Whitmore looked like the best sprinter in the Midwest and East, if not the country, when he won the Maryland Sprint after three dominating victories.
But the 4-year-old gelding, based at Churchill Downs with trainer Ron Moquett, is a fat 15-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s $2 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar. That’s what a pair of thirds — in Belmont’s True North (G2) and Laurel’s DeFrancis Memorial (G3) — will do to a reputation, even with Whitmore returning for a nose victory over Awesome Banner in Keeneland’s Phoenix Stakes (G2).
“It’s one of those deals where you’re trying to keep a horse at a certain level,” Moquett said. “You’re changing tracks, changing jockeys, changing everything. That’s one of the things we’re working on. I don’t think it had anything to do with the horse, it was more the trainer.”
Whitmore has been a handful, often requiring two people in the stall with the gelding just to do basic grooming. Moquett started sending the gelding out to train in the dark — as he does at Churchill — to get him to relax.
“He’s all boy, always trying to impose his will,” Moquett said. “That’s fine, that’s one of the things we love about him, wouldn’t have him any other way.
“I’m wanting to build him and have him explode on race day -- not every day between here and there. So keeping him happy and relaxed every day is good,” he said, adding of wife Laura, who is Whitmore’s exercise rider, “When she’s happy, I’m happy.”
Whitmore, who is unbeaten in two starts with jockey Manny Franco — is the eighth choice in the Sprint’s field of 10 running six furlongs. Being under the radar is just fine with Moquett.
There’s a lot of speed in the Sprint, which could set it up nicely for Whitmore’s closing kick, though the short Del Mar stretch does him no favors.
“Top to bottom, it’s a very good field,” Moquett said. “I wouldn’t have placed the odds the same way as other people. But that’s how horse racing was made: Some people thought their horse was better than the next guy’s. We’re ready to get out there on Saturday and see what we can do.”
Whitmore stands as testament that there is life after finishing up the track in the Kentucky Derby, the gelding struggling home 19th of 20 last year after earning a shot by finishing a decent third in the Arkansas Derby. He has not raced farther than 6 1/2 furlongs since.
“We were happy to be at the Derby,” Moquett said. “It wasn’t our day, but we regrouped, and now he’s made over $1 million and is making everybody happy.”
Source: JR Communications, LLC (Jennie Rees)