Will Take Charge winning as Palace Malice finished fourth. . Trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, Palace Malice will start from post 5 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. The 4-year-colt currently leads the NTRA Thoroughbred Poll.
"It's a huge race," Pletcher said. "The horse is doing fantastic. He's off to a great start this year, and we're just hoping for more of the same from him. He's been super consistent and impressive. We know he likes Saratoga from the way he ran here the last two years, so we're excited about the Whitney."
Palace Malice is undefeated in 2014 with four wins in as many starts. The colt began the year by winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 8 followed by a solid victory at Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Handicap three weeks later. He then claimed the Westchester Handicap at a mile by almost 10 lengths at Belmont Park on May 11 and most recently won the Met Mile on the Belmont Stakes card.
The colt has won seven of 16 career starts for $2,631,135.
Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge will break from the rail with Luis Saez again riding. The 4-year-old, trained by D. Wayne Lukas for Willis Horton and Three Chimneys Farm, was voted last year's champion 3-year-old colt.
The current year has not been as smooth for Will Take Charge as Palace Malice. Lukas' 4-year-old has just the victory in the Oaklawn Handicap from five starts.
He began 2014 with a pair of seconds in the Donn and Santa Anita Handicaps and followed the Oaklawn win with a sixth in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs and another runner-up result in Churchill's Stephen Foster Handicap.
Will Take Charge has banked $3,774,648 with seven wins and six seconds in 20 career starts.
Here is the full field for the Whitney in post position order: Will Take Charge, Luis Saez, 4-1; Prayer for Relief, Joel Rosario, 20-1; Moreno, Junior Alvarado, 10-1; Itsmyluckyday, Paco Lopez, 12-1; Palace Malice, John Velazquez, even, Departing, Robby Albarado, 6-1; Romansh, Jose Ortiz, 10-1; Golden Ticket, Julien Leparoux, 20-1 and Last Gunfighter, Javier Castellano, 15-1.
The Whitney will be shown live on NBC with an approximate post time of 5:46 p.m. ET.