Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap Quick Picks

The Grade 1 $350,000 Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on Saturday lured a field of nine accomplished veteran sprinters who will run six furlongs.

#2 Mischevious Alex

The 2-1 favorite #2 Mischevious Alex won three straight, including the Carter Handicap in April, before tiring to third in the Metropolitan Mile. The Saffie Joseph Jr. trainee cuts back to six furlongs, and he’s undefeated at the distance.

Win Contender.

#9 Special Reserve (9-2)

Special Reserve has climbed the ranks since being claimed in February by Mike Maker. He’s won four of his last five starts, including the Iowa Sprint and the Maryland Sprint (G3). His lone loss was a 2 1/4-length defeat in the seven-furlong Commonwealth Stakes (G3) back in April. In addition, Special Reserve’s Brisnet speed figures have improved in each start, and his 102 figure earned in the Iowa Sprint is the highest in the field.

Win Contender.

#4 Whitmore (4-1)

Whitmore is the old man of the field at eight years old. One would think Whitmore would have lost a step, but Ron Moquett has done a masterful job of keeping the fan-favorite competitive at the highest levels. Whitmore hasn’t won in three starts this year but did have a couple of close, heartbreaking neck defeats in the listed Hot Springs Stakes and Churchill Downs Stakes (G1). However, last year’s Champion Sprinter has won 13 races at six furlongs, and he’ll be making his customary late run. There’s a ton of speed in the race, which could set Whitmore up for victory.

Exotics.

#3 Firenze Fire (3-1)

Firenze Fire has won two of three starts this year, his record marred by a recent head loss in the seven-furlong Nerud Stakes (G2) at Belmont last month. The Kelly Breen trainee has been in the money ten of 13 attempts at six furlongs; however, Firenze Fire isn’t without armor chinks. At Saratoga, he’s won only once in seven starts and placed twice, and the last time he was victorious in a Grade 1 was in 2017, as a 2-year-old. Firenze Fire placed fourth in the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and he’s hoping to better his performance. He’ll face pressure from the other speed in the race.

Lower exotics.

#7 Miles Ahead (12-1)

Miles Ahead ships in from Gulfstream Park, where he was last seen winning the Smile Sprint (G3) by a half-length. The 4-year-old gelding switches from Eddie Plesa’s barn to George “Rusty” Arnold, and Luis Saez has the mount. Miles Ahead’s speed figures have steadily improved since March, and while he’s making a huge jump in class, Miles Ahead has tactical speed and can sit behind the pace. He’s a live longshot at 12-1.

Live longshot.

#5 Three Technique (15-1)

Three Technique gets first-time blinkers after a third-place finish in the Nerud (G2). The Jeremiah Englehart trainee has hit the board in two of three starts at Saratoga but against lesser company. Three Technique cuts back in distance and will be running late. This is a big class jump for the 4-year-old colt.

Toss.

#4 Strike Power (15-1)

Strike Power is a speed and fade candidate. His last victory was in March against optional claimers, and he’s previously been bested by Whitmore and Special Reserve.

Toss.

#1 Lexitonian (20-1)

Lexitonian was last seen in the winner’s circle over a year ago after he won an allowance at Churchill Downs. He was eased in the Met Mile (G1) last time out. The Jack Sisterson is 1 for 6 at six furlongs.

Pass.

Analysis

Saratoga’s main track has a definite speed bias for sprints. As a result, 36 of the 41 races have been won by pacesetters or pressers, and five have won from mid-pack (2 1/4- to 5 lengths back). No closers have won.
Miles Ahead, Special Reserve, Firenze Fire, and Strike Power are all pacesetters or pressers. Mischevious Alex has tactical speed, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will keep him back should a speed duel develop.

#2 Mischevious Alex
#9 Special Reserve (9-2)
#4 Whitmore (4-1)
#7 Miles Ahead (12-1)