HOT SPRINGS, AR – Whitmore exited “crazy good” from his powerful 6-length victory in his sprint stakes debut, the $125,000 Hot Springs for older horses on Saturday at Oaklawn, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett said Sunday morning.
Remaining perfect in five career sprint starts, Whitmore ran 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.72 under Ricardo Santana Jr., the third-quickest time in the 73-year history of the Hot Springs. It was also the third-largest margin of victory.
“He did what we wanted him to do against some very good horses,” Moquett said. “We knew he could do the distance. He did it against some classy horses.”
Whitmore will be pointed toward the Grade 3, $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 15, Moquett said.
Hot Springs runner-up Ivan Fallunovalot will also be pointed for the Count Fleet, trainer Tom Howard said Sunday morning.
Whitmore was coming off a sharp 2 3/4-length allowance/optional claiming score on January 15 in his 4-year-old debut. He ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.81, Oaklawn’s fastest time ever for that distance during January.
The Pleasantly Perfect gelding was a 7 1/4-length winner in his career debut sprinting and resurfaced, following a 19th-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby, with a second-level allowance/optional claiming victory on December 3 at Aqueduct over 6 1/2 furlongs.
Moquett said that the Hot Springs was the best race Whitmore has ever run. The gelding had to wait for room approaching the quarter-pole, then uncorked a scintillating turn of foot to open up by 4 lengths in mid-stretch.
“This was a pretty tough test because these were all proven warriors at that distance,” Moquett said. “One reason I was happy was because he did it the right way.”
Whitmore’s first career stakes victory, and fifth in 10 starts overall, pushed his earnings to $637,000 for Southern Springs Stable (Moquett), Harry Rosenblum, and Robert LaPenta. He is 0-for-5 around two turns, but finished second last year in both Oaklawn’s Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes and Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes, then finished third in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Moquett decided to target shorter races for Whitmore following the Kentucky Derby.
The Hot Springs was the 194th career Oaklawn victory for Moquett, who saddled Gentlemen’s Bet to win the 2015 Hot Springs. With Whitmore’s victory, he also became the second trainer at the meet to surpass $1 million in purse earnings ($1,045,849). The trainer has 16 victories this meet, ranking fourth in the standings.
Whitmore represented the first victory for Santana, Oaklawn’s four-time time defending riding champion, since February 23. The rider suffered a separated shoulder in a March 2 spill and resumed riding Friday. Santana, Ramon Vazquez, and Geovanni Franco are tied atop the standings with 31 victories through 36 days of racing.
Ivan Fallunovalot rebounded from a sluggish fourth in the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 4 to finish 1 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Fish Trappe Road on Saturday. The gelding didn’t break sharply in the Hot Springs and was angled out five-wide turning for home under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.
“When Calvin chose to go the outside, Whitmore got the jump on us, and he is a good horse,” said trainer W. T. Howard. “He’s a fast horse.”
Ivan Fallunovalot, a $25,000 claim by Howard at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting, increased his career earnings to $832,058 with his runner-up finish. He won the King Cotton in 2015 and 2016 for Howard and owner Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, AR.
Just a Fantasy
Southern California-based It Tiz Well could return to Oaklawn for the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Saturday night.
It Tiz Well, in her two-turn debut, was a 1-length winner over Benner Island in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Honeybee Stakes, the final major local prep for the Fantasy.
“I think we might try to look at that,” Hollendorfer said. “That might come up a little tougher, but at least she handled the track and she did what we wanted her to do on this trip.”
Ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani, It Tiz Well set a stakes record (1:42.61) for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track. Imaginary Lady set the previous record (1:43) during the second running in 1989.
A daughter of Arch, It Tiz Well was coming off a 3 3/4-length first-level allowance/optional claiming victory on February 3 at Santa Anita. In her 3-year-old debut, she was beaten 7 1/2 lengths by heralded stablemate Unique Bella in the Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes on January 8 at Santa Anita.
“We’ve been looking at this race,” Hollendorfer said, referring to the Honeybee. “We’ve got several good fillies and thought this race fit It Tiz Well the best.”
Owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC (Tommy Stull), It Tiz Well increased her career earnings to $226,840 following her third victory in five starts. With her Honeybee victory, she also earned 50 points toward starting eligibility for the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Hollendorfer won the Fantasy and Kentucky Oaks in 2010 with Blind Luck, the country’s champion 3-year-old filly that year. In his absence, It Tiz Well was saddled by one of the trainer’s assistants, Don Chatlos.
Benner Island will also be pointed toward the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning.
Chanel’s Legacy is a “possibility” for the Fantasy following her sixth-place finish in the Honeybee, trainer Lynn Chleboard said Sunday morning. The filly was beaten by 10 1/2 lengths after winning the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes on January 21 and the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes on February 11.
“She came back fine,” Chleboard said. “She didn’t run like we really thought she could. We’ll just see.”