ARCADIA, Calif. (May 21, 2014)–Hall of Fame trainers Ron McAnally and Neil Drysdale will again square off in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes, as McAnally’s Quick Casablanca and Drysdale’s Fire With Fire head a competitive field of nine 3-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter on grass.
Separated by just a head after going 1 1/8 miles on turf in the Grade III Last Tycoon Stakes April 25, Quick Casablanca, ridden by Joe Talamo, closed with a rush to tag Fire With Fire and Tyler Baze at the wire in 1:48.62 and on the strength of their respective performances, they appear to be the top two going into Saturday’s Whittingham.
An imposing physical specimen, Chilean-bred Quick Casablanca made his U.S. debut on May 15, 2013, and was winless in five New York starts prior to making his first start at odds of 16-1 for McAnally in the Last Tycoon.
Away slowly, he was next-to-last, 2 ¾ lengths off of Fire With Fire through modest fractions of 25.00, 49.60, 1:13.40 and 1:36.80. Wheeled four-wide at the top of the lane, Quick Casablanca attempted to lug in a bit, but responded in game fashion when roused by Talamo to win going away.
Owned by Pablo Gomez, 6-year-old Quick Casablanca was a Group I winner at 1 5/16 miles on dirt in Argentina and he has a second and a third from three tries lifetime at a mile and a quarter on turf. He’s 17-4-6-4 overall, with earnings of $548,580.
Drysdale’s Fire With Fire, a front-running winner two starts back of the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes at a mile and a half on grass, prepped for his San Luis Rey triumph by taking the one mile turf Cotton Fitzsimmons Handicap at Turf Paradise on Jan. 18 and is thus a head short of having won three in-a-row.
Owned by David Heerensperger, the 6-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor has a second place finish from three tries at a mile and quarter on turf and it’s expected he’ll again be sent to the early lead by Baze on Saturday. His overall mark stands at 31-6-8-5, and he has earnings of $535,354.
An impressive gate-to-wire allowance winner going 1 1/8 miles on turf May 10, Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Segway has solid graded stakes credentials and along with Fire With Fire, figures to ensure a solid pace in the Whittingham.
Trained by Richard Mandella, the 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding was a close third four starts back in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 14, and he finished a close fourth three back in the Grade II San Marcos Stakes at a mile and a quarter. Segway has three wins and two thirds from nine starts and earnings of $150,060.
An attentive second early behind Fire With Fire in the Last Tycoon, Jerry Hollendorfer’s Joelito tired late to finish sixth, beaten 2 ½ lengths at odds of 3-1. The Whittingham will be his first try beyond 1 1/8 miles and his fourth attempt in added-money competition. A 4-year-old colt by Rock Hard Ten, Joelito is owned by J.W. Singer, Inc. He has three wins and three seconds from 11 starts and earnings of $155,907.
Bright Thought is yet another who has done his best running on the front-end and he returns to Southern California following a ninth place run in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 3. Trained by Jorge Gutierrez and owned by Dye and Venneri Racing, Inc., Bright Thought’s career highlight came in last year’s Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes, when he coasted home in front by 3 ¼ lengths. He has four wins and a third from 11 starts and earnings of $179,821.
The complete field for Saturday’s Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes, to be run as the seventh race on a nine-race card, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Soi Phet, Martin Garcia, 119; Quick Casablanca, Joe Talamo, 119; Bright Thought, Victor Espinoza, 119; African Oil, Kent Desormeaux, 119; Irish Surf, Elvis Trujillo, 119; Fire With Fire, Tyler Baze, 124; Segway, Gary Stevens, 119; Joelito, Corey Nakatani, 119, and Dr Action, Tiago Pereira, 121.
First post time on Saturday is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.