SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., AUG. 4 -- Criminal Type scored his fourth straight victory in a Grade I stakes today and established himself even more firmly as the nation's leading racehorse.
He never had a worry as he cruised to a 1 1/2-length victory over Dancing Spree in the 63rd running of the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.
With the recent retirement of champions Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, there are few good older horses left anywhere. The Arlington Challenge Cup, which was run this afternoon in Chicago, drew such a weak field that ABC canceled its proposed telecast. The $234,400 Whitney attracted the best available horses in the East, but none was good enough to give Criminal Type a real challenge.
Not only did he have vastly superior credentials, but Criminal Type had a tactical advantage too. Calumet Farm's 5-year-old is blessed with good early speed; his five challengers habitually race from off the pace. He figured to control the pace from start to finish, and with that edge obvious, the bettors here made him the overwhelming 2-5 favorite.
Breaking from the inside post, jockey Gary Stevens had Criminal Type in front after a few strides. As the field raced into the first turn, the horses behind the leader got into a brief traffic jam, enabling Criminal Type to get a comfortable lead -- not that any of the others would have been able to challenge under any conditions.
When the slow early fractions were posted on the Teletimer -- the quarter-mile in 24 2/5 seconds, the half-mile in :48 4/5, it was obvious that the front-runner was still a strong horse and wouldn't be caught. Stevens certainly knew it: "He's tough when he sets honest fractions, and today he got away with murder."
Mi Selecto chased the leader down the backstretch and around the turn, but could not launch a real threat. Then Dancing Spree, the stretch-runner who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall, began to accelerate on the rail, but he could only gain enough to make the final margin respectable. Mi Selecto was third, another 2 1/2 lengths back.
Criminal Type was clocked in a good 1:48 3/5 for the 1 1/8 miles.
The son of Alydar-Klepto burst into prominence by winning the Pimlico Special in Maryland, the Metropolitan Handicap in New York and the Hollywood Gold Cup in California. Now trainer Wayne Lukas intends to keep him in New York for the rest of the year. "Horse of the year is our major goal," he said. "Calumet has been on top before, and we want to get them back on top. We'll look at the Woodward and The Jockey Club Gold Cup next."
Like the Whitney, both of those races carry a great deal of prestige. And Criminal Type is likely to find easy pickings in those stakes, if the quality of his competition in the Whitney is any indication.