Saratoga: Looking for a value play in the Whitney

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

July 30th, 2020

Although just five horses have been entered in Saturday’s Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, the historic “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) is nevertheless shaping up to be a good betting race.

That’s because #5 Tom’s d’Etat is favored at 6-5 on the morning line, probably a shorter price than he should be. That’s not to say the son of Smart Strike isn’t a talented runner with a big chance to win. He has posted eight consecutive triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings and enters off a dominant victory in the June 27 Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Tom’s d’Etat has 3-for-4 at Saratoga and 6-for-9 in 1 1/8-mile races, so the track and distance of the Whitney should be perfect for this 7-year-old veteran. But he’s facing a formidable new challenger in #3 Code of Honor (5-2), who has arguably demonstrated an even stronger affinity for the Saratoga main track.

Conditioned by three-time Whitney-winning trainer Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor is 2-for-2 at Saratoga, where he secured a signature victory in the 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) last summer.

The son of Noble Mission has come back as competitive as ever in 2020. He won the 1-mile Westchester (G3) at Belmont Park and finished a deceptively good third in the Metropolitan H. (G1) over the same track and distance.

A slow pace and a wide trip prevented Code of Honor from seriously contending for victory in the Met Mile, but he gamely sprinted the final quarter-mile in about :23 flat to finish third, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths by the accomplished Vekoma. A return to Saratoga and a stretch back out around two turns should allow Code of Honor to produce his best run of the season in the Whitney.

With this in mind, I view Code of Honor as a more likely winner of the Whitney than Tom’s d’Etat. Run this race 10 times, and I believe Code of Honor will reach the winner’s circle on four or five occasions, which gives him a ~45% chance of winning. This equates to fair odds of 6-5, which makes Code of Honor’s 5-2 morning-line price enticing.

#HorseML OddsFair OddsChance of winning
By My Standards
Code of Honor
Mr. Buff
Tom's d'Etat

I still respect the chances of Tom’s d’Etat and view him as fair value at 9-5, so if he drifts up from his morning-line price, he could still be worth a play. But barring a major shift in the odds, we’ll follow the value and key Code of Honor on top of our tickets, with Tom’s d’Etat underneath.

$25 to win on #3 Code of Honor
$2.50 superfecta: 3 with 5 with 1,2,4 with 1,2,4 ($15)
Total: $40

Good luck!