Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Petrov Looking to Start 2017 in Smarty Jones Stakes

Lightly raced Petrov will make his initial race moves as a 3-year-old in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Tuesday morning.

Petrov, a gray son of Flatter, has made two starts this year, winning his Nov. 12 career debut at Churchill Downs before finishing a fast-closing second in the $100,000 King’s Swan Stakes Dec. 2 at Aqueduct.

“He’s a cool horse,” Moquett said. “When Oaklawn gets to see him for the first time, I think everybody’s going to fall in love.”

Moquett also owns a 50-percent interest in Petrov with Texas-based Rialto Racing Stables, LLC (Catherine Adams Hutt). Moquett said he and Hutt collaborated last fall on the colt’s name, which was initially inspired by his gait.

“Some of the moves he gives on the track are like a ballet dancer,” Moquett said, specifically mentioning a pirouette. “My partner said let’s name him after a ballet dancer. I said that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

But Moquett said a google search of “male ballet dancers” turned up, among others, Russians Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev. And the equine hook?

Moquett noted Nijinsky and Nureyev had celebrated racing and breeding careers. Baryshnikov – another horse – is now at stud after earning $350,778 in 2008-2011.

“Three stallions right off the bat,” Moquett said. “Two of them are some of the best that ever lived, Nijinsky and Nureyev. I went, ‘huh.’ So he’s ballet dancer, too.”

That would be the colt’s namesake, Eugene Petrov, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, who opened Petrov Ballet School in 2008, according to its website. The facility is located in Waldwick, N.J.

Petrov has recorded two works at Oaklawn since the King’s Swan, including a half-mile bullet (:47.60) over a fast track Friday morning. The one-mile Smarty Jones, a race Moquett won in 2015 with Far Right, will be Petrov’s first start around two turns. Nominations close Jan. 6.

Warrior’s Club, winner of the $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes Oct. 30 at Churchill Downs, is also pointing for the Smarty Jones, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

The race offers 17 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, including 10 to the winner.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep series continues with the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20, $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.

Whitmore on Hold

Whitmore is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut at Oaklawn, but Moquett said he hasn’t decided on a date or race. The trainer said the gelding is under consideration for the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 13, a mile and a sixteenth race that would mark the gelding’s return to events around two turns.

Whitmore, among the leading 3-year-olds at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, is unbeaten in three career starts sprinting, including a Dec. 3 allowance/optional claimer at Aqueduct in his last start. He was under consideration for the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) Monday at Santa Anita, but Moquett, citing travel concerns, decided to pass the 7-furlong race.

Instead, Whitmore worked a half-mile in :48.20 over a fast track Friday morning at Oaklawn.

“He’s going to run at Oaklawn Park,” Moquett said Tuesday morning. “Don’t know where that’s going to be yet, but I’m pointing to everything and just see how it unfolds. I bypassed the Malibu to focus on Oaklawn.”

Moquett termed Whitmore’s status for the Fifth Season, “possible.”

“There’s a good possibility there’s going to be horses excluded from the Fifth Season,” Moquett said. “I mean, it’s going to be a huge field.”

Nominations to the opening-day Fifth Season close Jan. 5.

Whitmore ran four times at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, winning an allowance/optional claiming sprint before running second in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

Whitmore is winless in five starts around two turns.

Finish Lines

The sealed racing surface was rated muddy for workouts Tuesday morning. … Arkansas-bred stakes winner Mallard’s Bro recorded a half-mile bullet (:48.80) Tuesday morning for trainer Al Cates of Hot Springs. … Moquett said next-race plans are pending for Rockshaw, a 2-year-old son of Maclean’s Music who finished fourth in the $100,000 James F. Lewis Stakes Nov. 19 at Laurel in his last start. Moquett said he’s shopping for a sprint race for Rockshaw, who recorded a half-mile bullet work (:47.40) Dec. 16 at Oaklawn.

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