Ron The Greek: looking for third Grade 1 victory of the year on SaturdayPICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Marcie Heacox
Ron The Greek heads Whitney field for Mott
Preview: USA, Saturday 10.45pm BST (live on ATR)
Saratoga: Whitney Invitational Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+
RON THE GREEK (Bill Mott/Jose Lezcano), transformed into one of the best older horses in the States, bids for his third major Grade 1 victory this term in the Whitney at Saratoga on Saturday.
Likely to be targeted for the Breeders' Cup Classic by his Eclipse Award-winning trainer, the five-year-old hadn't won a graded stakes before the start of the season.
Since being transferred to Mott he has won five out of eight, including both the Santa Anita Handicap and the Stephen Foster, the latter on his most recent start in June at Churchill Downs.
"He's a huge, gorgeous horse actually but a horse you could tell probably wasn't going to get good until later in his career," said Mott.
"I think it's just a timing issue, as most things are in this business. He's starting to come around at the right time and just landed in our hands at the right time."
Ron The Greek, a late-running type, breaks from gate six as he gives a few pounds away to eight rivals in the $750,000 contest, among them his stablemate Flat Out (Rosie Napravnik), who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2011.
Last month in the Monmouth Cup, he was second to Rule (Todd Pletcher/Joe Bravo), who also has a stable companion in the Whitney in pace factor Caixa Eletronica (Javier Castellano).
Also among those likely to be fighting for front-end position are Fort Larned, Trickmeister and Endorsement, which is good news for Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book (Shug McGaughey/John Velazquez), who will be looking to close them down in the stretch.
Also on Saturday
Mountaineer: West Virginia Derby (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo (10.45pm BST)
A $750,000 purse has attracted Breeders' Cup winner Hansen (Mike Maker/Mike Smith), last year's champion two-year-old, who has gone pothunting since coming ninth in the Kentucky Derby.
The near-white front-runner, whose tail will be dyed blue at the request of his owner, won the Iowa Derby on his last start.
Hansen is drawn nine of ten in a field also featuring Darley's Le Bernardin (Kiaran McLaughlin/Mike Luzzi), a Grade 3 winner at Monmouth last month.
Del Mar: Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (Grade 1) 1m½f, AW, 3yo+ f/m (1.30am Sun BST)
Having regained the winning thread a Grade 2 over 7f at Hollywood Park last month, Switch (John Sadler/Martin Garcia) bids for the third Grade 1 victory of her career as she steps back up to two turns.
Among seven rivals are fellow Grade 1 scorers Include Me Out, Star Billing and Amani, who makes her US debut after winning ten from 11 in Chile, including Classic successes in the Guineas and Leger.