HOT SPRINGS, AR – Though it was his sixth victory at Oaklawn Park, trainer Ron Moquett’s Whitmore found a new way to triumph over the track while repeating in Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.
Off as the 4-5 favorite from post 4 under Ricardo Santana, Jr., last year’s winner was a bit sluggish early while Smart Spree posted splits of :21.98 and :45.64. Still running behind a wall while looking void of run midway down the stretch, Whitmore was angled out into the clear and suddenly remembered why he was there. With newfound gusto, Whitmore rallied past his foes in the shadow of the wire to win by 3/4 of a length in a final time of 1:09.77 for the 6-furlong dirt event.
“I rode the horse before and he’s a class horse,” said Santana, Jr. “Today, there was a lot of speed, and I wanted to be off of it. His class won out. He ran a really good race. When he got in the clear, he became a different horse. He just blew by them.”
Though unable to hold off the winner’s late charge, Wilbo managed to take second by a head over Wynn Time. Smart Spree faded to fourth, with Ivan Fallunovalot and Wings Locked Up completing the order of finish.
Whitmore’s victory improved his record to 18-10-3-2. Owned by a partnership between Southern Springs Stables, Robert V. LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners, the 5-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect has now earned $1,527,000 in his career.
“I was really happy with how he did it because he didn’t have to use him but the last 1/4 of a mile, so I’m real proud of the way Santana rode him,” Moquett said. “We’re going to look at our options, obviously, but we’ve always wanted to try him at Churchill Downs in one of those stakes races there, and hopefully, he comes back home there to run in the Breeders’ Cup (this fall).”
Whitmore returned $3.60 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.20 to show. Wilbo brought back $6.80 to place and $4 to show, while Wynn Time paid $2.60 to show.