Antonucci and Castellano Are Back With Astoria Winner Whatintheliteral

June 7, 2024

Whatintheliteral (inside) digs in to win the Astoria (Joe Labozzetta)

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Trainer Jena Antonucci, who capped a memorable 2023 with Grade 1 Belmont Stakes-winner Arcangelo taking the Grade 1 Travers in August at Saratoga Race Course, continued where she left off at The Spa with Whatintheliteral gamely winning Thursday’s $150,000 Astoria, a 5 1/2-furlong main-track sprint for juvenile fillies on Day One of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, at Saratoga Race Course.

Piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, the regular pilot of Arcangelo last year, Whatintheliteral broke sharply from the inside post and paved the way through sharp opening splits of 22.16 seconds and 45.79 over the fast main track with Aoraki applying pressure to her outside in second position and French Horn stalking from third.

The order remained unchanged through the turn and Whatintheliteral continued to battle on the inside of Aoraki for the length of the stretch, fighting on to win by a head in a final time of 1:05.06. After a stewards’ inquiry into the stretch duel, the Lord Nelson dark bay was a maiden no longer, and more importantly, a stakes-winner for owners horseOlogy Racing and Craig Steinhart.

In her two prior outings, both 4 1/2 furlong sprints in April at Keeneland with Castellano aboard, Whatintheliteral traveled off-the-pace during the early stages en route to a fifth on debut and next a closing third to miss by less than one length. A change in tactics proved to be rewarding in the Astoria.

“She’s super quick out of the gate. She had a green moment in her first start, coming out of the chute and then seeing the rail. She learned a lot out of that,” said Antonucci. “Then the second start, she just missed, she needed a little more ground and still ran a little green. Yesterday was a huge education, getting bounced around and coming back to fight and be so determined, you can’t teach that. We are excited to see that fight in her.”

Antonucci confirmed Whatintheliteral exited the race in good order, but she has not yet given much thought about where to point her towards next.

“She’s great, came out of the race great. She did well last night and looks all of her normal, sassy-self today,” Antonucci said.

Antonucci said that while her prosperous 2023 has opened doors with new owners, Whatintheliteral was a Florida homebred by her Bella Inizio Farm out of the Freud-mare Lilikoi, who she trained from 2014-2017.

“She’s a homebred, so that is pretty cool. [Last year] didn’t have any effect on this situation, but it has given different opportunities and more conversations with different owners,” Antonucci said. “I keep saying we are going to be careful with some of that because we really like the people we work with and want to enjoy those relationships, be mindful and not have a number of horses too big.”

An example of an owner Antonucci has been working with is horseOlogy Racing, co-owner of Whatintheliteral, which is the racing leg of a minority and women-owned full-cycle thoroughbred training and ownership organization founded by Katie Miranda and herself.

“HorseOlogy Racing is Katie Miranda. She is my business partner with horseOlogy, but this is her separate vein of enjoying the racing side of things,” Antonucci explained, adding that sometimes others can invest through the organization. “We do that with some of the pinhooking stuff we do and developing young horses.”

Awarded a 69 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory, Whatintheliteral is now 3-1-0-1 with $89,129 in earnings.

Very well done piece by The King, John Stettin twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

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