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National Treasure: Whitney, Pacific Classic Top Options

Prince of Monaco targeting the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

National Treasure after winning the Metropolitan Handicap at Saratoga Race Course

National Treasure after winning the Metropolitan Handicap at Saratoga Race Course

Mathea Kelley

For the connections of classic winner National Treasure, there figures to be some traveling this summer—one way or the other.

The 2023 Preakness Stakes (G1) victor shot to the top of the NTRA Top 10 Poll through a decisive 6 1/4-length romp in the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, and where he starts next could provide a glimpse into the future, specifically the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Quality Road  has come out of the June 8 Met Mile in fine shape and has either the Aug. 3 Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga or the Aug. 31 Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at Del Mar as the top items on a yet to be finalized travel agenda.

"Bob wants to keep all his options open for National Treasure. The next start could be anything from the Whitney to the Pacific Classic," said Tom Ryan of SF Racing and SF Bloodstock, the managing partner of the 4-year-old's overflow ownership group. Ryan added that the Sept. 28 $1 million California Crown (G1) at Santa Anita Park also is an option. "All I can say is that he's come back great from the Metropolitan Handicap, where he showed everyone he's top class. The way he pulled away was very impressive. He demolished the field. When he's on top of his game like that, he's a very dangerous horse."

Tom Ryan at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on April 30, 2023
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Tom Ryan

While several factors will enter into the decision, topped by Baffert's view on how National Treasure is training at the time, the choice between the Whitney and the Pacific Classic could provide some insight as to plans for the Breeders' Cup.

A year ago, the Met Mile winner lost by a nose to eventual Horse of the Year Cody's Wish  in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), enhancing the 4-year-old's stock as a premier miler.

Having won the 1 3/16-mile Preakness and the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) in January, the nine-furlong Whitney would surely be within his scope. Yet with National Treasure in California and the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) set to be contested at Del Mar at 1 1/4 miles, the Pacific Classic, which is also a 10-furlong test, could provide a dress rehearsal for the Classic.

"We know he's not limited to a mile. The question is: Do we stretch him out? He's versatile enough to run in the Classic," Ryan said. "Bob will make a decision when things become clearer. He's a healthy, sound horse and we have lots of options. Either Bob's going to book a plane for him and he'll head east for his next start or I'll book a plane and head west to see him.

"Either way, to run in three Breeders' Cups would be a special accomplishment. You don't get that too often these days, especially with a dirt horse. We're very proud of the training job Bob and his staff have done with him. "

With National Treasure set to join the stallion roster at Spendthrift Farm after he concludes his racing career at the end of the year, Ryan said the Met Mile added an even bigger dose of glitter to an already impressive resume.

"You have to love the pedigree. He's out of a Medaglia d'Oro  mare (Treasure) and he has become such a great influence. National Treasure is bred by Peter Blum out of a great sire, and I am excited for Spendthrift Farm and everyone who is connected with him to have such a high-quality son of Quality Road go to stud next year," Ryan said.

National Treasure, a $5.3 million earner and three-time grade 1 winner, is owned by a partnership of SR Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Catherine Donovan that has been dubbed "The Avengers." He was bought for $500,000 from the Bridie Harrison consignment at The Saratoga Sale, Fasig-Tipton's New York sale of preferred yearlings.

While National Treasure's victory was euphoric, the connections took a gut punch when grade 1 winner Prince of Monaco ran for the first time in seven months and was bumped at the start and pinched back, giving away four lengths to the field. He rallied wide and settled for second by a half-length to the New Jersey-bred Book 'em Danno in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1).

Prince of Monaco preparing for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile At Santa Anita Park on November 2, 2023. Photo By: Chad B. Harmon
Photo: Chad B. Harmon
Prince of Monaco trains ahead of the 2023 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park

The June 8 seven-furlong stakes at the Spa was the 3-year-old's first start since the son of Speightstown out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Rainier finished fifth in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

"It was heartbreaking that he got tangled up at the start and then ran wide," Ryan said. "It's a messy chart of the race when you read what happened to him. But he showed us he's top class. Anyone who saw that race knows that."

Ryan said Prince of Monaco is back with Baffert in California and is expected to return to Saratoga for the Aug. 24 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1).

The Del Mar Futurity winner (G1) was bought for $950,000 from the Summerfield consignment at The Saratoga Sale. He was bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.

"It's a boutique sale at Saratoga. There's always quality there," Ryan said. "It's great when you can bring people like Bob Baffert and Donato Lanni and John Moynihan together, and we are all putting our energy toward trying to find top-quality yearlings."

Prince of Monaco is owned by virtually the same group as National Treasure, with Dianne Bashor replacing Schoenfarber and Ryan having a solo share.

Ryan also expressed hope of picking up a graded stakes win at Del Mar with another product of a Medaglia d'Oro mare, the recent allowance winner Jackstown.

The 4-year-old son of Speightstown, who was sidelined for 22 1/2 months by ankle surgery following a debut win at Del Mar, took a June 14 allowance optional claimer at Santa Anita by 3 1/2 lengths.

"I think he's really good and you want to treat him like a good horse and maybe work him gradually into a grade 1 as opposed to moving him right into one. Bob will make the right call. We gave this colt all the time he needed to come back and he was training great before the race and was fit," Ryan said. "Jackstown can be a good one."

Owned by the same group as National Treasure, he is out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare No Name Needed and was bought for $160,000 from the Eaton Sales consignment at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.