SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Aron Wellman believes that when you have a hot hand, you’ve got to keep playing it. Thus, Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, fresh off a two-win Sunday at Saratoga, will take a swing in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Whitney Stakes with Comfort.
By: David Grening
Comfort himself is hot, having won his two starts this year and three straight dating back to last November. But even Wellman said that Comfort will be taking “a colossal step up in class” against the likes of Grade 1 winners Frosted, Effinex, and Noble Bird in the Whitney.
Eclipse purchased Comfort privately following a maiden win at Fair Grounds in February 2015. The horse was turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher. Comfort ran in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland, where he broke last and finished fourth. He needed some time off after that race and came back in November with an allowance win at Gulfstream Park West.
“We thought we’d be rolling after that, but we had to send him to the sidelines again with another minor issue,” Wellman said.
Comfort has come back with two solid victories at Belmont, winning a second-level allowance and then the State Dinner Stakes over Touchofstarquality.
“His two races at Belmont were very, very strong â€“ fast times, fast figures,” Wellman said. “With all due respect to Touchofstarquality, he’s going to be facing significantly more talent in the Whitney.”
A field of six is expected for the Whitney, which is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Others expected to start are Effinex (with jockey Mike Smith), El Kabeir (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Frosted (Joel Rosario), Noble Bird (Julien Leparoux), and Upstart (Irad Ortiz Jr.). Samraat was possible as of Monday.
The post positions for the Whitney were to be drawn Tuesday evening at a reception at Siro’s, a restaurant adjacent to the racetrack.
Eclipse won two races on Sunday’s card, topped by Curalina’s 9 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee Handicap. She will now be pointed to the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on Aug. 27.
Curalina pressed the pacesetting Carrumba through more than six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile race before challenging her approaching the quarter pole. Curalina galloped past Carrumba turning for home and splashed her way to an easy score. She earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.
Last year, Curalina won the Grade 1 Acorn and was put up to first via disqualification after finishing second in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. She won the Grade 1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in her first start this year, then ran fourth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont.
“I think she’s a little bit of an underrated filly,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Her record is quite good. I think she gets penalized a little bit for being put up on a [disqualification in the CCA Oaks] last year. She was third in the Breeders’ Cup, her first race back this year was really good, and I think her Phipps was better than it looks on paper.
“She’s a good filly, and I think she’s getting better.”