On Whitney Weekend, Whitney Stables Captures Spa Maiden

Empire Island | Sarah Andrew


It's been more than four years since Saratoga socialite Marylou Whitney passed away, but thanks to her husband John Hendrickson and trainer Norm Casse, her memory is never far away when it comes to the Saratoga season.

Marylou Whitney Stables, now operated by Hendrickson, won with its first starter at the meet when homebred Empire Island (Classic Empire) won the day's sixth race by three-quarters of a length over Lady Moscato (Quality Road). A six-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies that was run at six furlongs, it had a purse of $136,500.

“It's awesome,” Casse said of his association with the Whitney stable. “This is such a humbling thing and it makes me really proud.”

Breaking from the rail under Ricardo Santana Jr., Empire Island broke alertly and settled into third as favorite Gypsy Tales (Munnings) went to the front. Lady Moscato moved first and got past Gypsy Tales but wasn't able to hold off Empire Island's late run.

Gypsy Tales, sent off at 9-5, tired in the stretch and finished sixth.

“She's the epitome of class,” Casse said. 'She acts like an older horse already. She's super talented. I was a little bit concerned today. She got up here and spiked a temperature and that's why she had to scratch opening day.  So she hasn't really been on a regular routine work pattern. So I was worried she might be short today. But this is a very talented horses and I am thrilled for the connections.”

Lady Moscato (Quality Road) is owned by BC Stables Ltd and is trained by Wayne Lukas. She was an $800,000 Keeneland September purchase and nearly gave the BC Stables-Lukas team its second maiden winner in as many days. They hit Saturday with Just Steel (Justify).

Empire Island's winning time was 1:11.79, while the first division of the race, won by 'TDN Rising Star' Ways and Means (Practical Joke) was clocked in 1:10.51.


6th-Saratoga, $105,002, Msw, 8-6, 2yo, f, 6f, 1:11.79, ft, 3/4 length.
EMPIRE ISLAND (f, 2, Classic Empire–Gull Island, by Giant's Causeway) earned a sentimental 5-1 shot as a homebred for Saratoga's own Marylou Whitney Stables and settled in third just off the speed of post-time favorite Gypsy Tales (Munnings). Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. was asking her a long way from home but she began to respond with a move into upper stretch, taking aim on Lady Moscato (Quality Road) who had assumed command from Gypsy Tales. Up past that rival inside the final sixteenth, Empire Island gained a bit of separation on the wire for the three-quarter length win. The first foal of out of a daughter of champion 3-year-old filly Bird Town (Cape Town), Empire Island counts MGSW Bird Song (Unbridled's Song) and MGISW Birdstone (Grindstone) as members of her extended family. Gull Island has Vekoma yearling still to race and was bred to Twirling Candy for next year. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $57,750. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.
O/B-Marylou Whitney Stables LLC (KY); T-Norm W. Casse.

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