Handicapping Tip of the Day #66 – 1 Turn Races vs. 2 Turn Races

by Rich Nilsen for Agameofskill.com

Some racehorses excel around two turns and a route of ground, whereas other runners are best suited to sprints or one-turn contests.  Sometimes this preference is simply due to a stamina issue.  Some horses don’t ‘corner’ well and can lose precious ground or momentum around the turns.  Other horses have issues with lead changes and that can affect their ability to perform at their best around two turns.

In this year’s G1 Whitney, one of the premier races of the Saratoga meeting, the heavy favorite was superstar Cody’s Wish. The five-year-old horse from the Bill Mott barn had won 9 of 13 races lifetime, including his last six in a row.  The 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champ had won both starts this year versus Grade 1 company by a combined eight lengths.

One of the victims in his start was one of his main rivals in the Whitney Stakes, White Abarrio.  At a cursory glance and without taking a deep dive, many in the public just assumed that Cody’s Wish would dominate that rival just like he did last time.  However, the circumstances were vastly different in their next meet-up.

The Whitney is a two-turn 1 1/8 miles races, a test of stamina in this era of racehorses.  With a powerful finish last out in the G1 Met Mile, and showing a plethora of ‘routes’ in his past performances, Cody’s Wish figured to handle the added ground without any problem.  Or would he?

In his 13 career races, Cody’s Wish had only competed around two turns on one occasion, and that came in the G3 Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs early last year.  The result was a neck loss to a horse that would hypothetically be 50-1 in the Whitney.  That was all I needed to see to flag Cody’s Wish as an overbet and vulnerable favorite.  The icing on the cake was that Cody’s Wish figured to be in the back of the pack with a modest pace up front, meaning his rivals would have first jump on him.

So, who could beat him would be the next question.  Historically, this was a pretty weak Whitney Stakes which added to the Cody’s Wish appeal and favoritism.  One horse leaped off the page to me and it was runner that I was interested in last time out in the Met Mile, Rick Dutrow’s White Abarrio.

Unlike the favorite, White Abarrio was a proven winner going two turns.  In fact, he was a 2022 Florida Derby winner at nine furlongs for former trainer Saffie Joseph.  Dutrow had recently taken over the care of this runner, and the Met Mile represented his first start with limited training of the Grade 1 winner.  In my view, Dutrow had not had time to fully bring out the best in White Abarrio.  That would not be the care heading into the Whitney as he had an additional two months with the four-year-old colt.

It was no secret that Dutrow, who had returned from his controversial 10-year ban, was one of racing’s greatest trainers at improving new acquisitions.  So, there was every reason to believe that White Abarrio would move forward of the first start going one turn at Belmont Park.  Below is my writeup on my top selection.

Sometimes in racing, it can be difficult for the horseplayer to overlook the hype of a superstar like Cody’s Wish.  There is no doubt he is one of the best and most exciting milers that we have seen in recent years, but that did not mean he had to win the two-turn Whitney Stakes.

Off at 45 cents on the dollar, Cody’s Wish flattened to be third, 10 lengths behind the winner White Abarrio.  Rick Dutrow returned to the winner’s circle in a Grade 1 with White Abarrio returning $22.40 to win!

When the handicapper can find a couple of solid reasons to go against a huge favorite, it opens the door to potentially a nice score.  In this case, the difference between one turn and two turns played a major role.


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