Michael Whittingham's Skywalker drew his trainer's favorite post position--No. 4--but Wednesday was not kind to Michael's father, Charlie, as the fields were determined for the $10-million Breeders' Cup Saturday at Hollywood Park.
First, Charlie Whittingham's Bold Second was declared out of the $1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile when it was learned that the 2-year-old colt had broken a bone in his right front ankle during a workout Tuesday. Bold Second, who had been given a good chance to win the inscrutable Juvenile, may be on the shelf for six months to a year.
Second, Temperate Sil, one of Whittingham's two starters in the $1-million Mile, drew an unfavorable No. 13 post in a 14-horse field. Temperate Sil, who likes to run on the lead or close to it, may have to expend a lot of speed in the quick run to the first turn. The flip side is that Temperate Sil, a problem gate horse, will have to wait for only one other starter to be loaded before the field is sent on its way.
Despite these setbacks, it could still be a big day for Whittingham, a Hall of Fame trainer who has never won a Breeders' Cup race. He has nine starters left in five of the seven races Saturday, including two favorites--Ferdinand in the $3-million Classic and Infinidad in the $1-million Distaff
If Whittingham's horses all finished as high as they could, his barn would earn more than $5.1 million. Trainer Wayne Lukas, who is starting 14 horses in 4 races, is looking at optimum purses of more than $3.2 million.
Besides being Bold Second's trainer, Whittingham is an equal partner in ownership of the colt with Dr. William Seabaugh of Cape Girardeau, Mo. The owners forfeit $40,000--the first one-third of a $120,000 supplementary fee--that they paid last week to make the horse eligible because he hadn't been nominated for $500 as a yearling. The remaining $80,000 would have been due Wednesday.
Sam Rubin knows the feeling. In 1984, before the first Breeders' Cup series was run at Hollywood Park, Rubin paid an initial fee of $133,000 to make John Henry eligible for the $2-million Turf Stakes, then lost the money when the horse was injured a week before the race.
Michael Whittingham is trying to win the Classic for the second straight year with Skywalker, who was successfully bred to 28 mares this spring. Skywalker was a 10-1 longshot in last year's Classic, and he's 6-1, the third choice behind Ferdinand and Alysheba, in Saturday's race.
Skywalker returned to the races this fall and won an allowance race before finishing third, behind Ferdinand and Candi's Gold, in the Goodwood Handicap on an off track Nov. 7. There probably will be a fast track Saturday, with the forecast calling for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70s.
When Skywalker drew No. 4 Wednesday, Michael Whittingham smiled.
Ack's Secret, the stakes-winning mare who was the first horse Michael Whittingham trained for Tom Tatham and the syndicate that races Skywalker, won several times from the No. 4 post. And Skywalker broke from the No. 4 stall when he won his first race, in his first start, at Hollywood Park Nov. 24, 1984.
Eighty-five horses were entered for the seven races, three more than the record that was set at Aqueduct in 1985. There are full 14-horse fields in the Sprint, the Mile and the Turf.
At the other extreme is the Distaff, which will be run with only six starters, three of them saddled by Lukas. This will be the smallest field in Breeders' Cup history, and since purse money is paid all the way back to sixth place, the horses' owners are guaranteed a minimum paycheck of $10,000.
Besides Ferdinand at 5-2 and Infinidad at 8-5, the other favorites are Groovy at even money in the $1-million Sprint, the Gene Klein-owned entry of Lost Kitty, Dream Team, Blue Jean Baby and Over All at 2-1 in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies, Milligram at 7-2 in the Mile, Tejano at 3-1 in the Juvenile and the entry of Theatrical and Louis Le Grand at 5-2 in the $2-million Turf.
None of the horses is listed at more than 30-1 odds, a linemaker's courtesy, but at least one--Sharp Romance--will go off at considerably more than that.
Sharp Romance, a 5-year-old running in the Sprint, is 0 for 29 the last two years and 2 for 50 overall. The Breeders' Cup record, set when Iades went off at 193-1 and finished next to last in the 1986 Classic at Santa Anita, could be broken.
Horse Racing Notes