Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap 2021 Entries: Firenze Fire & Whitmore to clash again

Saratoga hosts the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap this Saturday
Saratoga hosts the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap this Saturday

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With three Grade I winners set for the starting gate, Saturday’s Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga is set to get the Graded Stakes section underway with a blast. Neil Monnery has an overview of the race…

Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap 2021 Entries & Post Positions
  • Post Position
  • Horse

Post Position

  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
  • 7.
  • 8.
  • 9.

Horse

  • Lexitonian
  • Mischevious Alex
  • Firenze Fire
  • Strike Power
  • Three Technique
  • Whitmore
  • Miles Ahead
  • Montauk Traffic
  • Special Reserve

Sitting down to write this piece I wondered which of the big three I should give opening billing to. Whitmore no doubt has the biggest fan-base and is the reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion. Firenze Fire has enjoyed a long and distinguished career and his six-year-old campaign has been rather impressive so far. Mischevious Alex is the whipper-snapper of the group but has been in the best form over his recent outings.

I suspect most will frame this as a battle of true great sprinters who are renewing their rivalry but I’ll start it with the son of Into Mischief, the Saffie Joseph trained Mischevious Alex. At one point last year, this horse was a staggering fifth favorite for the Kentucky Derby on the international Ante-Post markets. Everyone stateside knew that distance was too far for him but his raw speed made him a potential superstar under a mile.

Disappointing runs on the Belmont under-card in the Woody Stephens and at Saratoga last year in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial meant that he went under the radar coming into his four-year-old campaign. This year however three straight wins including that all important Grade I win at Aqueduct for the Carter Handicap back in April put him back up among the upper echelons of sprinting horses. He was pushed to a mile in the Met Mile last time out and that was a bit too far but six furlongs seems like a fine spot for him. Undoubtedly a win contender.

Whitmore is very much a fan favorite and having finally tasted victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at the fourth attempt last year, many thought that might be it. Yet his connections decided to go around one more time and despite not having won yet in 2021 - if you are losing to horses like C Z Rocket, Flagstaff and Lexitonian then you aren’t doing too badly. He’ll be over-bet due to his popularity so I’d struggle to bet on him to win.

With two wins from three so far this year, Firenze Fire takes dead aim at finally winning this race having finished outside of the top three two years running. In fact his career up at the Spa has not gone well. Both times he finished fourth in this race in 2019 and 2020, he came back a month later in the Grade I Forego and ended up 11th and 2nd. So no wins from four is starting to become an unwanted pattern.

A winner from outside these three would be a bit of a surprise. Lexitonian will have some support and Miles Ahead has beaten Diamond Oops but to beat all three Grade I winners would be a big step forward, I like the youngster to show the veterans that he’s now one of the very best sprinters around but our turf-man will be back on Friday with his coverage of Saturday at Saratoga that will include his full preview of this race...

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