Wicked Whisper caps Lieblongs' roaring year in Breeders' Cup

October 09, 2019 10:10am
Wicked Whisper caps Lieblongs' roaring year in Breeders' Cup
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA
With purse earnings approaching $1.8 million this year, veteran owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong are in the midst of their best-ever season on the racetrack. Come Breeders’ Cup Friday at Santa Anita Park, things still stand to keep trending up for the Arkansas-based couple.

The Lieblongs will send postward their second Breeders’ Cup starter when Wicked Whisper, the front-running winner of Sunday’s Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, enters the gate as one of the top betting choices for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Wicked Whisper won on debut by 6 ¼ lengths at Saratoga going six furlongs on Aug. 28 for trainer Steve Asmussen. In the one-mile Frizette, the daughter of Liam's Map set all the fractions under Ricardo Santana Jr. and easily fended off a late challenge from favorite Frank’s Rockette to win by 2 ¾lengths.    Alex Lieblong said the effort “was just what I was hoping for,” but noted he had some trepidation given the class hike and stretch out in distance. “To go from a maiden to a non-winners allowance is a big jump. To go from a maiden to Grade 1 is an even bigger jump,” Lieblong said. “I wasn’t worried about her getting the distance just based on who she was working with and how she was working. But in horse racing you might try one new thing. We were trying two new things at the same time, so that had me a little concerned.” Equibase lists the Lieblongs as beginning their stable in 2000 with 16 starters. They have owned three Grade 1 winners prior to Wicked Whisper and one Breeders’ Cup starter. These include top sprinter and Florida stallion The Big Beast, 2015 Alabama (G1) winner Embellish the Lace and Telling, who won the 2010 Sword Dancer (G1) before going on to run sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Alex Lieblong said he was made aware of Wicked Whisper while she was being broken at Harris Training Center in Ocala, Fla., which is the same facility that prepped Embelish the Lace as a yearling. “Robbie Harris at Harris Training Center called and said, ‘I think I have you another Alabama winner if you want to come take a look,’” Alex Lieblong said. “So I did and she was not hard to look at. She pretty much sold herself.” Lieblong wasn’t the only one who saw potential in Wicked Whisper. When entered at the Keeneland September yearling sale, the hammer finally dropped after bidding reached $500,000. It’s a hefty sum for the Lieblongs, who typically have about 20 horses on the racetrack at any one time, but not unprecedented. “I’ve been guilty of worse,” cracked Lieblong, also a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission. “I won the Saratoga Special with I Spent It [who cost $600,000 as a 2-year-old]. But I’ve had some duds. Sometimes it seems the more you pay the worse they do. It’s always nice when one of those you pay a lot of money for runs to its price tag.” Out of the Bernardini mare Zayanna, Wicked Whisper, a half-sister of notable 3-year-old filly Point of Honor, is scheduled to catch a flight from New York to California on Oct. 14 to allow time to prepare locally for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. At Santa Anita, she will join up with stablemates Midnight Bisou and Mitole, among others for Asmussen, to prepare for the Breeders' Cup. “Steve was talking and I agreed that let’s get her out there and let her acclimate just a little bit,” Lieblong said. “It’s like you or I flying. If you get there the night before, it’s fine. But if you get there a few days before, that’s not quite enough. "It’s a fine balance. But Steve’s been doing this a long time and I’m confident in whichever way he wants to go.” 

2019 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)


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