O Dionysus favored in Whiteley
O Dionysus. Photo by The Racing Biz.
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Marathon Farms’ stakes winner O Dionysus, narrowly beaten in his most recent start New Year’s Eve, is set to kick off his sophomore campaign in Saturday’s $75,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. at Laurel Park.
The sixth running of the six-furlong Whiteley for 3-year-olds is one of four stakes worth $300,000 in purses on the nine-race program highlighted by the return of multiple stakes-winning millionaire Page McKenney in the $75,000 Native Dancer.
Also on tap are the $75,000 Marshua for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs and the $75,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older at about 1 1/16 miles.
O Dionysus, a bay son of Bodemeister, enters the Whiteley, in which he is the 6-5 morning line favorite, off a gutsy effort in the seven-furlong Marylander Dec. 31 where he dueled for the lead the length of the stretch before falling a nose short of well-regarded Irish War Cry.
Prior to that he was fourth in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity behind multiple stakes winner Greatbullsoffire, who he defeated in the Christopher Elser Memorial Stakes at Parx. He was also runner-up in his second career start to No Dozing, who went on to finish second in the Remsen (G2).
“He came out of the last race good. It was a great race and he did run super. He’s prepping up to it fine,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “I’d sure like to stretch him out at some point but I think with him the more racing he does, the better he’s going to be. He’ll get better the more he runs and the more comfortable he gets.”
Worse than third only once in six starts, O Dionysus was equipped with blinkers for the first time in the Marylander and Capuano said he will continue to use them for the foreseeable future.
“It was just to make him focus a little more at the gate. He can be a handful at the gate at times so we put the blinkers on. It seemed to make him focus a little more in the gate and not be so antsy in there,” he said. “It worked out good. He broke really well last time. He had been breaking a little bit slow because he’s been a little wound up in the gate and he doesn’t settle real good. That seemed to help him, at least in that race.”
Capuano’s brother, trainer Dale Capuano, will send out stakes-placed High Roller (7-2) in the Whiteley. Louis Ullman and Stephen Parker’s bay High Cotton colt was behind stablemates El Areeb and Two Charley’s in the James Lewis III Nov. 19, also at six furlongs, and was second in a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance Dec. 26 behind The Great Ronaldo, who also returns in the Whiteley.
Based at Laurel with trainer Cal Lynch, El Areeb stamped himself a Triple Crown race contender with his victory in the Jerome (G2) Jan. 2 at Aqueduct to open his 3-year-old season.
“He won his first start and then he was third to that real good horse of Cal Lynch’s. He’s a killer,” Capuano said. “That race wasn’t too bad. Five-and-a-half furlongs was too short for him, but we couldn’t get any races to fill going longer so we ended up there.
“We’re hoping the seven-eighths should be right up his alley this weekend,” he added. “He’s been training excellent since that race. He’s had a couple of good works so he should be all set. We’re looking forward to running him seven-eighths and see how he does.”
The Great Ronaldo, stakes-placed In Arrears and Butch Walker, and recent Laurel maiden winners Blackjack Buster, Eastern Bay and Generous Jack are also entered.