Charlie Whittingham, the 73-year-old trainer, has the favorites in both the San Rafael Stakes and the Santa Anita Handicap this weekend, and both Temperate Sil and Ferdinand have drawn the No. 9 post positions.
"This must be my lucky number," Whittingham said Friday, right after Ferdinand's number had come up 9 in the draw for Sunday's $1-million Big 'Cap. Whittingham already knew that his 3-year-old colt, Temperate Sil, who in two months may try to do what Ferdinand did last year--win the Kentucky Derby--had drawn No. 9 for today's San Rafael at Santa Anita.
There are nine horses in each race, but the assignment of breaking from the outside is more difficult for Temperate Sil, since the San Rafael is only a mile, compared to the 1-mile Big 'Cap. At Santa Anita, mile races start at the finish line, which means the horses have a short run to the first turn.
So, will Bill Shoemaker try to gun his horse to the lead, even though that's not Temperate Sil's style of running? Or will he take back and then risk being trapped on the rail, or behind a wall of horses, when the serious running starts?
"There's nothing I can tell Shoe," Whittingham said. "He'll just have to do the best he can."
Temperate Sil, who'll be making his first start as a 3-year-old, having won the Hollywood Futurity in his last race, has been in this spot before. The 9-10 favorite in the Del Mar Futurity last September, the roan son of Temperence Hill broke from the No. 8 stall in a nine-horse field and finished fifth, 8 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Qualify.
"Del Mar is more of a problem than here," Whittingham said. "For one thing, he didn't break good. He was fractious going into the gate.
"That first turn down there is much sharper than it is at Santa Anita, and he got carried out. Shoe tried to take back, and then we got treated to the fickle finger of fate."
There's a chance that the public will make Masterful Advocate the favorite today. Already the winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows and the Los Feliz Stakes at Santa Anita this year, trainer Joe Manzi's colt has been sharp in the mornings and finished only two necks behind Temperate Sil in the Hollywood Futurity.
Manzi is not talking himself into an easy time against Temperate Sil, though, just because Whittingham's colt drew on the outside.
"A horse or two might come out of the race," Manzi said. "That would put Charlie's horse in the seven spot, which wouldn't be too bad."
Alysheba, third behind Capote and Qualify in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November and second in the Hollywood Futurity, is entered today. But it's more likely that trainer Jack Van Berg will run Alysheba Sunday in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that follows the 50th running of the Big 'Cap.
Manzi said that he wouldn't have run Masterful Advocate had the San Rafael been on Friday, but Santa Anita's rain-pelted surface is expected to be better today if the fair-weather forecast holds.
Whittingham, who scratched Temperate Sil from the San Vicente Feb. 14 because of a sloppy track, said the colt would definitely run today, which will be his only prep for the Santa Anita Derby April 4.
SANTA ANITA HANDICAP FIELD
1 MILES ON DIRT
PP HORSE JOCKEY WGT ODDS 1 Bruiser Alex Solis 113 20-1 2 Broad Brush Angel Cordero 122 9-2 3 Snow Chief Pat Valenzuela 126 9-5 4 Bedside Promise Gary Stevens 121 6-1 5 Nostalgia's Star Fernando Toro 118 20-1 6 Bozina Corey Black 110 30-1 7 Hopeful Word Laffit Pincay 116 15-1 8 Epidaurus Gary Baze 115 7-5 9 Ferdinand Bill Shoemaker 125 7-5
ENTRY: Epidaurus and Ferdinand.
PURSE: First place (estimated): $550,000; Second: $200,000; Third: $150,000; Fourth: $75,000; Fifth: $25,000.