United likely will be heavily favored to successfully defend his 2020 victory in the $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2T) May 29 at Santa Anita Park, where he is scheduled to face just three rivals in the 1 1/4-mile turf event.
The race is the seventh of nine on the card, with an approximate post time of 4 p.m. PT.
Racing Hall of Famer Richard Mandella trains United for owner LNJ Foxwoods. Santa Anita’s current leading jockey Flavien Prat is set to ride from post 4.
A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway —Indy Punch , by Pulling Punches , United will be making his third consecutive appearance in the Whittingham. His stakes debut came in the 2019 renewal when he finished second by three-quarters of a length to Marckie’s Water after clipping heels early crossing the dirt and racing wide. The Whittingham begins on the lower part of Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, and horses cross the dirt track before making more than one complete tour of the main course.
When United returned for the 2020 Whittingham, which he won by a nose, he was much more seasoned. In between the two editions of the race, he captured the San Marcos Stakes (G2T) and placed in three other graded races, including a close second to Bricks and Mortar in the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T). Bricks and Mortar, the Breeders’ Cup winner and another son of Giant’s Causeway, was subsequently voted 2019 Horse of the Year.
Video: Charles Whittingham S. (G2T)
Since last year’s Whittingham, United won the 2020 Eddie Read Stakes (G2T) and John Henry Turf Championship (G2T) and the 2021 San Luis Rey Stakes (G3T). He enters Saturday’s test off that victory, a 1 1/2-mile turf test at Santa Anita.
“Acclimate has trained as good as he ever has,” D’Amato said. “I’m just going to see whether or not he still has that spark to be a graded stakes horse. He sure trains like it in the mornings.”
The Ellwood Johnston Trust, Timmy Time Racing, and Ken Tevelde own Acclimate, a 7-year-old gelded son of champion Acclamation . Acclimate, the champion California-bred older male and turf horse of 2019, won that year’s Del Mar Handicap Presented by The Japan Racing Association (G2T) and San Juan Capistrano Stakes (G3T). This year he has placed in three stakes.
Ricardo Gonzalez, who has been breezing Acclimate in the mornings for D’Amato, will ride the gelding for the first time. Acclimate drew the rail.
“Ricky and I have done well together,” D’Amato said. “He won a Cal-bred stakes (the Fran’s Valentine Stakes) for me a couple of weeks ago on Leggs Galore .”
Umberto Rispoli will pilot Red King from post 3. A 7-year-old Kentucky-bred son of English Channel , Red King races for Little Red Feather Racing, Gordon Jacobsen, and Philip Belmonte. He enters off a third-place finish in a starter race at 1 1/2 miles on the Santa Anita turf.
“Red King had his prep off the bench post Breeders’ Cup layoff, and he’s doing very well,” said D’Amato.
Unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, Red King won the 2020 Del Mar Handicap and San Juan Capistrano.
Amerman Racing’s Award Winner , a 5-year-old gelded Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper , completes the field. Juan Hernandez will be in the irons from post 2 for trainer David Hofmans. Award Winner ran second in the 2019 Kent Stakes (G3T) at Delaware Park when trained by Brian Lynch and has had two seconds and a win in allowance optional claiming company in three starts since sent to Southern California and Hofmans.
Santa Anita Park, Saturday, May 29, 2021, Race 7
- Grade II
- 1 1/4m
- Downhill turf
- 3 yo’s & up
- 4:19 PM (local)