Whilly Seeks San Marcos Repeat; 14 Entered

(from Santa Anita notes)
Irish-bred Whilly, who provided 40-year-old journeyman jockey Felipe Martinez with his first graded stakes victory in last year's San Marcos (gr. IIT), will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the 1 1/4-mile event over Santa Anita's turf course on Sunday.

Martinez's "favorite horse" who will carry co-high weight of 119 pounds among 14 entrants in the 54th running of the $150,000 San Marcos. With 14 starters, it would be the largest field in San Marcos history, topping the 13 of 1990 when Putting won under Corey Black for Julio Canani.

Whilly has earned $877,482 from eight wins in 13 starts and shares the high weight assignment with Always First, winner of Hollywood Park's Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) last summer, and Atlando, another Irish-bred who was victorious in Belmont Park's Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) in October.

After leading wire-to-wire in last year's San Marcos, Whilly traveled to the United Arab Emirates where he finished second in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I). He subsequently won Hollywood Park's American Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) for Triple B. Farms. Trainer Doug O'Neill has rested Whilly since his disqualification from second to fifth in Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) on Oct. 2.

O'Neill, who employs Martinez regularly, calls the Mexico native "a poster boy for the blue-collar rider," adding that he has been eagerly awaiting Whilly's return, especially after the disqualification ruling in his last start. Whilly was scratched from his last start because rain forced a switch to the main track.

The San Marcos also marks a continuation of a comeback by The Tin Man, who lost the 2003 running by a head to that year's turf champion, Johar. The 8-year-old gelding returned from 14 months on the sidelines to win an allowance event on Dec. 28.

Trained by Richard Mandella for Ralph and Aury Todd, The Tin Man has earned $1,136,860 from eight victories in 22 lifetime starts. He won the Clement L. Hirsch in 2002.

Atlando finished well to gain second behind Badge of Silver as the 5-2 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) on Jan. 1, and trainer Darrell Vienna is hoping the Irish-bred gelding finds the added furlong of the 1 ΒΌ-mile San Marcos Stakes Sunday to his liking.

"I don't think it will hurt him," Vienna said. "He ran his race (in the San Gabriel); he just couldn't catch the winner."

Atlando has a 5-2-1 record from 14 starts, with earnings of $233,765 for owner Gary Tanaka.

$150,000 San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:10 p.m.), 4 & up, 1 1/4 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. License To Run (BRZ), 115, Patrick A. Valenzuela
2. Warrior Song (KY), 117, Aaron T. Gryder
3. Always First (GB), 119, Corey S. Nakatani
4. Rebel Rebel (IRE), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
5. Adreamisborn (KY), 117, Javier Santiago
6. Whilly (IRE), 119, Felipe F. Martinez
7. Estevan (KY), 115, David R. Flores
8. Bouthan (FR), 115, Alex O. Solis
9. The Tin Man (KY), 115, Victor Espinoza
10. Milk It Mick (GB), 115, Kent J. Desormeaux
11. Fitz Flag (ARG), 115, Jon K. Court
12. Sigfreto (FL), 115, Tony Farina
13. Atlando (IRE), 119, Martin A. Pedroza
14. Toasted (KY), 115, Jose Valdivia, Jr.