Whittingham Stakes (Grade 2)- $200.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Turf
May 23, 2020
The 15th running of the Grade 2 Whittingham Stakes takes place at SA on Saturday, and in it, Mb Stables will look to duplicate a feat that Australia Wide was able to do from 2008 until 2010. That is, win three straight editions of the race. Back then, Australia Wide won with Angel Swaps, Barbarino, and Another Idol. Move forward a decade, and Mb Stables has done it with Spanish Showboat and On The Spot up to the spot in the race’s history. Australia Wide’s wins earned him more, as the purse was $300.000 in those days. Up until 2012, this was a Grade 1 at HOL. Once moved to SA, it was downgraded to a Grade 2 and saw its purse decline. On one occasion, the race was run at a mile and a half. While this race allows three year olds, it has never been won by one, and in 2020, there will be only one three year old in the race. Part of the reason may be that they only get a three pound weight allowance for this race, and greater allowances can be had elsewhere. We have a field of nine going to post, so let’s take a look at the field!
#1- Armed Escort (Mb Stables, ridden by T J Pereira)- This gelding has taken a liking to finishing second, doing so six times in his eleven starts. While he has hit the board in all but one start, he could use a few more wins. He’s only managed to do that twice. Recently, we have seen the horse go out to the lead early but that might not be a given here since this race has a few of that type that seem to be in the field. Made his graded debut in his last start, here two months ago, resulting in one of those runner up finishes. Could see that again.
#2- No New Friends (Hambletonian Stable, ridden by R Bejarano)- His name is not correct anymore, as he makes his debut here with Hambletonian Stable after being claimed from Mb Stables for $32.000. So, hopefully in that trainer, he has at least one new friend. It’s only his seventh start, and Mb had never really tested him in the manner that Hambletonian is doing here. He’s been able to win, taking three of six, and two more second place finishes with it. Worked very well here at five furlongs earlier in the month. A win here could earn him a lot of new friends, and he should be up to the task.
#3- Dons Carry On (Nolespan Racing, ridden by U Rispoli)- This is the only three year old in the field, and he is lightly raced. This is the sixth start of this career, and he has been rotating wins and poor finishes since he made his debut. If that trend continues, it is time for a win as he comes off a disappointing showing in the Grade 3 SF Mile. Impossible to tell anything about this horse for this race based on his works, so the best advice on him is probably to pick if you think that win pattern continues.
#4- Yesterdays Pride (Alydar Stables, ridden by V Espinoza)- The five year old will be making his first appearance in any sort of stake here in the Whittingham. Last month while on this race track, he was impressive in winning a 12-furlong optional claimer, and that was his second win in three starts. Had a bullet work here on Wednesday, so I don’t think there is any question that he is ready to be at his best here, but more of a matter of how his best will compare to the others in the field. It is a good field, but doesn’t have the one headliner. While also factoring in that I think his running style is good for this race, he is my top pick.
#5- Edging In (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A T Gryder)- Of these first five horses, three of them have been bred by Mb Stables, and the horse that he currently owns is not one of them! Nakamura picked up Edging In during the September 2018 auction for $30.000 after he ran in a couple of ungraded turf sprints. After the purchase, Nakamura started sending him longer, and this included some time on the main track, as well. He has since won twice, and that is highlighted by the Grade 2 San Gabriel here in January. Needs to be better then he was in his last two starts, but a recent work gives some hope that might happen.
#6- Maniaco del Controll (Threshold, ridden by Ru Fuentes)- Returning to the grass for the first time in about seven months. He was not on good form at that time, and so a surface switch to the dirt was made. However, he struggled on nice days on the main track as well, though did win in the mud in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap in November. Has not won a race on a fast or firm surface since September 2018. Beautiful weather is expected here on Saturday, making it hard for me to get excited about this one.
#7- Homme de Guerre (John Henry, ridden by E Maldonado)- This four year old gelding by Doctor Nemesis has made five starts since being picked up from Blushing Meadows in private sales for $100.000 last August. He would win his debut in John Henry silks, that being the DMR Derby in September. Since that race, he has had his highs and lows, with the San Gabriel being a race that stands out since he met a few here that day and did not run well. Though, I also like the way he came from off the pace in his last start, the Grade 2 Elkhorn at KEE. Having a hard time deciding whether or not I want to pick him.
#8- Freaky Onez (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by Mar Garcia)- The trainer has managed one win in the stake, coming in 2017 with Super Charger. This gelding has won three times over his fourteen race career, with the highlight coming in August 2019 in the VA Derby, the only such time he has won a stake. He’s had several chances since, including a third place finish in the San Gabriel at the start of the year. He would not be able to step up his game in the Grade 1 Forester Turf Classic at CD on KYD day, finishing near the back of the field. After three weeks, Maxmillion hopes for better against competition that is not at that level, but will still be pretty good.
#9- Red Arrow (Estero Farms, ridden by G Franco)- This will be a very strong test for the Winter Warrior gelding as he makes his 15th career start. For the majority of his career, he raced at smaller tracks, but a claim by Glorify Stables seemed to point him in the right direction, as he began running longer. Estero picked him up early last month, and he was fourth here in an optional claimer. Now, he moves to the turf, and it’s not official debut on the grass, but it might as well be. Worked nice, but a lot is being asked of him here.