‘He Was Everybody’s Hero’: Mandella Remembers Namesake Of Charles Whittingham Stakes

After a trip to Dubai for the $6-million Sheema Classic on March 28 that never came to fruition because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, United is safe and sound at home with Richard Mandella at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., preparing for the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at a mile and a quarter on turf Saturday, May 23.

“I took him to Dubai to school him,” Mandella said in typical self-deprecating fashion. “Seriously, he came back well, he’s in great shape and there’s not a race I’d rather win than the Whittingham.”

The grass marathon is named for Charlie Whittingham, a racing icon who reached a training plateau his peers can only dream of approaching. Mandella has not won the race since it became the Whittingham in 1999. He did saddle Sandpit to a victory in 1996 when the race was known as the Hollywood Turf Handicap and run at Hollywood Park.

Whittingham won more than 2,500 races including the San Juan Capistrano Stakes a remarkable 14 times.

A three-time Eclipse Award winner, the “Bald Eagle” was the oldest trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner twice, with Ferdinand in 1986 and Sunday Silence in 1989. Art Sherman surpassed Whittingham by winning the Run for the Roses at the age of 77 with California Chrome in 2014.

“Whittingham was one of my heroes, but he was everybody’s hero,” said Mandella, not one to heap praise lightly and not effusing kudos simply because Charlie’s ghost might be hovering about.

You see, Mandella is headquartered in Barn 4 at Santa Anita, where Whittingham held fort for decades until he died at 86 on April 20, 1999.

“Charlie always talked about a tin can filled with a recipe for peaches that he buried at the barn, and only Molly knew where he hid it,” Mandella said, resurrecting a favorite Whittingham yarn he was wont to spin.

“I’ve dug up every foot of land around there and can’t find the can.”

But back to the business at hand.

“All the horses returning from Dubai had to go through quarantine in New York, then flew home from there,” Mandella said. “Sheikh Mohammad and his CEO of the Dubai Racing Club, Frank Gabriel, went beyond the call of duty to get the horses out safely before the virus shut down racing.

“Gabriel worked 24 hours a day to get it done. He really felt terrible about the cancellation and did everything to make it as right as he could to get them home.”

The post ‘He Was Everybody’s Hero’: Mandella Remembers Namesake Of Charles Whittingham Stakes appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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