Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Whitmore to Wait for Hot Springs Stakes
After running the fastest six furlongs in January in Oaklawn history, Whitmore won’t be seen in February, said Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who co-owns and trains the 4-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect.
Instead, the next step in Whitmore’s new career path will be the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters March 11, Moquett said, with that race designed as a steppingstone for the gelding’s major spring objective – the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15.
Whitmore, in his 4-year-old debut, was a 2 ¾-length third-level allowance/optional claiming winner Jan. 15 under Jose Ortiz. He ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.81, the fastest time for that distance in January since Oaklawn began regularly opening during that month in 1988. He also remained unbeaten in four career starts sprinting and earned a career-high 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
The previous fastest 6-furlong time in January at Oaklawn belonged to Ivan Fallunovalot (1:09.21) in last year’s $100,000 King Cotton Stakes. Ivan Fallunovalot will bid for his third consecutive King Cotton victory Saturday, with Whitmore awaiting the Hot Springs following his towering performance.
“When you have a monster race like that, you owe it to the horse to give him a little bit of extra time,” Moquett said. “He obviously runs well fresh, so I’m going to let Ivan have the first one and I’m hooking it up with him in the next one.”
In his first work since the Jan. 15 race, Whitmore breezed a half-mile in :49 over a fast track Saturday morning.
Whitmore was among Oaklawn’s upper-tier Triple Crown candidates last year, running second in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) before finishing 19th in the Kentucky Derby. The gelding resurfaced with a 1 ½-length second-level allowance/optional claiming sprint victory Dec. 3 at Aqueduct.
Whitmore was a 7 ¼-length winner sprinting of his November 2015 career debut at Churchill Downs and a 3 ¼-length winner of his 3-year-old debut in January at Oaklawn, a first-level allowance/optional claiming sprint.
The Hot Springs will be the first sprint stakes for Whitmore, who is 0 for 5 around two turns.
“It sets us up for our main goal at Oaklawn, which is the Count Fleet,” said Moquett, who owns Whitmore in partnership with Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta.
The gelding has a 4-2-1 record from nine starts and lifetime earnings of $562,000.
Moquett said last week that Whitmore is not for sale, but his eye-catching 4-year-old debut, not surprisingly, sparked interest.
“Selfishly, I want to keep him, but we always have to look,” Moquett said. “Right now, we have not had an offer to lead us to want to sell.”
Moquett won the 2015 Hot Springs with the Rosenblum-owned Gentlemen’s Bet (Ivan Fallunovalot was second).
Karen’s Tom set Oaklawn’s 6-furlong track record (1:07.80) April 16, 1990, in the $50,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds. The fastest 6-furlong time at the 2016 meet (1:08.80) was recorded by Subtle Indian in the $400,000 Count Fleet (G3) April 10.
I Love the 80s
Hall of Fame trainers Jack Van Berg and D. Wayne Lukas – both in their 80s – accounted for Sunday’s late daily double.
Van Berg, 80, won the eighth race with favored Eurodevilwoman ($3.60) and Lukas, 81, won the ninth race with Triple Crown nominee Dilettante ($9.20), a son of Unbridled’s Song who broke his maiden by 2 ¾ lengths at a mile.
According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Dilettante represented the 293rd career Oaklawn victory for Lukas, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1999.
Lukas ranks second in North American history in purse earnings ($275,446,168) and seventh in victories (4,770). His first Oaklawn starter, Miss Huntington, won the $250,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares in 1983.
Lukas has 47 career stakes victories at Oaklawn and won training titles in 1987 and 2011.
“I quit keeping track of that a long time ago,” Lukas said with a laugh. “When you’re young, you’re keeping track. When you’re 81, you don’t give a damn.”
Van Berg was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1983 and 1984 and ranks fourth in career North American victories (6,485) and 27th in purse earnings ($84,828,450). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Trainer Don Von Hemel, 82, finished second in the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 13 with Smack Smack. The Hot Springs resident was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1981.
Apprentice Katie Clawson, who receives a 7-pound weight allowance, recorded her first career Oaklawn victory – and seventh overall – aboard Rippin Ride ($12.40) in Sunday’s third race for trainer Randy Morse. Clawson, 20, was as an exercise rider at the 2016 Oaklawn meet for trainer Kellyn Gorder, who put the jockey on her first career winner June 17 at Churchill Downs (Street Thunder) and second July 10 at Ellis Park (Total Immersion). Clawson’s fifth career victory came for trainer Lynn Whiting, an Oaklawn regular, aboard Green Card Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs. The gelding is owned by Oaklawn President Charles Cella. Gorder has a string again this year at Oaklawn. … Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg won two races Sunday – Golden Moon ($13) in the fourth and favored Eurodevilwoman ($3.60) in the eighth. … Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015 and runner-up last year, won Sunday’s first race with favored Includere ($6.20) and seventh with Shut the Gate ($9.20). … Oaklawn riding newcomer Declan Cannon had his first double of the meet aboard Includere and Eurodevilwoman. … Leading rider Ramon Vazquez has 15 victories for five trainers – 10 for Federico Villafranco, two for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and one each for Chris Richard, Jon Arnett and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. … Villafranco (10 victories) and three-time defending owner champion Danny Caldwell (10) also top the standings after the first 12 days of racing. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Terra Promessa worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 over a fast track Monday morning for Asmussen. Terra Promessa was a front-running 2 ¼-length winner of the $125,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 14 in her 4-year-old debut. … Streamline, third in the Pippin, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 Monday morning for trainer Brian Williamson. … The Pippin marked the 68th career Oaklawn stakes victory for Asmussen, who has topped the standings seven times in Hot Springs since 2007. Asmussen has at least one stakes victory every year at Oaklawn since his first in 1996 (Valid Expectations) in the $50,000 Mountain Valley. Asmussen recorded his 500th career Oaklawn victory Jan. 16 (Hence) … Alex Canchari, Oaklawn’s third-leading rider last year, will begin a three-day suspension Friday after withdrawing his appeal to the Arkansas Racing Commission, state steward Stan Bowker said. Stewards cited Canchari for allowing his mount, Como Se Llama, to drift down from the outside “without being clear” shortly after the start of the fifth race Jan. 13. Canchari, who has three victories at the meet, was originally suspended Jan. 20-22.