One week before Father's Day, Bienamado earned a 1 1/2-length victory in Hollywood Park's $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT), a race his sire Bien Bien won in course-record time in 1993. As the 1-2 favorite, Bienamado carried highweight of 124 pounds home in 1:59.34 after running the 1 1/4 miles on a firm turf course.
Trainer Bobby Frankel, who earlier on the card sent out the first- and third-place finishers in the Californian Stakes (gr. II), saddled two runners in the Whitingham as well. In the feature race, his runners -- Senure and Timboroa -- finished second and third, respectively.
Last year's winner White Heart came home fourth, as a nose and a head separated the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers. Falcon Flight, Cagney, Catchacoma, Raypour, and Bombard completed the order of finish.
Bienamado's jockey Chris McCarron allowed Bombard a lonely lead, tracking the pacesetter in second position through moderate fractions. Bombard led Bienamado by three lengths after a half-mile in :48.52 and by 2 1/2 lengths after six furlongs run in 1:12.40. Bienamado soon moved up to challenge and was just a half-length back with a quarter-mile to run. Bienamado led into the lane and held the closers safely at bay to earn his third grade I win and the $210,000 winner's share of the purse.
"He's a very, very special horse," McCarron said. "He is just so professional. He's aggressive when he leaves the gate, then after we go a certain ways, he kind of gets the idea of what I want, and he starts cooperating. I was confident down the backside, around the far turn, turning for home, at the wire. I was confident in the paddock, actually. It would take an awfully good horse to beat him, one that has to run :22 and change the last quarter because he ran :23 and one today. There aren't many horses that can do that."
Paco Gonzalez trains Bienamado for owner-breeders John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, the same connections as his sire. Bienamado is co-owned by Robert Sangster.
"Right now, I think he's at his best because when he ran in the Capistrano he ran so hard, and this race I think is one of his toughest races," Gonzalez said. "Tougher horses and he still ran pretty good. He's a good colt. He's not a cheater. Not a horse that gives you one good race and one bad race, he tries hard every time. Every time he gives you everything."
Sunday's win improves his career record to eight wins from 15 career starts. Aside from the Whittingham, Bienamado has also earned grade I wins in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap and Hollywood Turf Cup. Gonzalez said Bienamado would be pointed toward the Arlington Million, a grade I race which eluded him last year when he finished fourth as the favorite.
Bienamado returned $3, $2.40, and $2.10. Senure paid $3.40 and $3.20. Timboroa was worth $4.20 to show. The $1 exacta paid $5. (Chart, Equibase