WHITMORE FAVORED IN SPRINT STAKES DEBUT
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 9, 2017) –The latest chapter in Whitmore’s racing career is scheduled to unfold in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn. He has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite as he makes his debut in a sprint stakes.
Probable post time for the 6-furlong Hot Springs is 3:39 p.m. (Central) and it goes as the sixth of nine races. First post time is 1:05 p.m.
Whitmore was one of Oaklawn’s leading Kentucky Derby candidates last year after finishing second or third in three major two-turn preps – $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
But after a 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Whitmore was freshened and co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs plotted a new racing course for the gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect. He returned with a second-level allowance/optional claiming victory at 6 ½ furlongs Dec. 3 at Aqueduct, then won an allowance/optional claimer Jan. 15 in his 4-year-old debut.
Whitmore ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.81, the fastest time ever at Oaklawn for that distance during January. Unbeaten in four career starts sprinting, he tackles stakes company for the first time at a distance under 1 1/16 miles Saturday.
“Looks like we’ve got some quality guys to test against,” Moquett said. “It’s got the set-up to be a very quality, key race.”
Whitmore is favored over seven projected rivals, including 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint participants Holy Boss and Ivan Fallunovalot. He is scheduled to break from post 4 under four-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and carry 119 pounds.
Also entered in the Hot Springs from the rail out: Holy Boss, Luis Contreras to ride, 119 pounds, 7-2 on the morning line; Fish Trappe Road, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 10-1; Ivan Fallunovalot, Calvin Borel, 119, 3-1; Candy Ruby, Declan Cannon, 115, 15-1; Recount, Chris Landeros, 119, 12-1; Chief Cicatriz, Channing Hill, 119, 20-1; and Storm Advisory, Geovanni Franco, 122, 5-1.
Since his January victory, Whitmore has recorded a series of sterling workouts, the last a 5-furlong move in :59.60 last Saturday.
“He’s a fast horse,” Moquett said.
Moquett said his biggest concern Saturday is the possibility of an off track because of rain. Whitmore, in his two-turn debut and only start over a muddy surface, finished a well-beaten fifth in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) as a 2-year-old.
“I can say this: It’s about who gets over it fast,” Moquett said. “I don’t know. I was hoping it would be a fast track because I thought everything set up for a really fast time.”
Ivan Fallunovalot was second to the Moquett-trained Gentlemen’s Bet in the 2015 Hot Springs, but most recently finished a leg-weary fourth in his 2017 debut as he attempted to win the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 4 for the third straight year.
Although Tom Howard cancelled a scheduled easy work Tuesday morning because of a sloppy track, the trainer said he believes Ivan Fallunovalot will be fitter Saturday. The gelding has recorded two bullet works since the King Cotton, including a half-mile in :46.20 Feb. 26.
Ivan Fallunovalot, a career winner of $807,058, had never finished worse than second in seven starts at Oaklawn before the King Cotton.
“I look for him to be back to the old Ivan for this race,” Howard said. “We’ve got a couple of good works in him.”
Ivan Fallunovalot ran ninth in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in 2015. Holy Boss ran fourth in that race after winning the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes earlier that year at Oaklawn. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Holy Boss exits a front-running 5 ¾-length victory in the $75,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds.
Storm Advisory won the King Cotton for leading Oaklawn trainer Robertino Diodoro, while Chief Cicatriz is 5 for 5 in his career, including the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup Feb. 11 at Turf Paradise in his last start.
Owned by Dallas banker Roy Gene Evans, Chief Cicatriz will represent the first Oaklawn starter for trainer Shawn Davis, who is based at Turf Paradise in Arizona.
“Purse being one thing and then the owner wanted to see how he stacked up against a better type of horse,” Davis said, when asked about shipping Chief Cicatriz to Arkansas.
The Hot Springs is the final major local prep for the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15.
Diodoro won last year’s Hot Springs and Count Fleet with the now-retired Subtle Indian.