If trainer Charlie Whittingham is going to the Kentucky Derby this year, it will be with Compelling Sound.
Excavate, the $1.1-million yearling and one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby future book after he broke his maiden last winter, won’t be heading to Churchill Downs. A knee problem will keep him out of that race and, of course, Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.
“He has a little heat in the knee,” Whittingham said. “We X-rayed it and there are no chips or anything. He doesn’t have to have any operation, but he’s such a big horse, you can’t take a chance on running him.
“We’ll give it a month, then X-ray it again and see.”
A son of Mr. Prospector and a half-brother to Desert Wine, Excavate has won two of his four starts. After trailing badly in the San Rafael Stakes March 3, he won an allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths two Sundays later. Second that day was Quintana, the longshot winner of Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Compelling Sound, who would have been coupled with Excavate in the Santa Anita Derby, will represent the Whittingham barn in the race. He was most recently third behind Sea Cadet and Scan in the San Felipe Stakes March 17.
Anshan brightened the day for Whittingham when he defeated Louis Cyphre by a nose to win the $271,400 San Bernardino Handicap.
A victory in the San Bernardino is hardly novel for Whittingham. He has now won the Grade II race three consecutive years and has won seven of the last 11.
Anshan, beaten by 17 1/2 lengths in the Santa Anita Handicap during a troubled trip, had no problems Saturday at 9-2 and nailed Louis Cyphre at the wire to win in 1:47 for the 1 1/8 miles.
This was the second victory in six U.S. starts for the 4-year-old Persian Bold colt and provided Corey Nakatani with a victory in his first ride for Whittingham.
“Charlie came to my agent (Tony Matos) and asked if we wanted to ride him,” Nakatani said. “Tony maneuvered a bit with some other trainers. I want to thank Mel Stute for letting me off Morlando (who finished fifth).
“I’d worked some horses for Charlie, but never had a chance to get into the barn. Charlie said to ride him with confidence and stay wide. He said to keep clear of the dirt and get to the outside turning for home. I was just waiting, and as soon as it opened up, he went right through.
“Until we got to the wire, I didn’t think we would catch (Louis Cyphre). But he kept trying and digging to the wire. I told Jose (Santos), ‘I got you’, but neither one of us was really sure.”
Louis Cyphre, who had finished fifth in the Big ‘Cap, opened up a 1 1/2-length lead a furlong from the finish, but couldn’t hold on. Pleasant Tap was four lengths back in third, a nose ahead of My Boy Adam, the 17-10 favorite.
“I thought we had it,” Santos said. “He ran good and tried the whole way. (Trainer) Bobby (Frankel) wanted him to be in front. When I asked, he was going all the way. At the three sixteenths pole, he opened up by about two lengths and waited a little bit. When he heard (Anshan) coming, he went again.”
Noble And Nice and Annual Reunion, who finished in a dead heat for the victory in the Santa Ana Handicap March 10, are among six fillies and mares entered in today’s $216,400 Santa Barbara Handicap.
The probable favorite in the Grade I event is Appealing Missy, who is one of the two entrants who didn’t run in the Santa Ana.
The 4-year-old Lypheor filly, trained by Ron McAnally, ran third in the Bay Meadows Derby against males in her American debut last December before winning back-to-back allowance races at Santa Anita.
Noble And Nice has won three of four since joining Julio Canani’s barn. Annual Reunion will be seeking her third consecutive victory today for Gary Jones. Bequest was third in the Santa Ana as the 13-10 favorite. Louve Bleue beat low-level allowance horses and Marsha’s Dancer figures to be the longest shot in the field after finishing seventh in the Santa Ana.
Horse Racing Notes
There will be a mandatory payout in the Pick Nine today because the pool exceeded the $500,000 cap Saturday. . . . Hollywood Park’s request for six Friday night programs at its upcoming meeting was approved by the California Horse Racing Board at its monthly meeting Friday. Post time will be at 7 p.m. the last six Fridays of the season, which begins April 24 and concludes July 22. The CHRB also approved a revised wagering format at Hollywood Park. The track will offer $2 exactas on every race, $1 exactas on Thursday, a $1 trifecta on the final race and a $3 late double on the eighth and ninth races. There will also be three triples and the Pick Six.
Survive outfinished Paper Princess and favored Linda Card to win the $57,400 Shywing, an overnight handicap run as the third race. Winning for only the second time in 12 starts on the turf, the 7-year-old Pass The Glass mare covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13 1/5 under Russell Baze and paid $8.40. . . . Never Subtle, a half-brother to Very Subtle, will make his debut in today’s sixth race. A $77,000 yearling purchase, Never Subtle is a son of Saratoga Six and is trained by Dean Greenman. Also in the field is Rocky Mountain, a $1.8-million yearling who beat only five horses in three starts at Belmont Park last year. Wayne Lukas trains the Alydar colt and owns him in partnership with Overbrook Farm.
Charlie Whittingham’s string of successes in the San Bernardino before Anshan includes victories by Borzoi (1981), The Wonder (1983), Greinton (1985), Judge Angelucci (1987) and Ruhlmann (1989 and 1990).