Thursday, September 29, 2016

Whitmore Preparing for a Return

Whitmore, one of the leading 3-year-olds at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, will return to the work tab, weather permitting, Sunday at Churchill Downs, owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Wednesday afternoon.

With an eye toward the 2017 Oaklawn meeting, Moquett said Whitmore was “kicked out” following a 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby May 7 at Churchill Downs. The trainer said Whitmore is “doing great” and his comeback race will be a sprint, although there is no specific target in mind.

“I’m going to let him tell me,” Moquett said. “It’s too far away. I’d just like to let him take us naturally on his own speed and go from there.”

Whitmore made four starts this year at Oaklawn, winning an allowance/optional claiming sprint before stretching out and running second in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

Overall, Whitmore, a gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect, has a 2-2-1 record from seven lifetime starts and earnings of $475,000.

Moquett said his two Oaklawn stakes winners, Far Right and Gentlemen’s Bet, are both receiving “vacations” in advance of the 2017 Oaklawn meeting that begins Jan. 13. Far Right won Oaklawn’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2015. Gentlemen’s Bet won the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes last year at Oaklawn.

Moquett finished third in Oaklawn’s trainer standings in 2016 with 24 victories.

Super Saturday

Two Oaklawn stakes winners are entered Saturday at Belmont Park, including Forever Unbridled in the $400,000 Beldame Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Forever Unbridled won the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn.

Forever Unbridled is scheduled to break from post 2 Saturday under Joel Rosario and carry equal top weight of 123 pounds. In her last two starts, Forever Unbridled finished second in the $1 million Ogden Phipps (G1) June 11 at Belmont Park and third in the $750,000 Personal Ensign (G1) Aug. 27 at Saratoga.

Havre de Grace won the Apple Blossom and Beldame in 2011 en route to Horse of the Year honors.

Probable post time for the Beldame is 4:45 p.m. (Central).

Also Saturday at Belmont is the $350,000 Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at 6 furlongs. Among the eight horses entered are Holy Boss, winner of Oaklawn’s $100,000 Bachelor Stakes in 2015, and A.P. Indian, second in a 2014 allowance/optional claimer in Hot Springs.

Holy Boss is scheduled to break from post 2 for Hall of Famer and seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen. A.P. Indian, a leading candidate for champion male sprinter, is seeking his third consecutive Grade 1 victory.

Probable post time for the Vosburgh is 4:11 p.m. (Central).

The Beldame and Vosburgh are among five stakes races on the card.

Finish Lines

Tara’s Tango, third in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn, is entered against champions Beholder and Stellar Wind in the $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes (G1) Saturday at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile race is named after Hall of Famer Zenyatta, who won the Apple Blossom in 2008 and 2010. … Oaklawn-raced Torrontes and Madtap are entered in the $100,000 Jefferson Cup Stakes Saturday at Churchill Downs. … Mr. Z is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (G3) Saturday at Churchill Downs. Mr. Z ran third in last year’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn. Also entered in the Ack Ack, which features the return of 2015 male sprint champion Runhappy, is Oaklawn-raced The Truth Or Else. … Oaklawn-raced Natchez, Hawaakom, Rocket Time and Noble Bird are entered in the $175,000 Lukas Classic Stakes Saturday at Churchill Downs. The race is named for Hall of Famer and two-time Oaklawn leading trainer D. Wayne Lukas (trainer of Natchez). … Oaklawn-raced Hoppertunity, Win the Space and Hard Aces are scheduled to take another shot at champion California Chrome in the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) Saturday at Santa Anita. Hoppertunity won Oaklawn’s $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) in 2015. … Stewart Elliott, who won Oaklawn’s Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby before nearly sweeping the Triple Crown in 2004 aboard Smarty Jones, was leading rider at the recently concluded Los Angeles County Fair meet at Los Alamitos. Elliott rode regularly at the 2005 Oaklawn meeting, winning 25 races.

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