LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Ron Moquett’s Whitmore emerged from a wall of horses on the stretch run to nose out a return to victory lane in Friday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland.
The Phoenix is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Whitmore receiving an automatic berth in the $1.5 million TwinSpires Sprint at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4.
Breaking well from the far outside post in a field of 11, jockey Manny Franco took Whitmore back early in order to save some ground while Awesome Banner set early fractions of :22.27 and :45.75 in front of a tightly-packed field. Off the far turn, nearly the entire cluster fanned out wide, forming an eight-wide front, and a frantic scramble to the wire was on. Under a late drive, Whitmore was able to put his nose in front of both Awesome Banner and a late-charging Limousine Liberal just at the wire, completing the 6-furlong main track sprint in a final time of 1:09.90.
“He broke sharp,” Franco said. “I was 2-3 lengths behind (and) when I made my move, he was game. Never gave up.”
Only 2 1/2 lengths separated the top six finishers, with Threefiveindia crossing in fourth ahead of Loose On the Town and Uncontested. Favorite Tale, Richard the Great, Mr Manning, It’s the Journey, and Seventh Sense completed the order of finish.
Owned by a partnership of Robert V. LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables, and Head of Plains Partners, Whitmore returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since May 20. The 4-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect improved his career earnings to $1,172,000 with a record to 15-8-2-3.
“I’m very proud for him,” Moquett said. “He’s an awesome horse. I’m glad he got to show it today. I’m going to relish this Phoenix win. The Breeders’ Cup has been our goal, so if everything’s great, we’re going.”
Whitmore returned $8.80 to win, $4.80 to place, and $3.40 to show. Awesome Banner brought back $13.80 to place and $7.80 to show, while Limousine Liberal paid $3.40 to show.