Whitmore (outside) wins the Count Fleet Sprint by three-quarters of a length over Wilbo

Whitmore (outside) wins the Count Fleet Sprint by three-quarters of a length over Wilbo

Coady Photography

Whitmore Surges Late to Take Count Fleet

Pleasantly Perfect gelding looked hopeless turning for home but surged to victory.

It appeared Whitmore would spin his wheels for the entire stretch run of the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 14 at Oaklawn Park.

The 5-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding brought up the rear as the six-horse field turned for home and wasn't making up much ground, but something changed in the final furlong.

Still last approaching the furlong pole, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. got Whitmore in the clear on the outside, and a different animal appeared.

With nothing ahead to block his path, Whitmore went from hopeless to a sure winner from the furlong pole to the sixteenth pole and padded his victory with a surge to the wire to win by three-quarters of a length over Wilbo. Whitmore hit the wire in 1:09.77 for six furlongs to clinch his fourth graded win and second straight in the Count Fleet Sprint for owners Southern Springs Stables, Robert LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners.

The late-running sprinter trained by Ron Moquett pushed his earnings past $1.5 million with his second victory of the year following his season debut in the March 10 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn.

"I was really happy with how he did it because he didn't have to use him but the last quarter of a mile, so I was real proud of the way Santana rode him," Moquett said. "We're going to look at our options, obviously, but we've always wanted to try him at Churchill Downs in one of those stakes races there, and hopefully he comes back home there to run in the Breeders' Cup."

Whitmore ran eighth in the Nov. 4 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar. Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody's Spirit, he has 10 wins from 18 starts and five other placings.

"I rode the horse before, and he's a class horse," Santana said. "Today, there was a lot of speed, and I wanted to be off of it. His class won out. He ran a really good race. When he got in the clear, he became a different horse. He just blew by them."

A head behind Wilbo at the wire came Hot Springs runner-up Wynn Time, followed by Smart Spree, Ivan Fallunovalot, and Wings Locked Up.

Smart Spree, who entered the Count Fleet on a four-race win streak at the allowance and claiming levels, set the pace, covering the first quarter in :21.98 and opening up a one-length lead through a half-mile in :45.64. The speedy Smart Strike gelding still had a length advantage with a furlong to run, but he couldn't hold off the off-the-pace runners in deep stretch.

Video: Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3)