From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.
To kick off Whitney week, we decided it would be most appropriate to reminisce on our old friend, and two time Whitney winner, Commentator. A gelded son of Distorted Humor, Commentator was one of the fastest horses to ever take the track, and his front running style often led to open-length wins, oftentimes by double digit margins. His two most significant wins, however, were undoutedly the 2005 and 2008 Whitney Handicaps.
In total, Commentator had 14 wins from 24 starts, earning just over $2 million. A New York bred, he was a two-time New York Horse of the Year and was trained by Nick Zito, who routinely stated that Commentator, when he was on his game, was the fastest horse in the world.
That world-class speed was certainly on display in the 2005 Whitney, when he broke from the gate first and tried to put the field in his rearview mirror. He effectively did that, but things did get a little dicey down the stretch, as Saint Liam started gobbling up ground as Commentator neared the finish line. Commentator held on grimly, however, and was ultimately able to hold off the game Saint Liam to win his first Grade 1 stake.
That wasn’t all for Commentator in the Whitney Stakes, however. He missed the 2006 renewal (won by eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Invasor), and the 2007 edition (won by Lawyer Ron), before reappearing on the Saratoga strip for the 2008 race. He was 7 years old, but his style was unchanged.
Once again taking the lead from the gate, he ran the field right off their feet, putting away favorite Solar Flare at the top of the stretch and pulling away to win by nearly five lengths. Commentator became the oldest horse since the great Kelso to take the Whitney (Kelso had won the race at age 8). The best part of the video, however, is Nick Zito’s celebration on his way to the winner’s circle, throwing up the number 1 to the TV cameras. Commentator was assigned a sterling 120 Beyer speed figure for the performance.
Commentator returned to come in third in the 2009 Whitney as an 8 year old, finishing behind Macho Again and Bullsbay (the same two who would give Rachel Alexandra all she could handle a month later in the Woodward). After the 2009 Whitney, Commentator was retired to Old Friends Farm in Kentucky. Hopefully the contestants in this year’s Whitney show half of the speed and heart of the great Commentator.