Saturday was a banner day for hot young sire Bernardini. Before his Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Stay Thirsty rolled in the Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct, another promising sophomore WILBURN drew off in grand style in his career debut in the 2ND race at Santa Anita.
Owned by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, the handsome bay traveled comfortably for Mike Smith while tracking the fierce pace of :21.27 and :43.73. Wilburn cruised up to confront the front-running 3-5 favorite Chico d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) turning for home, soon took command, and began to open up through six furlongs in 1:07.89.
Striding out powerfully down the lane, Wilburn widened his advantage to 3 1/4 lengths at the wire, zipping 6 1/2 fast-track furlongs in a sharp 1:13.95. The track record of 1:13.11 was just set on January 14 by Grade 1-winning five-year-old Square Eddie (Smart Strike). Wilburn returned $9.40, $5.40 and $2.40 as the 7-2 second choice.
Purely Awesome (Awesome Again) overtook Chico d'Oro for second by 2 1/4 lengths. Interestingly, Chico d'Oro and Purely Awesome had just finished second and third, respectively, to Wilburn's stablemate Albergatti (Unbridled's Song), who is expected to make his stakes debut in next Saturday's San Felipe S. (G2).
An early nominee to the Triple Crown, Wilburn was bred by Woodbridge Bloodstock in Kentucky. The colt first sold for $75,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, but his current connections snapped him up for $625,000 as a two-year-old in training at Keeneland last April.
Wilburn is a half-brother to Beethoven (Sky Mesa), the winner of the 2008 Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2). They are out of Arlington-Washington Lassie S. (G3) heroine Moonlight Sonata (Carson City), who is herself a half-sister to Futurity S. (G1) and Saratoga Special S. (G2) victor Bevo (Prospectors Gamble). Further back, this is the family of 18-time stakes queen Twixt (Restless Native), winner of such notable events as the Top Flight H. (G1), Firenze H. (G2), Milady H. (G2) and two editions of the Barbara Fritchie H. (G3).