Fourth Time’s A Charm: Whitmore Stages Bold Rally To Win Breeders’ Cup Sprint

In a career that’s seen him do just about everything, Whitmore ticked one of the few boxes left to check on Saturday at Keeneland with a convincing score in his fourth attempt at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The 7-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding settled in the middle of the pack across the backstretch as Japanese longshot Jasper Prince shot to the lead from one of the outside posts, followed a couple lengths back by Empire of Gold and favorite Yaupon. Jasper Prince and jockey Jose Ortiz led the field through an opening quarter-mile in :21.64 seconds, and he continued to guide it to the half-mile mark in :44.66 seconds.

As the field turned for home, Empire of Gold drew up to the outside of Jasper Prince, while a crush of horses ran behind them trying to stage a stretch drive. Those potential challengers bottlenecked in the stretch, which opened up a seam for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to continue a rail rally he’d begun staging in the turn. As Jasper Prince faded, Irad Ortiz took his mount off the rail to pass the tiring pacesetter, and swung three-wide to take aim on upset candidate Empire of Gold.

Whitmore’s momentum blew him past Empire of Gold as they passed the eighth pole, and he was well clear by the final sixteenth. He crossed the wire 3 1/4 lengths ahead of a steadily-gaining C Z Rocket, who was himself a neck ahead of Firenze Fire on the rail. Empire of Gold carried on for fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Firenze Fire.

Whitmore won the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1:08.61 over a fast main track at Keeneland. He paid $38.80 to win.

Ron Moquett trains the winner, and he co-owns the gelding with Robert LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners. The Sprint was Moquett’s first Breeders’ Cup win in six attempts.

Four of those tries have come with Whitmore in the Sprint. He finished eighth in the 2017 edition, then finished second and third in the years that followed.

What Whitmore has become runs in stark contrast to the early years of his six-year career, when he was groomed to be a classic contender. After consistently performing well on the Oaklawn Park branch of the Triple Crown trail, he was entered in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, where he finished second-to-last. He was moved to the sprint ranks after the Derby, and established his place as one of the division’s top runners for the years to come.

The 7-year-old Whitmore is a Kentucky-bred son of Pleasantly Perfect out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody’s Spirit. The victory was worth $1,100,000 and boosted his earnings to $4,307,850 with a record of 38-15-11-3. It is his second Grade 1 victory to go with a score in the 2018 Forego at Saratoga. 

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Race Quotes: 

Winning trainer Ron Moquett (Whitmore) – “I said in the pre-race interview that whenever there are this many track records, it’s almost impossible to think a closer is going to do well. For him to run against the bias the way he did and the patience of the rider, the willingness to listen, it all worked out. I’m so proud of the horse, proud for the connections. I’m proud for everyone out there that’s thinking when you run last in the Kentucky Derby, kick them out, do right by the horse come back, and you have a shot to reach other dreams. You don’t discard them. You just do right by the horse and it keeps working out.

“I’m just grateful. Grateful for the horse. Grateful to everyone that sends me well wishes and congratulations after the race. Just grateful.”

Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Whitmore) – “He had a great trip. We wanted to break and have him relax and that’s what we did. He relaxed so good. I was able to cut the corner on the turn and when I tipped him out he just exploded. He’s a nice horse. He’s been running for so many years. He’s a warrior.”

Second-place trainer Peter Miller (C Z Rocket) –“He ran his eyeballs out. I think the draw really hurt us. If we drew where Whitmore drew, I think it’s a different deal, but that’s horse racing. We had to ride him away from there and that’s not the way he really wants to run, but he had no choice on this speed-favoring racetrack. From the inside, you don’t want to get shuffled back to last. He rode a super race. It was just circumstance. Speed favoring track and an inside draw on a horse who wants to sit and doesn’t want to be ridden away from there, but I couldn’t be prouder of the horse. He’s shown up every time we ran him.”

Second-place jockey Luis Saez (C Z Rocket) – “He had a beautiful trip. I thought he was going to win but he just kind of stayed there. But he ran a nice race.” 

Third-place jockey Jose Lezcano (Firenze Fire) – “We kind of lost a little bit of contact early. The pace was very fast early and he was a little bit more behind than I wanted to be. From the five-sixteenths to the three-sixteenths I didn’t have any place to go. I was waiting and waiting and when I really asked him to go he gave me a good kick. He really came running. If we could have gotten a little clear earlier we would have been right there.  He gave me a good race.” 

Eighth-place jockey Joel Rosario (Yaupon, favorite) – “Coming out of the gate he kind of hesitated for a little bit. I think that cost the chances for us to probably win the race.” 

The post Fourth Time’s A Charm: Whitmore Stages Bold Rally To Win Breeders’ Cup Sprint appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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