CHARLES WHITTINGHAM H. | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/4-MILES TURF
Kretz Racing's Tale of a Champion overtook pacesetter Lucky Primo in the stretch and kicked clear from 6-5 favorite All Squared Away to register the upset in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,250 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Sent away at 10-1, Tale of a Champion tracked in third, chasing splits of :25, :48 3/5 and 1:13 3/5, seized control approaching the eighth pole, and then drew off to win by a length under Joe Talamo. He returned $22.40, $7.20 and $5 after completing 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.
"The race set up perfectly for him today," Talamo said. "There wasn't much pace and he just sat right behind and at the quarter pole was able to come off the rail. He fought off that outside horse [All Squared Away]. My horse felt his presence at the eighth pole and kept digging in."
All Squared Away held second by 1 1/4 lengths over Lucky Primo, who finished ahead of Niagara Falls by the same margin. Lime Rickey and Slim Shadey completed the order of finish following the scratch of Smart Ellis.
Not debuting until age four, Tale of a Champion won four of his first five starts, including the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint at Calder going five furlongs, while under the care of trainer Christos Gatis. However, he went unplaced in his final four starts of 2012, all in graded company, after being transferred to trainer Kristin Mulhall.
Tale of a Champion kicked off 2013 with a fifth in the San Gabriel, and then finished second in a starter handicap. Third in the Joe Hernandez next time, he preceded this initial graded triumph with a victory against starter handicap foes at Santa Anita on March 30. His record now stands at 14-6-1-1, $269,708.
"I think we've misplaced this horse in the past and he hasn't had the best trips," Mulhall said. "He feels like he wants to run two miles when he's galloping. I told the owner about five races ago I'd like to see him go a mile and one half. We were trying to build his confidence up at Santa Anita. He's been training really well. We've been working him short trying to get him to relax, but he's been galloping out strong. We might come back in the Sunset Handicap [on July 14]."
Bred in Kentucky by Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel, Tale of a Champion was reared by the Seattle Slew mare If Angels Sang, who also produced the five-year-old's full sister, Ilusora, a multiple Group 3 winner in Argentina.
Tale of a Champion's second dam, multiple Grade 2 winner Chapel of Dreams, is the ancestress of French highweight Reckless Abandon, Group 1 winner Crowded House, and Grade 2 winners Postponed and Juniper Pass. Tale of a Champion's third dam, multiple Grade 2 winner Terlingua, also reared legendary sire Storm Cat.
Breeders' Cup Mile hero Royal Academy also hails from this female line.