Whitmore exited “crazy good” from his powerful six-length victory in his sprint stakes debut, the $ 125,000 Hot Springs for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett said Sunday morning.
Remaining perfect in five career sprint starts, Whitmore ran 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.72 under Ricardo Santana Jr., the third-quickest time in the 73-year history of the Hot Springs. It was also the third-largest margin of victory.
“He did what we wanted him to do against some very good horses,” Moquett said. “We knew he could do the distance. He did it against some classy horses.”
Whitmore will be pointed for the $ 400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15, Moquett said.
Hot Springs runner-up Ivan Fallunovalot will also be pointed for the Count Fleet, trainer Tom Howard said Sunday morning.
Whitmore was coming off a sharp 2 ¾-length allowance/optional claiming score Jan. 15 in his 4-year-old debut. He ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.81, the fastest time ever at Oaklawn for that distance during January.
The Pleasantly Perfect gelding was a 7 ¼-length winner of his career debut sprinting and resurfaced following a 19th-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby with a second-level allowance/optional claiming victory Dec. 3 at Aqueduct at 6 ½ furlongs.
Moquett said the Hot Springs was the best race Whitmore has ever run. The gelding had to wait for room approaching the quarter-pole, then uncorked a scintillating turn of foot to open up by four lengths in mid-stretch.
“This was a pretty tough test because these were all proven warriors at that distance,” Moquett said. “One reason I was happy was because he did it the right way.”
Whitmore’s first career stakes victory, and fifth in 10 starts overall, pushed his earnings to $ 637,000 for Southern Springs Stable (Moquett), Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta. He is 0 for 5 around two turns, but finished second last year in Oaklawn’s $ 500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $ 900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and third in the $ 1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
Moquett decided to target shorter races for Whitmore following the Kentucky Derby.
The Hot Springs was the 194th career Oaklawn victory for Moquett, who saddled Gentlemen’s Bet to win the 2015 Hot Springs. He also became the second trainer at the meet to surpass $ 1 million in purse earnings ($ 1,045,849) with Whitmore’s victory. The trainer has 16 victories to rank fourth in the standings.
Whitmore represented the first victory for Santana, Oaklawn’s four-time time defending riding champion, since Feb. 23. The rider suffered a separated shoulder in a March 2 spill and resumed riding Friday. Santana, Ramon Vazquez and Geovanni Franco are tied atop the standings with 31 victories through 36 days of racing.
Ivan Fallunovalot rebounded from a sluggish fourth in the $ 125,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 4 to finish 1 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher Fish Trappe Road on Saturday. The gelding didn’t break sharply in the Hot Springs and was angled out five-wide turning for home under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.
“When Calvin chose to go the outside, Whitmore got the jump on us and he is a good horse,” Howard said. “He’s a fast horse.”
Ivan Fallunovalot, a $ 25,000 claim by Howard at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting, increased his career earnings to $ 832,058 with his runner-up finish. He won the King Cotton in 2015 and 2016 for Howard and owner Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, Ark.
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