A bicoastal showdown looms on Saturday at Santa Anita Park as Richard Mandella’s United and Chad Brown’s eastern-based Rockemperor head a field of seven 3-three-year-olds and up in the Grade 2, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes at a mile and one quarter on turf.
A recent victor over the course and distance on Feb. 1, United, a 5-year-old gelding by Giant’s Causeway, retains the services of leading rider Flavien Prat, while Rockemperor, who is based in New York, will be ridden for the first time by current national earnings leader and two-time Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Owner: LNJ Foxwoods
Trainer: Richard Mandella
Off as the 4-5 favorite, he proved gamest late in taking the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on Feb. 1 and has developed into one of the country’s top turf marathoners for Mandella since arriving from Woodbine prior to his first local start nine starts back in February of 2019. A tough-luck second, beaten a neck two starts back in the mile and one half Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar Dec. 1, the best race on his form came three starts back when he was second, beaten a head by eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 2. A recently minted millionaire with earnings of $1,013,549, United has a win, a second and a third from three tries at 1 ¼ miles on turf and is 12: 4-3-1 overall.
Owner: Madaket Stables, LLC, Michael Dubb, Wonder Stables, Michael Kisber & Bethlehem Stables, LLC
Trainer: Chad Brown
A 4-year-old Irish-bred colt with a late running style, he’ll be making his Southern California debut in what will be his second start of the year. An impressive third in his U.S. debut three starts back in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby going this distance on July 6, 2019, he was most recently a non-threatening third in a Grade 2 stakes going 1 1/8 miles on turf at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans March 21. With a recent race under his belt and Ortiz Jr., engaged, Rockemperor should be sitting on a big effort and would obviously be flattered by a fast pace as he stretches out a furlong.
Owner: B G Stables
Trainer: Jeff Mullins
A close second three starts back at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile on Dec. 28, Irish-bred Originaire ran the best race of his 16-race career on Feb. 29, rallying from far back to win a second condition allowance by 5 ¼ lengths at a mile and one eighth on turf while earning a lofty 100 Beyer Speed figure. A fast-finishing second, beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf seven starts back on Sept. 1, 2019, Originaire is a sharp horse trying a mile and one quarter for the first time. Favored in his last two starts at the allowance level, he’ll be ridden for the fourth consecutive time by Umberto Rispoli.
Owner: Wachtel Stable, Barber & Kerr
Trainer: Peter Miller
Fifth, beaten 1 ½ lengths by United three starts back in the Grade 2 San Marcos, this 6-year-old gelding by The Factor was second, beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on dirt March 7. He will be wheeled back just seven days after running third in a Santa Anita allowance on dirt. A winner of one of 13 starts on turf, Multiplier, who is 25: 3-4-3 overall, is one of several that would benefit from a realistic pace on Saturday.
The Whittingham goes as the eighth race with an approximate post time of 7 p.m. ET.
1. Desert Stone—Abel Cedillo—126
2. Multiplier—Drayden Van Dyke—122
3. Bold Endeavor—Mike Smith—122
4. Synthesis—Geovanni Franco--122
5. United—Flavien Prat—126
6. Originaire—Umberto Rispoli—122
7. Rockemperor—Irad Ortiz, Jr.—122