Coastal Mission Thrills in Frank Whiteley

April 13, 2024

Coastal Mission. (Jim McCue/MJC)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md. – Multiple stakes winners Coastal Mission and Prince of Jericho hooked up at the top of the lane and battled the length of the Laurel Park stretch before Coastal Mission won a head bob at the wire for a thrilling nose victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Frank Y. Whiteley for 3-year-olds and up.

The seven-furlong Whiteley was the third of four $100,000 stakes on an 11-race program, preceded by the one-mile Heavenly Cause and six-furlong Primonetta for fillies and mares 3 and older and anchored by the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer, also for horses 3 and up.

Ridden by Arnaldo Bocachica for trainer Jeff Runco, both based at Charles Town where the 5-year-old gelding had won each of his three previous stakes races, Coastal Mission ($5) covered the distance in 1:23.21 over a fast main track to earn his 12th victory from 19 starts.

It was the second win from six tries at Laurel for Coastal Mission and first since an optional claiming triumph in February 2022. Each of the Great Notion gelding’s previous two starts came in one-mile stakes at Aqueduct, where he ran fourth in the March 2 Stymie to open his 5-year-old season.

“We were looking at this race coming into April, so we gave him a couple chances in New York. The mile seemed to be just a tick long for him, so we wanted to shorten him back up to seven-eighths and this looked like the perfect spot,” Runco said. “I love him. He’s a great horse.”

Swiftsure, exiting the outermost post, was sharp at the break and quickly in front, going the opening quarter-mile in 22.92 seconds with Prince of Jericho, winner of the 2023 Spectacular Bid and Concern sprinting seven furlongs at Laurel, pressing to his outside with Twenty Four Mamba another path out in third and Coastal Mission saving ground along the rail in fourth.

Prince of Jericho stuck a head in front midway around the far turn after as the half-mile went in 45.46, when Bocachica tipped off the rail to set up his run. Coastal Mission split the tiring Swiftsure inside and Twenty Four Mamba to the outside and set his sights on Prince of Jericho for a drive to the wire. Prince of Jericho came back after being passed in deep stretch by Coastal Mission to set up the dramatic finish.

It was 4 ½ lengths back to 50-1 long shot Union Fleet in third and another three to Brilliant Ice in fourth. Dontmesawithme, Twenty Four Mamba, Swiftsure and Royal Ship, a two-time graded-stakes winner in southern California making his first start in 260 days, completed the order of finish. Brother Conway, six-for-nine lifetime at Laurel, was scratched.

In addition to returning to Laurel, where he had placed in three consecutive stakes at 2 and 3, Coastal Mission was back at a distance where he now owns seven wins from nine starts with one second and one third. He ended last year making his graded-stakes debut in the Cigar Mile (G2), finishing fifth of 12 at odds of 15-1.

“His numbers just kept getting better when he won the open stake last August on Charles Town Classic day. He got a big number out of that, and I thought it was time to take him on the road and show him some real stuff outside Charles Town,” Runco said. “We wanted to try a mile with him.

“I didn’t expect the Cigar Mile to come up with a 12-horse field this year, but it did. Last year, it was like five. It’s just how it worked out,” he added. “We wanted to give him a try. He ran respectably. He got a little tired [last time]; he was off quite a while before that race. Then we wanted to shorten him up to seven-eighths. He loves that distance.”

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