Veteran Whitmore 'loving the training' as a new season begins

Oaklawn Park Communications
February 07, 2020 05:14pm
Veteran Whitmore 'loving the training' as a new season begins
Photo: Coady Photography
If one Oaklawn-based horse had a routine the last two years, it was Grade 1-winning sprinter and millionaire Whitmore for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.

It was like clockwork.

Whitmore would run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November, receive a freshening for a few weeks in Kentucky, arrive at Oaklawn in January, hit the work tab in February and resurface in the Hot Springs Stakes in early March.

That blueprint in 2018 and 2019 resulted in three victories – all stakes – in four starts, with the only blemish being a runner-up finish behind future Eclipse Award winner Mitole in last year’s $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses.

But when Whitmore makes his seasonal debut in 2020, it won’t be in the $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 7, a race he’s won the last three years. Instead, Whitmore will make his 7-year-old debut in the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.

“You don’t have to train as hard every day, and be so dependent on the weather, if you’re super fit,” Moquett said. “You can take a lot of lackadaisical days and not have to worry about scheduling works. We just figured it would probably be the best thing to give him a race and go for there.”

The King Cotton, the first of two major local preps for the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 11, headlines Saturday’s nine-race card. Probable post time for the 6-furlong King Cotton, which goes as race 8, is 4:38 p.m. (Central). First post is 1:05 p.m.

Whitmore is a five-time Oaklawn stakes winner, also taking the Count Fleet in 2017 and 2018. His biggest career victory to date came in the $600,000 Forego Stakes (G1) in 2018 at Saratoga. The 5-2 King Cotton program favorite, Whitmore will be ridden for the first time by newcomer Joe Talamo.

Whitmore concluded his racing seasons in 2017 and 2018 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, finishing eighth and second, respectively. But after finishing third behind Mitole and Shancelot in the $2 million Grade 1 race Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, Whitmore was wheeled back in the $750,000 Cigar Mile (G1) Dec. 7 at Aqueduct. In his first route attempt since the 2016 Kentucky Derby, Whitmore finished seventh, beaten 12 ¾ lengths by eventual champion 3-year-old male Maximum Security.

Moquett said he’s drawing a line through that race because it “wasn’t our kind of track” and “it was kind of a merry-go-round most of the day.” The Pleasantly Perfect gelding has had two published workouts in advance of the King Cotton – a half-mile in :47.60 Jan. 15 and 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 Feb. 2.

“If you were to bring him out now, you would think he’s training better than he was when he was 4,” said Moquett, who will be in Florida Saturday attending the wedding of his son, Chance. “The only thing that we can make all our decisions off of is what we see and what we see right now is a very happy horse that is loving the training. The only real question and concern that I have is trying to get a rider that understands him because he’s not easy to ride.”

If all goes well Saturday, Moquett said Whitmore will again target the Hot Springs and Count Fleet. The gelding has won 12 of 31 starts overall and earned $2,821,350.

The projected King Cotton field from the rail out: Share the Upside, Ricardo Santana to ride, 115 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Hidden Ruler, Joe Rocco Jr., 115, 15-1; Silver Ride, Orlando Mojica, 115, 6-1; Whitmore, Joe Talamo, 115, 5-2; Nun the Less, Rodney Prescott, 122, 9-2; Home Run Maker, David Cohen, 115, 10-1; Tringale, Martin Garcia, 115, 15-1; and Wilbo, Channing Hill, 122, 7-2.

Share the Upside ran second to Whitmore in last year’s Hot Springs for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Wilbo won the 2018 King Cotton for Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015.

Silver Ride exits a 1 ¼-length opening-day allowance/optional claiming victory for trainer Robertino Diodoro, who had a meet-high 10 victories through Thursday. The Candy Ride gelding has two victories and two thirds in his last four starts.

“He’s doing good, that horse, right now,” Diodoro said. “We’ve changed a couple of things with him on his training and that could be the answer to that horse just being a little better than what he has been.”

2020 King Cotton (LS)


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