'Due diligence' guides Breeders' Cup decision for Whitmore

October 22, 2019 03:13pm

Ron Moquett hasn’t declared Whitmore for a specific Breeders’ Cup race having cross-entered him in the $2 million Sprint and $1 million Dirt Mile. The trainer’s still unsure the 6-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect, the runner-up in last year’s Sprint running out of his own stall at Churchill Downs, will make the trip at all for a Nov. 2 race at Santa Anita Park.

Moquett said Tuesday he’s considering “what’s best for the overall career of this animal” knowing Whitmore, a gelding, is also scheduled to race next season for the connections of Robert LaPenta, Head of Plains Partners and Moquett’s Southern Springs Stables.

“There’s a lot of horses that will run at Breeders’ Cup, and that’ll be the last time they run,” the trainer said. “What happens after that race and what comes out isn’t necessarily the same concern as me. Some will go to stud. Some of them will be sold as broodmares. Mine’s a gelding, and he’s going to get to go back into training.”

Whitmore has won once in five starts this year, taking the listed Hot Springs Stakes off the bench on March 9 at Oaklawn Park. From there, he ran behind top sprinter Mitole in the County Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and Churchill Downs Stakes (G1), then finished an uncharacteristic eighth in Belmont Park’s June 7 True North (G2).

Moquett used that finish, paired with a grab on his foot, as an excuse to turn Whitmore out. The chestnut returned to be second most recently in Keeneland’s Phoenix (G2), an automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“He’s as good now as he’s been in a long time,” said Moquett, who oversaw Whitmore’s Friday breeze, a bullet half mile in 46.80 seconds, at Churchill Downs. “I’m very pleased with where he’s at.”

Whitmore’s scheduled for one more work under the Twin Spires before connections decide on shipping west. Moquett expects it to be an easy one, with four furlongs in the range of 49 to 50 seconds.

Alluding to safety concerns about Santa Anita’s main dirt surface, Moquett said he’s “trying to do some research and find out about the track. My job is to take care of the horse.” Plus, Whitmore’s a known closer, and Santa Anita has favored speed since its fall meet opened. But Moquett said he always expects that to be the bias when saddling Whitmore on big race days.

The trainer said he’s OK making an unpopular decision to bypass the Breeders’ Cup if that’s in the horse’s best interest.

“A month ago, would we have considered going to California and running? It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a three-horse race,” Moquett said. “I wouldn’t have done it. But now, speaking to trainers out there and people who I respect, I’m finding out more and more about the surface and everything. That’s just not a place I frequent.

“I owe it to my do my due diligence.”


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