Tarkington couple’s racehorse to compete in Evangeline Downs this December

The Grand Legend, under jockey Rodrigo Vallejo, has qualified for the Evangeline Downs this December.

The Grand Legend, a racehorse owned by Jim and Linda Whitener of Tarkington and a second silent owner in the Life’s Good Racing Partners LLC, set the fastest qualifying time among 40 horses over the weekend to compete in the Evangeline Downs Derby in Opelousas, La., on Dec. 14.

The 4-year-old gelded quarter horse, trained by Jimmy Padgett and under jockey Rodrigo Vallejo, sprinted for 400 yards with a time of 19.581 seconds. It will contend for a $137,020 purse in next month’s big race.

“He is feeling good. He looks good and is ready to run,” said Jim Whitener, who also owns Whitener Enterprises in Cleveland.

Earlier this year in June, the horse nearly qualified in the top 10 at the Heritage Place Futurity at the Remington Park race track in Oklahoma City. Out of 150-200 horses trying out for the $1 million purse race, The Grand Legend came in 11th place, missing the 10th place spot by 0.004 of a second. His time qualified him for the second level of races with a $100,000 purse, and he won.

“We ran him in the Texas Classic, which is another $1 million race, and he qualified as 12th,” said Whitener, adding that a change of trainers helped the horse move up into the first round of qualifiers.

Over the years, the Whiteners have developed an eye for good horses, but Jim said there is no way to predict if a horse will have what it takes to win.

“Looking at one that looks right and finding out what they need is part of it, but you can’t tell right away if a horse has winning in its heart. It takes a heckuva trainer to find out what will make that horse run,” he said. “There is a little bit of magic to it and a whole lot of luck.”

The Whiteners began raising race horses in 2002. During that time, they’ve raised 50-60 horses and currently have seven competing at tracks. Between the partners, they have six other horses, including three yearlings, in training at the Diamond G Ranch in New Waverly.

Whitener is hoping for a good outcome in the Evangeline Downs race in December.

“He already outran all the other horses. He just has to do it again,” Whitener said.

To watch the race online, go to https://www.aqha.com/racing-overview.

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