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Wicked Whisper Favored in Pippin
Wicked Whisper winning the 2019 Frizette (Credit: NYRA / Janet Garaguso)

Wicked Whisper Favored in Pippin

HOT SPRINGS, AR – Wicked Whisper was poised for a championship in the fall of 2019. Now it’s a career reboot, and step one in 2021 is the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 mile Saturday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the Pippin, the eighth of nine races, is 4:47 PM (Central). First post for the second of 57 scheduled race days is 1 PM (Central).

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Wicked Whisper is the slight 3/1 program favorite for the Pippin, which drew a field of 12 and is Oaklawn’s first of three preps for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 17. The series continues with the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) February 15 and the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 13.

Wicked Whisper was among the country’s top 2-year-old fillies of 2019 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Arkansas. Wicked Whisper was a front-running 6 1/4-length winner of her career debut at Saratoga and a front-running 2 3/4-length winner of her next start, the Frizette Stakes (G1), at Belmont Park.

Wicked Whisper’s unbeaten record and hopes for an Eclipse Award crashed with a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita, a 1 1/16-mile race that marked her two-turn debut.

Sandwiched around minor injury (splint bone) and minor illness, Wicked Wisper captured 1 of 4 starts last year and was withdrawn from Fasig-Tipton’s November Sale – she was entered as a racing or broodmare prospect – to get another shot for the same racing team in 2021.

“Not really,” Alex Lieblong said, when asked if he seriously considered retiring Wicked Whisper. “He (Asmussen) knew to raise his hand at any point where he thought we should and he didn’t. She had a real busy period there for a while, so we thought, ‘OK, let’s back off her for a while and see what can shape up at Oaklawn.’ We did have her in the November Sale, just in case something did show up physically with her during that time. Nothing ever showed up physically, so that gave us a little bit of time for, hopefully, Steve to work his magic and stretch her out.”

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Wicked Whisper’s final two starts last year were at 6 furlongs. She won the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) Oct. 3 at Pimlico and finished an even fifth in the $125,000 Fort Springs Stakes Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Wicked Whisper had been scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) last March at Oaklawn, but spiked a fever approximately a week before the race, Lieblong said, and her first start didn’t come until early July.

“You just couldn’t make it up,” said Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. “But one thing I’ve learned in this business is it’s got several ways to bite you.”

Wicked Whisper has had five published workouts at Oaklawn since Dec. 20 in advance of her 4-year-old debut. From the first crop of Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map, Wicked Whisper was purchased for $500,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Wicked Whisper is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Point of Honor, who finished third in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares last year at Oaklawn. The Lieblongs were Oaklawn’s third-leading owners in 2020.

The 7-2 second choice in the program is Istan Council, who is seeking her first career stakes victory. Istan Council was a 2019 allowance winner at Oaklawn, finished third in the $100,000 Groupie Doll Stakes Aug. 9 at Ellis Park and endured a brutal trip finishing second, beaten a head, in the $75,000 She’s All In Stakes at a mile and 70 yards Dec. 18 at Remington Park. Daily Racing Form short comments from Istan Council’s past performance running line for the She’s All In said the 5-year-old mare lacked room until late, “best.”

“I thought it was one of the very few times you see in the Racing Form where the horse that ran second was much the best,” Jones said.

Other contenders include the Brad Cox-trained duo of Vault and Getridofwhatailesu and Our Super Freak. All are 6-1 in the program. Vault ran sixth in the $263,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) July 18 at Monmouth Park in her last start. Getridofwhatailesu, unraced since last March, has never run in a stakes race, but has won two of her last three starts. Our Super Freak ran second in last year’s Molly Pitcher for trainer Cherie DeVaux, a former assistant to four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown. DeVaux has never started a horse at Oaklawn.

The projected Pippin field from the rail out: Vault, Florent Geroux to ride, 115 pounds, 6-1; Figure It Out, Francisco Arrieta, 119, 12-1; Getridofwhatailesu, Joe Rocco Jr., 119, 6-1; Sara Sea, Fernando De La Cruz, 115, 30-1; Chance to Shine, Ken Tohill, 115, 10-1; Istan Council, Joe Talamo, 115, 7-2; Wicked Whisper, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 3-1; Blessed Again, Terry Thompson, 119, 30-1; Regal Beauty, Martin Garcia, 115, 8-1; His Glory, David Cabrera, 117, 12-1; Graysonsmacho Gal, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 15-1; and Our Super Freak, David Cohen, 115, 6-1.

Jones won last year’s Pippin with the recently retired Whoa Nellie. 

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