Finnegans Wake tops ten-horse field in Whittingham Stakes

Veterans of the turf take center stage on Sunday afternoon at Santa Anita Park in the 1 and 1/4 mile Charles Whittingham Stakes. It will be contested as Race 8 with an approximate post time of 5:30 p.m. PST. The Grade II event carries a purse of $200,000.

Leading the brigade is #9 FINNEGANS WAKE, who will be making his first real start of the year. You can draw a line right through his effort from April 9, as the one-mile Thunder Road Stakes was merely a tune-up for a spot like this. He’s excelled on firm turf throughout his career, and that’s exactly what he’ll get on Sunday. If FINNEGANS WAKE runs back to any of his efforts from the first half of last year he’ll be very tough to beat under regular pilot Victor Espinoza.

#5 BAL A BALI figures to take a lot of money as he continually hits the board in spots like this, just at shorter distances. BAL A BALI won at 10 furlongs and beyond in his native Brazil but has displayed hanging tendencies in California, so I can’t take him on top at a short price. Flavien Prat sticking with him is an encouraging sign though.

#7 SI SAGE upset the Last Tycoon Stakes at this distance last April before hitting the shelf. His first two races of the year came over a yielding turf and a wet-fast dirt track, so I’m willing to give him another chance at these more ideal conditions. He’s also one of the few entered in here with any early initiative, which could work to his advantage. Trust Mike Smith to give this horse the best possible chance of stealing the race up front.

#10 QUICK CASABLANCA won the marathon-length San Luis Capistrano last time out after hitting the board in the San Luis Rey and San Marcos here earlier in the year. However, those races may not have attracted the highest quality fields, as massive longshots took both the San Luis Rey and San Marcos while several mares opted to try their luck against the boys as well. Tyler Baze will need to work out a ground-saving journey from post 10 to give this one a shot at hitting the board.

I’m also giving #2 PATENTAR and #6 ROYAL ALBERT HALL a shot at running underneath. ROYAL ALBERT HALL was Rafael Bejarano’s choice of the two, and while he’s been a little camera-shy throughout his career (just 2-for-18), he frequently hits the board in stakes races. #2 PATENTAR makes his stakes debut, and he’s demonstrated a powerful late kick, especially in a win over this course in his last start.

The play: $2 trifecta 9/5/2,6,7,10, 20 cent superfecta 9/2,5,6,7,10/2,5,6,7,10/2,5,6,7,10 ($20)

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