Whitmore will follow the “same route” he did last year after leaving Oaklawn, targeting the $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) May 4 at Churchill Downs for his next start, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Friday morning.
Whitmore was beaten for the first time in eight career sprint starts at Oaklawn in last Saturday’s $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), finishing 2 ¾ lengths behind Mitole in the 6-furlong race for older horses.
“Happy,” Moquett said, when asked how Whitmore emerged physically from the Count Fleet.
Whitmore had won the Count Fleet the previous two years, but last Saturday’s race wasn’t an ideal setup because the freakishly fast Mitole was the controlling speed in the compact five-horse field. Whitmore shadowed Mitole from the start on the outside and challenged the favorite turning for home. But, Mitole pulled away in the final furlong to post his fifth consecutive victory.
“We’ve been beaten by some good horses that were allowed to go unattended, slow fractions, and we’ve beaten good horses that were made to go fast – fast horses, attended fractions,” Moquett said. “It was just one of those deals.”
After winning last year’s Count Fleet, Whitmore finished a troubled fourth in the 7-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes. Whitmore recorded his first Grade 1 victory in the $600,000 Forego Stakes Aug. 25 at Saratoga and finished second in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
Whitmore won the $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 9 in his 2019 debut. The gelding has won the Hot Springs, the final major local prep for the Count Fleet, three consecutive years.
Moquett said Whitmore’s major year-end objective is the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Whitmore has a 12-8-2 record from 26 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,571,000.
Motion Emotion Kentucky Oaks Bound
Motion Emotion, runner-up in Oaklawn’s two biggest two-turn races for 3-year-old fillies, is pointing for the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3 at Churchill Downs, her trainer, Tom Van Berg, said Friday morning.
Motion Emotion was beaten a length in the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 12 after leading most of the 1 1/16-mile race. She was also beaten a length in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 9, a 1 1/16-mile race that is the final major local prep for the Fantasy.
Motion Emotion is guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters. If the 1 1/8-mile race overfills, starting preference is given to horses with the highest point totals in designated races like the Honeybee and Fantasy. Motion Emotion has 60 points to rank ninth on Churchill Downs’ official Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.
“That’s the plan,” Van Berg said. “Ten days or so, we’ll probably breeze her, depending on the weather, up in Kentucky … and then we’ll see where she is. Let her tell us.”
Van Berg said Motion Emotion is expected to ship Sunday morning to Churchill Downs. A daughter of Take Charge Indy, Motion Emotion won her first two starts this year at Oaklawn, breaking her maiden Jan. 25 and claiming a first-level allowance race by 6 ¾ lengths Feb. 17 in her two-turn debut.
Lady Apple is also pointing for the Kentucky Oaks, the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.
The Young Gun
Lady Apple and Brill, first and third, respectively, in the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies April 12, are trained by Hall of Famers Steve Asmussen and Jerry Hollendorfer. A future Hall of Famer, Todd Pletcher, trains fourth-place finisher Orra Moor.
That eighth-place finisher? Destiny Over Fate represented the first starter in an unrestricted stakes race for trainer Jesse Cruz, 25, who saddled his first career winner in 2017.
Destiny Over Fate was a recent addition to Cruz’s barn after previously being based in the Mid-Atlantic with trainer Lacey Gaudet. Campaigned by colorful owner Ron Paolucci, Destiny Over Fate beat three horses as a 127-1 shot in the Fantasy.
“The old saying is, ‘Work until your idols become your rivals,’ ” Cruz said. “It was one of those things where they may not think of me as a rival yet, but it was nice to be in the paddock with them and running in the race against those guys, go to the infield. We walked over and she didn’t cause a stir in the paddock or in the gate. She went out and ran her race. She’s not as good as them, but we definitely didn’t look like we did not belong.”
Cruz was raised in the shadow of Charles Town in West Virginia and came up under trainer Ollie Figgins III before striking out on his own in 2017. Cruz won 12 races last year, including seven at Delaware Park. On behalf of his main client, Maryland-based Wasabi Ventures Stables LLC (T.K. Kuegler), Cruz saddled his first Oaklawn winner March 22 in Torri’s On My Mind.
“This game’s crazy,” Cruz said. “I had 27 horses last year at Delaware and came out here with two. Four months later, I’m running in a $500,000 stake. You ride the wave and enjoy the good times and you just get through the low times.”
Cruz won’t have to wait long to saddle his second career starter in an unrestricted stakes race since Trapped N My Mind, runner-up in a March 30 maiden special weights sprint at Oaklawn, is entered in the $125,000 Weber City Miss Stakes Saturday at Laurel.
The track was rated muddy for workouts Friday morning. … Mr. Jagermeister, the 2018 Canterbury Park Horse of the Year, recorded a half-mile bullet workout (:47.20) after the first renovation break Friday morning. Mr. Jagermeister finished second, beaten nine lengths by Mitole, in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters last year at Oaklawn. … Sparkling March 31 career debut winner Landeskog – a 3-year-old Munnings gelding – worked 6 furlongs in 1:14 Friday morning for trainer Doug O’Neill. … Sharp April 13 maiden winner Breaking News is a candidate for the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational May 4, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Friday morning. Breaking News, privately purchased earlier in the meet by Oaklawn executives John and Louis Cella, is a son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Invitations to the 1 1/8-mile race are scheduled to be released Saturday. The Oaklawn Invitational winner will receive a free berth to the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Moquett said March 16 maiden winner Proverb is also an Oaklawn Invitational hopeful. Both Breaking News and Proverb are also being considered for upcoming allowance races, Moquett said. … Unbeaten Whoa Nellie – a 3-year-old daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb – is scheduled to make her 2019 debut in Friday’s ninth race for trainer Larry Jones and Fox Hill Farm (Rick Porter). Porter also owns Arkansas Derby winner and probable Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach.