Favored Midships gained a clear advantage in the home stretch and held off the surprising Globetrotter by a half-length to score his first grade I victory in the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park June 6.
It was the third consecutive win -- all in graded company -- for the Juddmonte Farms' homebred trained by Bobby Frankel.
Ridden superbly by Victor Espinoza, Midships settled into an easy stalking spot in second behind a pedestrian pace set by Liquidity in the 1 1/4-mile turf event. Fractions were :25.44, :49.15 and 1:13.32. The 4-year-old son of Mizzen Mast appeared ready to strike whenever Espinoza wanted him to as they rounded the final turn, and they grabbed the lead as they reached the top of the stretch.
Artiste Royal, winner of last year's Whittingham, and second choice Madeo were also in position to challenge, along with Globetrotter. Artiste Royal rallied four wide to threaten and Madeo closed from between horses but Midships was up for the fight and kicked clear to lead by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to run. Artiste Royal and Madeo failed to sustain their bids late and instead it was Globetrotter, ridden by Joe Talamo, who made things interesting.
The lightly raced son of Street Cry was running best of all approaching the wire but ran out of room. Artiste Royal, who had every opportunity for a repeat win in the Whittingham, was 1 1/2 lengths behind in third with Joel Rosario aboard. Madeo finished fourth, 4 1/2 lengths behind Midships, followed by Liquidity and Union Avenue.
Midships, who began his career in Great Britain under the tutelage of Amanda Perrett, has found his way in U.S. racing since debuting in this country with a third-place finish in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) last fall. The gray/roan colt won both the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) and the about 1 /34-mile San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) this spring at Santa Anita after being allowed to dictate an easy pace.
In the intermediate Whittingham, the gray/roan colt did not have that luxury. Though the pace was quicker, he showed plenty of determination when challenged.
"I just ignored Liquidity," Espinoza said. "I knew he was the longshot in the race and the distance was probably a little bit too far for him. I was worrying only about my horse. He went wire-to-wire the last couple of times but I wanted to try something new today. I didn't want to get too far back but I didn't want to use him too much on the backstretch. He was comfortable all the way around and the trip worked out perfect."
Assistant Humberto Ascanio, who saddled Midships for Frankel (who was in New York), credited Espinoza for a smart ride. It was Frankel's record-tying seventh win in the Whittingham (known until 1999 as the Hollywood Turf Handicap) and his first victory in 20 starts at the current meet. With 149 stakes wins at Hollywood, Frankel is second only to Whittingham’s 222.
Midships' fifth win in 15 lifetime starts added $180,000 to his bankroll, bringing his career total to $525,830. Midships is out of Interim, by Sadler's Wells.
He carried 118 pounds, one less than the high-weighted Madeo, and paid $5, $3.40 and $2.20.
The 4-year-old Globetrotter, who resumed racing in March for trainer John Sadler after being out of action for nearly 16 months, returned $5.20 and $3.60 in just his sixth lifetime start. The $2 exacta was worth $29.40.
"They were going kind of slow so naturally he was up close," Talamo said of the runner-up. "He was running real good at the end and it was a good step up for him. I thought I had a shot at the eighth pole to get (the winner), but you can't take anything away from Midships. Maybe an extra sixteenth and we would have gotten him."
Artiste Royal, who won last year's Whittingham by a neck over Monzante and Lava Man in a blanket finish, was $2.80 to show.