Favorites Look Fast in Whitmore, San Carlos

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

With the Road to the Kentucky Derby taking a one-week hiatus before the final round of preps, the graded stakes slate this weekend looks a little light.

However, there are two intriguing sprint stakes on the agenda. The $250,000 Whitmore S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park and the $100,000 San Carlos S. (G3) at Santa Anita have both drawn small but quality fields with fast favorites in the mix.

Let's take a look at both races:

Whitmore S. (G3)

Seven capable sprinters will face off over six furlongs in the Whitmore, including #3 Ryvit (2-1), who posted a flashy 99 Beyer Speed Figure when taking an allowance over this track and distance by two lengths last month. The four-year-old colt won a bevy of sprint stakes last year, including the Chick Lang S. (G3), and boasts a 4-for-6 record at Oaklawn Park.

But there are a couple of possible chinks in Ryvit's armor. For starters, he tends to race on or near the lead, and there's quite a bit of speed in the Whitmore field—#5 Ninja Warrior (5-1) and #6 Jaxon Traveler (12-1) in particular could apply early pressure to Ryvit. And one of Ryvit's Oaklawn defeats came when finishing fifth in the six-furlong Ring the Bell S. behind #2 Tejano Twist (9-5), a stretch runner who figures to receive a favorable setup this Saturday.

Tejano Twist has been winning stakes since 2021, but he's gotten particularly good in recent starts. On Nov. 4, he rallied strongly to beat a deep field in the six-furlong Bet On Sunshine S. at Churchill Downs, earning a 101 Beyer. On Dec. 9, he launched a last-to-first charge to dominate the Ring the Bell by five lengths while Ryvit faded after an early duel.

Tejano Twist's latest effort came in the Feb. 3 King Cotton S. sprinting six furlongs at Oaklawn. Over a sloppy track that played kindly toward horses racing inside, Tejano Twist rallied wide to finish second by 3 1/4 lengths against gate-to-wire winner Skelly, who was recording his seventh straight victory. The form was flattered when Skelly came back to finish a strong second in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) in Saudi Arabia.

Skelly isn't entered in the Whitmore, so assuming Tejano Twist gets a fair track and a decent pace to work with, I expect him to comfortably bounce back to the winner's circle.

San Carlos S. (G3)

Although seven horses have entered the seven-furlong San Carlos, one stands out as the most likely winner: #1 The Chosen Vron, who has been nothing less than a winning machine since his debut in December 2020. To be precise, he's won 15 of 20 starts, with a second and two thirds for good measure.

Many of The Chosen Vron's victories have come against California-bred company, but his forays into the graded stakes ranks have been quite productive. As a three-year-old in 2021, he won the 6 1/2-furlong Lazaro Barrera (G3) and 1 1/16-mile Affirmed (G3). And last summer, he battled to a tenacious victory in the six-furlong Bing Crosby (G1).

The Chosen Vron enters the San Carlos having won 10 of his last 11 starts. His lone defeat during that streak came when fifth (beaten only 5 1/4 lengths) in the 2023 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). He's bounced back from the Breeders' Cup to easily beat California-breds in the seven-furlong Cary Grant S. and six-furlong Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint S., so with his hot form and consistently strong Beyer Speed Figures (which often reach the triple-digit range), The Chosen Vron looms as a formidable favorite in the San Carlos. I'll be surprised if he loses.

Second place looks like a battle between #2 Elwood Blues, a Bob Baffert trainee with three straight victories under his belt, and #4 Ghost of Midnight, who has likewise won three in a row for hot conditioner Mark Glatt. Elwood Blues has run a bit faster on the Beyer scale, but Ghost of Midnight has won three of his four sprints starts by daylight margins and should finish strongly while cutting back in distance off a pair of allowance optional claiming wins racing one mile at Santa Anita.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Whitmore and the San Carlos?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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