Whitmore Rolls To Third Count Fleet Sprint Handicap Victory - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Whitmore Rolls To Third Count Fleet Sprint Handicap Victory

Whitmore wins the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for the third time in four years.

Seven-year-old Whitmore, favored at 3-1, became the first three-time winner of the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, getting a perfect trip from just off a fast pace under Joe Talamo and taking command at the top of the stretch to win the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack's premier sprint race by three-quarters of a length. Flagstaff, the second choice at 7-2, finished a fast-closing second under Joel Rosario after a slow beginning, and Manny Wah was third in the field of 11 older runners.

Whitmore carried 121 pounds, one less than Flagstaff, who was coming off a victory in the G2 San Carlos at Santa Anita. The gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect covered six furlongs in 1:08.95. He is owned by the partnership of Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables and Head of Plains Partners LLC. Hot Springs resident Ron Moquett is the trainer.

Share the Upside and Bobby's Wicked One set off on a fast pace, dueling through an opening quarter mile in :21.69. Wendell Fong and Hidden Scroll were in the second flight behind the leaders, with Whitmore tracking Hidden Scroll. The latter made the first move on the leaders, drawing on even terms with Share the Upside while Bobby's Wicked One retreated as they hit the half mile in :44.67. Talamo swung Whitmore three wide on the turn and the 7-year-old kicked into high gear under right-handed urging, opening up a clear lead in mid-stretch after five furlongs in :56.60.

Flagstaff, still last at the top of the stretch, closed resolutely but never had a chance of catching Whitmore.

“Hats off to Ron Moquett,” Talamo said. “I've been fortunate enough to ride him three straight times now and each time he's gotten stronger. That's a testament to his conditioning. It was an interesting set up and I didn't expect to get to the lead as early as I did. I had the perfect spot down the backstretch. What a racehorse. He doesn't feel like a 7-year-old.”

Moquett had Whitmore on the Triple Crown trail at Oaklawn in 2016, finishing second in the G3 Southwest and G2 Rebel, then third in the G1 Arkansas Derby. After a 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, he gave the horse some time off, and brought Whitmore back that December in an allowance race at Aqueduct, winning the first of five consecutive sprints, including the 2017 Count Fleet. He's won four graded stakes since, including the G1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga in 2018. Whitmore was second to Roy H in the G1 Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2018 and third to Mitole in the 2019 edition. He finished second to Mitole in the 2019 Count Fleet.

“I'm proud for him,” Moquett said. “I'm noticing lately people saying, 'The great' and 'legendary.' People that are saying that don't throw around those words. To me, he's been that. But it's so cool to see this horse that has so many people that love him and follow him to be able to do what he does and to make a lot of people that happy. I wanted him to be on the inside, but he broke so well that he (Joe Talamo) had him in a position to where he could … and Whitmore's always going to argue with whatever you want. He just has that personality. He argues all the time. He has tried to get out. Sometimes, he tries to get in. But, he really just wants to mess with the rider. The jockey just took a hold and let him do what he wanted to do. Then, whenever you ask him, he did what he's supposed to do. It was so awesome.”

Whitmore's winner's share of the $350,000 Count Fleet purse puts him over the $3 million mark in career earnings. He's now won 14 of 34 starts.

Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis, Whitmore was produced from the Scat Daddy mare, Melody's Spirit.

Inaugurated in 1974, the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap has three two-time winners: Dave's Friend (1983-84), Bordonaro (2006-07) and Semaphore Man (2008-09).

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