01/13/2016 2:08PM

Mid-Atlantic: Henry the King still learning


For a slow learner, Henry the King is off to a fast start.

Purchased for $30,000 by trainer Greg Sacco at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale, Henry the King was 2 for 2 last year, winning a Parx maiden race and a Laurel Park optional-claiming race. He will take another step up in class Saturday when he begins his 3-year-old season in the $75,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. on Saturday at Laurel Park.

“He’s a May foal, and he’s been slow to develop, physically and mentally,” Sacco said.

Henry the King bucked shins over the summer and didn’t make his debut until Nov. 14.

“He showed some promise but would run with horses in the morning and not go by them,” Sacco said. “I usually don’t run horses first time with blinkers, but with him, I did.”

Outside of horses early, jockey Mychel Sanchez swung Henry the King to the inside nearing the stretch, and he closed up the rail to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

“At Philly, that is sometimes hard to do,” Sacco said.

In his Laurel race, Henry the King was fanned four wide into the stretch. He took the lead and then turned back a late challenge to win by a length.

“He never switched leads but looked like he had plenty left when that horse came to him,” Sacco said.

Sacco realizes the Whiteley isn’t an easy assignment for Henry the King, who is owned by Rising Sun Racing Stables.

“This is the next step for him,” Sacco said. “The seven-eighths should help. The owners are from Maryland, and they’re excited about the race.”

Sacco, 50, said he was able to buy Henry the King for a reasonable price because his pedigree isn’t overly fashionable. Henry the King is by Henrythenavigator, a four-time Group 1 winner on turf for Aidan O’Brien who in his lone U.S. start finished second to Raven’s Pass in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. He is out of the Linkage mare Society Gal, who is now 26. Her best foal is Mona de Momma, the winner of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff and Grade 3 Las Flores in 2010.

“He was a nicely put together horse, but his dam is an older mare,” Sacco said. “Henrythenavigator was a very good horse, but he’s not a hot stallion.”