ARCADIA, Calif. (May 26, 2016)–Grass specialists Bal a Bali and Quick Casablanca head a field of 10 three year olds and up in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes, to be run at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
Named for the legendary late Hall of Fame conditioner who was affectionately known as The Bald Eagle, Whittingham remains Santa Anita’s all-time leading stakes winning trainer with 204 added money triumphs to his credit. Originally run as the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap in 1969, the race, which was won a record seven times by Whittingham, was renamed in his honor following his death in April, 1999.
BAL A BALI: A Group I winner in his native Brazil in his only try going 1 ¼ miles on turf, this 6-year-old horse comes off a narrow defeat when third, beaten a neck, in the Grade III San Francisco Mile (turf) at Golden Gate Fields on April 30. Trained by Richard Mandella, Bal a Bali was off as the 9-5 favorite but just missed in a game effort. Third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths two starts back in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile (turf) here on March 12, he has a win and two thirds over the Santa Anita turf and has been first, second or third in his last five starts at middle distances on turf, the last four in graded stakes. Ridden to victory by Flavien Prat in his U.S. debut, the Grade III, one mile turf American Stakes at Santa Anita on May 9, 2015, Pratt has been aboard in his last three starts–all third place finishes. Owned by Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farms, LLC, Bal a Bali is 20-13-1-4 overall, with earnings of $751,478.
QUICK CASABLANCA: Trained by Ron McAnally, who ranks second to the legendary Whittingham with four lifetime wins in the race dating back to superstar gelding John Henry’s consecutive wins in 1980 and ’81, holds a good hand with veteran Quick Casa Blanca, who comes off a facile 2 ¾ length win in the mile and three quarter turf San Juan Capistrano Stakes on April 10. Chilean-bred, Quick Casablanca is an 8-year-old full horse that has responded well to McAnally’s patient handling since arriving from New York early in 2014. Second two starts back in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles San Luis Rey Stakes on March 13, he was a close third three back in the Grade II, 1 ¼ miles turf San Marcos Stakes. Winless in eight tries at a mile and a quarter on turf, Quick Casablanca faces tougher competition in the Whittingham and his connections would welcome a fast pace which would complement his late running style. Owned by Pablo Gomez, Quick Casablanca is 28-5-8-6 overall with earnings of $749,160. He’ll be ridden for the sixth consecutive time by Tyler Baze.
ROYAL ALBERT HALL: A clever 1 ¼ length allowance winner over the course at a mile and a quarter two starts back on March 25, English-bred Royal Albert Hall returns to Santa Anita following a solid third place run in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles turf Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland April 23. Ridden by Flavien Prat, he was beaten a length and will be reunited with Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the allowance win on March 25. Trained by Doug O’Neill, “Albert” has been no worse than third in three starts this year and he is 7-1-3-1 over the local course. Although he has run from well off the pace in the past, he appears best suited when he can sit mid-pack early. Owned by Head of Plains, Keh, Knight and partners, Royal Albert Hall, who has two wins from 18 overall starts, seeks his first U.S. stakes win in the Whittingham. He has earnings of $219,983.
THE GRADE II CHARLES WHITTINGHAM STAKES IN POST POSITION ORDER WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS
Race 8 (of 9) Approximate post time is 5:30 p.m. PDT
- Blingo–Alex Solis–121
- Patentar–Alonso Quinonez–121
- A Red Tie Day–Mario Gutierrez–121
- Montego Day–Drayden Van Dyke–121
- Bal a Bali–Flavien Prat–121
- Royal Albert Hall–Rafael Bejarano–121
- Si Sage–Mike Smith–121
- Play Hard to Get–Kent Desormeaux–121
- Finnegans Wake–Victor Espinoza–121
- Quick Casablanca–Tyler Baze–121
First post time on Sunday is at 2 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. For scratches, late changes and complete morning line information, please visit santaanita.com.