SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- The skies opened just in time for Birdstone to win the 2004 Travers Stakes, adding to a story that already included a shocking upset in that summer's Belmont Stakes.
"If I can win the Travers, I don't care if it rains and rains and rains," Whitney said on Saturday. "Who cares? It was a wonderful day, I never felt so good in my life."
A decade after that tiny horse claimed victory, Whitney returns with an unheralded three-year-old named Viva Majorca.
"My gosh, he really has surprised me," Whitney said of the colt, who is named after the island in Spain. "You never know."
"He's a lightly-raced horse, lacks a lot of seasoning but talent-wise, the sky is the limit with this horse," trainer Ian Wilkes said.
Coming into next Saturday's Travers, Viva Majorca has two career wins under his belt. Last time out, in July, he finished fourth in Saratoga's Curlin Stakes.
"A little unlucky but ran a very good race," Wilkes said of Viva Majorca's effort in the Curlin. "Since then, he's trained very forwardly. I'm very pleased with him."
It was two years ago when Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, greeted Wilkes in the winner's circle after his horse, Fort Larned, captured the Whitney Handicap, a race honoring the socialite's family.
"She's a tremendous lady to train for," Wilkes said. "It's a great pleasure and a great honor to train for her."
Together, they'll try to recapture that glory, this time as a long-shot, a place they're quite comfortable.
"That would just be icing on the cake," Wilkes said.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," Whitney said. "I am never worried about that because I've seen too many long-shots win terrific races."
Whitney's late husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, won three Travers Stakes (1954-Fisherman, 1960-Tompion, 1968-Chompion). His father, Harry Payne Whitney, won once in 1929 with Beacon Hill.