Bettors had the Frank Whiteley, Jr. Stakes just right.
They made Never Gone South the 3-5 favorite in the seven-furlong test for three-year-olds, and the Munnings colt made virtually every step a winning one en route to a 7 1/4 length victory.
Never Gone South broke well and took the early lead, tugging the field through a quarter mile in 24.14 seconds, with second choice Marengo Road and Huntin’theholidays in close attendance. At that point, the competitive portion of the event may well have been over.
“This was my fourth time on him, and he’s gotten better with each race,” said jockey Trevor McCarthy, who has piloted Never Gone South to two wins and two seconds in those four starts. “Today was definitely his best race. He really showed his true class today.”
Never Gone South continued to hold a short lead over the posse rounding the far turn, and when McCarthy shook him up nearing the head of the lane, the horse burst suddenly clear.
“He’s been ding-donging with some really nice horses,” said trainer Cathal Lynch, who recently moved his operation to Maryland from Parx Racing. “We just didn’t know how good they were when we faced them.”
Included in that group were Awesome Speed, who won the James F. Lewis and more recently took the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, and Vorticity, most recently second in the Grade 3 Jerome at Aqueduct.
Never Gone South completed the 7 furlongs in 1:23.92, covering the last three-eighths in a sharp 36.01 seconds. Marengo Road held second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of late-running Henry the King.
As for the future, Lynch said he might again try deeper waters.
“This horse has a lot of ability,” he said. “Right now we’ll point for the Miracle Wood and then the Private Terms and then maybe the Tesio and then, hopefully, the Preakness.”