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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Trainer Ron Moquett’s local legend Whitmore took command off of the far turn and powered his way to home to win the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park for a record third time on Saturday.
Breaking from post 9 under Joe Talamo as the 3/1 favorite, Whitmore sat in mid-pack early while Bobby’s Wicked One and Share the Upside dueled down the backside, posting opening fractions of :21.69 and :44.67. Talamo kept Whitmore a handful of lengths off of the rail in order to give his steed the best opportunity to pass his foes.
Sent three-wide around Mr. Jagermeister heading into the far turn, Whitmore carried his speed well through the corner and found himself alongside new leader Hidden Scroll near the top of the stretch. Edging away from that foe shortly after straightening, Whitmore held sway over the closing pair of Flagstaff and Manny Wah to score the victory.
Hand-ridden during the final stages, Whitmore crossed 3/4 of a length clear in a final time of 1:08.95 for the 6-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“Hats off to (trainer) Ron Moquett,” Talamo said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to ride him three straight times now, and each time, he’s gotten stronger. That’s a testament to his conditioning. It was an interesting setup and I didn’t expect to get to the lead as early as I did. I had the perfect spot down the backstretch. What a racehorse. He doesn’t feel like a 7-year-old.”
Flagstaff broke slowest in the field of 11 and was forced to try running last-to-first, a move he nearly pulled off if not for the wire coming when it did. He was a 1/2-length ahead of Manny Wah, a 74/1 longshot who kept to the rail as he passed tiring foes in the stretch.
Nitrous necked out Wendell Fong for fourth, while Share the Upside and Hidden Scroll faded to sixth and seventh, respectively. Hog Creek Hustle, Mr. Jagermeister, Lexitonian, and Bobby’s Wicked One completed the order of finish.
Along with the $210,000 winner’s share of the purse, Whitmore was awarded a guaranteed, all-fees-waived spot in the starting gate of the Maryland Sprint Stakes, which will be held at Pimlico later this season. The original date was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the race’s new calendar slot has not yet been chosen.
Whitmore’s win was his second straight following the local Hot Springs Stakes and improved his overall record to 34-14-10-3. The 7-year-old gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect has now earned $3,146,350 for co-owners Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables, and Head of Plains Partners.
“I’m proud for him,” Moquett said. “I’m noticing lately people saying, ‘The great’ and Legendary.’ People that are saying that don’t throw around those words. To me, he’s been that, but it’s so cool to see this horse that has so many people that love him and follow him to be able to do what he does and to make a lot of people that happy.
“I wanted him to be on the inside, but he broke so well that (Talamo) had him in a position to where he could,” Moquett said. “Whitmore’s always going to argue with whatever you want. He just has that personality. He argues all the time. He has tried to get out; sometimes, he tries to get in; but he really just wants to mess with the rider. The jockey just took a hold and let him do what he wanted to do. Then, whenever you ask him, he did what he’s supposed to do. It was so awesome.”
Whitmore returned $8.20 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3 to show. Flagstaff brought back $4.40 to place and $3.40 to show, while Manny Wah paid $14.60 to show.
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