Whitmore takes on top 3-year-olds in Aqueduct's Cigar Mile

November 23, 2019 12:28pm

It’s typically at this point in the season when trainer Ron Moquett’s shutting down his barn star, Whitmore, to rest up in anticipation of Oaklawn Park’s series of sprints to open a new year.

But a midseason break for the veteran gelding set him up to go second off a layoff in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. And a third-place finish Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park reaffirmed to Moquett that 6-year-old Whitmore’s still running at a high level.

On Saturday, Moquett sent Whitmore out for a half-mile breeze at Churchill Downs in 48 2/5 seconds that has him on target to try the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile on Dec. 7 at Aqueduct.

“He’s kind of fresh to be kicking out right now, so we decided to give him one more race and then give him a little breather with Oaklawn being our primary goal,” Moquett said.

The Cigar Mile will be headlined by 3-year-olds Maximum Security, a frontrunner for the Eclipse Award, and Spun to Run, who won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Trainer Richard Mandella said this week he’s also considering the spot for multiple Grade 1 winner Omaha Beach.

“I’ll let everybody handicap it how they want, but I know we’ve seen some really, really nice older horses — some champions — and I don’t know that they have yet,” Moquett said. “Class-wise, I know we’re there. The question is the distance.”

A winner of 12 races from 30 starts, Whitmore ran around two turns as a 3-year-old when campaigned as a Kentucky Derby contender. Since then, he hasn’t traveled as long as the Cigar Mile’s eight panels but has faced, among others, high-profile horses like Roy H, Mitole and City of Light.

“They may have seen just as many good ones,” Moquett said of the Cigar Mile competition, “but I don’t think they’ve seen them with the regularity we have.”

Joel Rosario, who rode Whitmore to a runner-up finish off the bench in Keeneland’s Oct. 4 Phoenix Stakes (G2), has the mount in the Cigar Mile. As for a running style when stretched out a bit, “I really don’t know,” Moquett said of what to expect. “It’s been so long since we did it.

“I’m going to put it in (Rosario’s) hands and just say get him to a nice spot, wherever he’s at where you feel you’re comfortable that you’ve got your kick — whether that’s closer or lagging back. I’ll let those guys figure it out.

“I’m excited about running against those horses, and I’m excited about trying the distance with a ‘we don’t have anything to lose’ mentality.”

2019 Cigar Mile (G1)


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