Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Terp Racing’s Still Having Fun came charging down the stretch along the inside to snatch the lead from favored Wentz and go on to his first career stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. at Laurel Park.
The sixth running of the seven-furlong Whiteley for 3-year-olds and the 30th running of the six-furlong Marshua for 3-year-old fillies were among four $100,000 stakes on the 10-race program, along with the Native Dancer for 4-year-olds and up and Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older, both contested at about 1 1/16 miles.
Still Having Fun ($7) completed the distance in 1:23.05 over a fast main track to kick off Laurel’s series of sophomore stakes that continues with the one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 17, 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 17 and 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio April 21, a ‘Win and You’re In’ event for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1).
“I’m very proud of him,” winning trainer and co-breeder Tim Keefe said. “This horse has what you can’t teach a horse. He has the desire to win, and I don’t care what you do to a horse. If they don’t want to win like this horse does … He’s got talent, he’s got ability and he’s learning with every race.”
It was just the third career start for Still Having Fun, a bay Old Fashioned colt that was beaten a neck in his stakes debut in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity Dec. 9 at Laurel. Unlike his previous effort, where he raced closer to the lead, regular rider Feargal Lynch settled Still Having Fun off a pace of 22.84 seconds and 46.37 set by Wentz.
Wentz, the even-money favorite off a Nov. 27 maiden win at Parx, came off the rail around the far turn leaving room for Still Having Fun to scoot through, and they opened up after finding daylight to win by 4 ½ lengths. Despite bearing out badly in the final sixteenth, Wentz held on for second by a half-length over V.I.P. Code.
William and Mary, Oldfashioned Club, multiple stakes winner Whirlin Curlin and Old Time Revival completed the order of finish.
“We decided to take him back today,” Lynch said. “We were prominent on him last time and he just didn’t have the experience. Tim’s done a great job teaching him and we took our time today. When the gap opened up on the rail, he just shot through it.”