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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Oaklawn Park’s legendary sprinter Whitmore will be seeking his third title in this Saturday’s edition of the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), facing off against 10 other older male sprinters.
Trained by Ron Moquett and to be ridden by Joe Talamo for the third straight time, Whitmore will attempt to become the first horse in history to thrice win the 6-furlong dirt sprint. He took the 2017 and 2018 editions over a fast surface but was no match in the slop against Mitole last year. Whitmore finished second in the King Cotton Stakes to kick off 2020 before winning the Hot Springs Stakes for the fourth straight year last time out.
Riding Mitole in his matchup against Mitole was Ricardo Santana, Jr., who rode him a total of 14 times, including both Count Fleet victories. Santana, Jr., will be aboard Nitrous for trainer Steve Asmussen in this year’s edition. The 4-year-old son of Tapit will be making his 2020 debut over a course where he has seen prior success. Nitrous won last year’s Bachelor Stakes over this same distance before running second in both the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) and the Amsterdam Stakes (G2).
Familiar foe Hog Creek Hustle, winner of the 2019 Woody Stephens, is back to face several of these rivals once again. He followed his Woody Stephens score with a nose defeat in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) and eventually ended the year finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) behind Mitole. Saturday will be his first time running at Oaklawn Park and his first with Drayden Van Dyke aboard.
“It’s one of those deals where these are all nice horses,” Moquett said. “I’ve run against a bunch of them before. I’ve run against Hog Creek Hustle, I’ve run against Bobby’s Wicked One, I’ve run against Lexitonian, ran against Wendell Fong, Mr. Jagermeister, Share the Upside. We’ve run against, what, seven out of 10? But it’s just funny that you run against them all at the same time.”
Here is the full field for Saturday’s Count Fleet Sprint Handicap:
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