Once there was a colt who ran to a dismal result in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), was turned back in distance, and started to shine.
Whitmore—the 4-year-old Plesantly Perfect gelding who is undefeated sprinting—added the latest feather to his cap May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, where he ran down multiple grade 1 winner A. P. Indian to take the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3).
Video: Maryland Sprint S. (G3)
It was the fifth straight win for the Ron Moquett trainee, who rolled by 3 3/4 lengths in the April 15 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last out at Oaklawn Park to secure his first graded victory. He has not lost since his 19th-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby, which he entered off a third in the Arkansas Derby (G1), and runner-up efforts in the Rebel (G2) and Southwest (G3) stakes. Since the Derby he's run up two allowance wins, a sixth-length rout of the Hot Springs Stakes, and back-to-back grade 3 victories for Southern Springs Stables, Robert LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners.
"We can't use mud as an excuse or weight as an excuse any more," Moquett said of the 124-pound highweight's effort on a track rated good. "I was actually saying it was going to take close to a track record to win this. But he's a fast horse, and he was running against some very fast horses."
Whitmore ran an unorthodox race in the Maryland Sprint. He was eased back significantly by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. after a quick start, then dropped from third to fifth at the half, off A. P. Indian's opening fractions of :22.97 and :45.67. He shifted outside with work to do as the field turned for home. Quickening down the center of the track, the powerful chestnut forged ahead through five-eighths in :57.54 and finished under strong handling in the final sixteenth to secure a half-length win.
"I have a lot of confidence in Ricardo and I told him that I thought he was on the best horse and to ride him with confidence," Moquett said. "And if that means to do something a little out of the ordinary then feel free to do it. I know how he finishes. He closes like a freight train."
"He'll run in any position you put him in—in front or off the pace. He broke good and just sat back comfortably," Santana said. "The second they cleared, he broke away running. He was getting out when dirt was hitting him in the face a little bit, but I had confidence in him. As soon as I asked him, he started running."
Whitmore ran six furlongs in 1:09.90 and returned $4.40, $2.80, and $2.40 as the 6-5 choice in a field of nine. A. P. Indian brought $2.80 and $2.60 at odds of 8-5, edging out 30-1 shot Awesome Banner ($6.60) by a head. Holy Boss , Laki, Classy Class, Sonny Inspired, Never Gone South, and Rockinn On Bye completed the order of finish.
Trainer Arnaud Delacour took nothing away from A. P. Indian, who finished second for the second time after missing the April 8 Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland by 1 1/2 lengths to Awesome Slew in his first start off a fourth elevated to third via Masochistic's disqualification in the Nov. 5 Twinspires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1).
"I thought he ran a good race," Delacour said. "I'm not sure that he wanted to be in front like that. Obviously, the winner is a really nice horse and came with a huge run at the end. I do think this division is really tough this year. There's a couple of horses that I think are very good horses, and A. P. Indian is one of them. ... I will be looking at the stakes races he ran in last year in New York."
Last year A. P. Indian won the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (G3), and also took the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and Priority One Jets Forego Stakes, both grade 1 events at Saratoga Race Course.
Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody's Spirit, Whitmore has picked up six of his seven wins at the six-furlong distance (he won a 6 1/2-furlong event last December in his first race off the post-Derby layoff). He now has a 7-2-1 record from 12 starts, with earnings of $967,000.
"After the second race (this year), I started thinking maybe we found his new course of action (sprinting)," Moquett said. "Our goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and we know there are a lot of good horses in this division. And if it means sidestepping a couple of them ... I mean, we're a gelding. Our breeding future is secure. We're going to try and put some money in our account and make it easy and fun for him. We're going to race back to Louisville and talk about what might be next."