December 5, 2022

United faces three in Whittingham

LNJ Foxwoods' United and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade III $100,000 San Luis Rey Stakes Saturday, March 20, 2021 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. Benoit Photo

Charles Whittingham S. (G2) — Race 7 (7:00 p.m. ET)

Short fields will be the order of the day in Santa Anita’s three graded stakes on Saturday, with the featured $200,000 Charles Whittingham S. (G2) attracting just four runners to go 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

United, the circuit’s leading turf male of recent seasons, aims for a title defense of the Whittingham after taking the March 20 San Luis Rey (G3) over a mile and a half in his season opener. His tactical foot figures to be an asset in the short field, though Award Winner and Grade 2 veteran Acclimate should ensure an honest pace for the distance.

Red King is the likely second choice in the field despite entering on a three-race losing skid. The seven-year-old captured last year’s San Juan Capistrano (G3) and Del Mar H. (G2), the latter by a head over United going 11 furlongs.

The $200,000 Triple Bend S. (G2), for older horses over seven furlongs, appears an open race among the five entrants. The back class of the field is the Bob Baffert-trained Eight Rings, who captured the 2019 American Pharoah (G1), but his current ability is open to debate after two modest runs last season in a brief sophomore campaign.

Magic On Tap, also from the Baffert barn, was a sub-par fourth in last month’s Californian (G2) and might appreciate shortening up to one turn. Exaulted, third in the San Carlos (G2) last time in early March, has room for further improvement, as does multiple allowance winner Lambeau.

The $100,000 Daytona S. (G3), a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint, features graded veterans Law Abidin Citizen and Bombard among a field of five.