ARCADIA, CA – LNJ Foxwoods’ United held on very gamely along the inside, withstanding two strong foes’ pushes late to capture Saturday’s $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 5 as the 6/5 narrow second choice under Flavien Prat, United was more forwardly-placed than usual against a six-horse field devoid of much early speed on paper. Just ahead of him, the 70/1 longshot Synthesis set the pace, posting opening fractions of :24.78, :48.88, and 1:12.74.
United ranged up alongside the pacesetter midway down the backstretch and advanced to the lead near the 1/4 pole, then rounded the far turn with a slight advantage. Originaire and the even-money favorite Rockemperor came rallying to his outside and appeared to put the bettors’ choice to rest, but United fought back gamely along the inside.
Though Rockemperor looked to have the advantage in the shadow of the wire, it was United’s nose that bobbed down first at the line. The Richard Mandella trainee finished in a final time of 2:00.34 for the 1 1/4-mile firm turf route.
“He was ready today, but this is not the type of race that he likes,” Prat said. “He’s better when he has a few horses in front of him and a stronger pace. Those two horses (Originaire and Rockemperor) had a better kick. That is not what United likes to do, but he ran great today. He’s getting better and better with each race. I think he’s still improving every race. He’s very cool to be around, he always gives a lot. I think it’s really cool.”
Though Rockemperor crossed a 1/2-length ahead of Originaire, a stewards inquiry into the stretch run resulted in Rockemperor being disqualified and placed third behind Originaire after causing interference with that foe in the stretch run.
“I thought I was second,” Prat said after winning his third on the day. “On my way back, I looked at the tote board and there was an inquiry between (Originaire and Rockemperor). I said ‘What, I wasn’t involved in that.’ And (then) I realized I won. That was pretty cool.”
Desert Stone rallied from last of six to take fourth, just a neck behind Originaire when they hit the finish line, and Multiplier was only 1 length behind him in fifth. Synthesis weakened steadily after being passed in the far turn and completed the order of finish under a jog.
Bold Endeavor was scratched.
United’s win was his second straight, having won the San Marcos Stakes (G2) over this course and distance on February 1, to improve his record to 13-5-3-1. The 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding has earned $1,133,549 and was making his first start after making a failed trip to Dubai for the Sheema Classic that was canceled just days before it was set to run.
“With everything we’ve been through, this puts the icing on top of the cake as far as getting back to racing here at Santa Anita,” Mandella said. “Ever since the race was re-named for Charlie, I’ve really wanted to win it. He was such a special man and he meant so much to our game. I’ve had a few seconds, but to win it today really means a lot.”
United returned $4.40 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.10 to show. Originaire brought back $4.80 to place and $2.60 to show, while Rockemperor paid $2.20 to show.