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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Whitney Coming to GP to Watch Gorgeous Bird

2/20/2015

Her Eton blue and brown silks will be on display Saturday when Marylou Whitney's homebred Gorgeous Bird steps up to stakes company for the first time in the Fountain of Youth.
 
Trained by Ian Wilkes for Whitney and her husband of 17 years, John Hendrickson, Gorgeous Bird is the fourth choice on the morning line at 6-1. Joel Rosario will ride.

“We know we’re a long shot, but we love the horse all the same and we think he has ability, so we thought we’d take a shot,” Hendrickson said. “We don’t have any false expectations; we hope he just runs well. If he happens to win, we won’t have 120,000 people booing us, I hope.”

That was a reference to the 2004 Belmont Stakes, when Whitney homebred Birdstone upset Smarty Jones at odds of 36-1.

“There’s a lot of history to that name,” Wilkes said. “Everyone knows Marylou. She’s just a tremendous lady and John, they’re just tremendous people. They’re such a pleasure to train for because the most important thing for them is the horse. They don’t want to push the horse to get to the Derby. Take care of the horse first, that’s what they’re about.”

Hendrickson was at Antony Beck’s Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky. when Gorgeous Bird was foaled in 2012.

“Antony’s mother, Rhona Beck, who is just a wonderful lady, she rarely goes out to see the horses foaled. She was there to see this one, too. She means the world to us. We’ve been there since the beginning. These horses mean more to us than trophies. We just hope he stays sound and continues to have a nice career. If not, he’ll have a nice home.”

Gorgeous Bird was unveiled last summer at Saratoga, finishing sixth in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden event. He broke his maiden in his next start going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs in November, and was a seven-length winner in his 3-year-old debut, a one-mile entry-level allowance on January 24 at Gulfstream.

“I was very satisfied the way the horse did it,” Wilkes said. “He’s just improving, and that’s all you can ask. Every step I’ve asked him to do he’s improved and gotten better, and that’s all you can ask them to do.

As they were for the allowance race, Whitney and Hendrickson will be at Gulfstream for the Fountain of Youth.

“She’s thrilled, but Marylou is also realistic,” Hendrickson said. “We’ve been in this position before. We’re happy to be in the race and we think he belongs. We wouldn’t have entered him unless we thought he belonged. He’ll have to take a big step up and we hope he does it.”

Whitney’s last starter in a Triple Crown race was Luv Gov, who ran fifth in the 2009 Belmont Stakes. Neither she nor Hendrickson will let emotion dictate whether Gorgeous Bird follows on the Triple Crown trail.

“We have a lot of respect for Ian and his ability and it’s always the horse that comes first,” Hendrickson said. “It’s not our expectations or whims; the horse will take us there if he’s ready. If he’s not, we’re never disappointed. They’re animals and we love them all the same.”

In 2010, Marylou Whitney earned an Eclipse Award of Merit for her contributions to racing, 16 years after a similar honor was bestowed on Sonny Whitney. The award ceremony took place at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel.

“I have loved the sport of Thoroughbred racing ever since Sonny Whitney introduced me to it in 1958,” Whitney said in her acceptance speech. “I am grateful for the honor – in a small way – to carry on the traditions of the Whitney family who have been in this business since 1894. Horses and people involved in racing have always given me more than I could ever give them. Horse racing is where I feel the most alive and at home. You are my family.”


Edited Gulfstream Park release
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