Gamely Handicap : Whittingham’s 2 French Fillies Take On Adored
Trainer Charlie Whittingham works all the angles in a horse race. His modus operandi for outdistancing the competition is simple: If he can’t outrun them, he outsmarts them. And, to be sure, he usually outnumbers them.
In today’s $100,000-added Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park, Whittingham may have outdone the opposition once again. Of the top three horses in this Grade I filly and mare turf feature, Whittingham trains two--Estrapade and Reine Mathilde.
Estrapade, a former French runner, is the top-weighted starter at 124 pounds. Reine Mathilde, another French import, is the third-highest weight at 120 pounds. Adored, a daughter of Seattle Slew trained by Laz Barrera, will carry the second-highest weight, 123 pounds.
But Whittingham’s winning edge in this 1 1/8-mile turf test is not merely strength in numbers. Both Estrapade and Reine Mathilde are proven runners on the turf. Adored, however, will be starting on the turf for only the second time.
“Estrapade and Reine Mathilde run mostly on the turf,” Whittingham said. “In fact, Estrapade doesn’t run very well on the dirt. Reine Mathilde trains on dirt but usually runs on the turf.”
When Reine Mathilde runs on the turf today, she will be looking for her first win in the United States since coming over from France for the Breeders’ Cup races last fall. She won the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in Canada but finished third in the Hollywood Derby and fourth in the Wilshire. Reine Mathilde fared better in the Matriarch, running second to Royal Heroine.
Estrapade, the 5-year-old daughter of Vaguely Noble, won the Santa Ana Handicap by six lengths. In April’s 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap, the longest Grade I turf race in North America, Estrapade may another impressive showing. She battled Prince True to the wire, finishing the turf marathon in second place.
“She hung in there like the last button on old Job’s coat,” Whittingham said at the time.
Whittingham likes today’s 1 1/8-mile distance, although he has so much confidence in his pair of French fillies that he says it really doesn’t make a difference.
“It wouldn’t matter to Estrapade if the race was 1 1/2 miles or a mile. She handles both well,” he said. “As for Reine Mathilde, the further the better. That horse would run all day and half the night if I let her.”
He may have to let her. Although Adored has had only one previous start on the turf, she is the horse Whittingham will have to beat. In her first start on the turf, Adored ran second to Royal Heroine. In her only other West Coast defeat in more than 10 starts, Adored ran second behind Princess Rooney.
Adored won last month’s Hawthorne Handicap for 3-year-olds and up. With more than $806,477 in earnings, Adored is the richest horse in the race.
The field for today’s contest: Estrapade with jockey Chris McCarron; Envie de Rire with Darrell McHargue; Possible Mate with Jacinto Vasquez; Adored with Laffit Pincay; Johnica with Pat Valenzuela, and Reine Mathilde with Bill Shoemaker. Fernando Toro was scheduled to ride Tamarinda, but the jockey was dumped by his mount in the seventh race Saturday. A new rider will be named today.
Eastern contender Possible Mate has started twice this year, including a big stakes win in the recent Beaugay Handicap at Belmont. Tamarinda, another French filly, won the Merry Madeleine at Golden Gate and ran second by a nose to Johnica in the Wilshire. Johnica, who has won three straight races, has not finished out of the money in five starts this year.
But Whittingham isn’t worried.