Kristin Mulhall, six weeks shy of her 21st birthday, hopes to celebrate her first grade I stakes victory as a trainer Saturday at Hollywood Park when she sends out Chilean import Mister Acpen in the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at 1 1/4 miles on turf.Mulhall, a former equestrian rider who took out her license at this meet last summer, has enjoyed a rapid ascent during the past year. She has 31 horses in her stable. "I never thought I'd have this many horses," said Mulhall Friday from her base at Santa Anita. She has already won stakes with Sentimental Value, who won the Matiara here last autumn, and Californian, who captured the Forerunner at Keeneland in April.But Mister Acpen provides her primary source of excitement this week. The 5-year-old horse prepped for the Whittingham with a wire-to-wire victory in an allowance race on the turf here May 21, leaving grade I stakes winners Sarafan and Chiselling and Whittingham opponents Gigli and Cagney in his wake.Mister Acpen, a group I winner in Chile, will make his third United States start. He finished fourth in his United States debut at Keeneland April 11 in the Makers Mark Mile."He had a really bad trip at Keeneland," said Mulhall. "He usually runs on or close to the pace and he got left at the gate. He'll be up there early Saturday. This is the race we have been aiming for."Mister Acpen is owned by a partnership of Neil Papiano, Steve Taub and Noctis Stable. "He was originally purchased in Chile last year by the prince (the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman, owner of The Thoroughbred Corp.) with the intention of running in the King's Cup in Saudi Arabia," explained Mulhall.But when the prince died last July, plans changed, and Mister Acpen was sent to her in December. Mulhall's father, ex-trainer Richard Mulhall, is the general manager for The Thoroughbred Corp.
Mister Acpen was shipped across town Thursday afternoon to school at Hollywood Park but returned to his stall in Arcadia. He'll get another van ride before the Whittingham.