Whitmore Rebounds With Narrow Phoenix Score
By Claire Novak-Crosby, courtesy Blood-Horse
Whitmore, who recently saw a five-race victory streak halted with a pair of thirds, returned to the winner's circle Oct. 6 with a narrow score in the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland.
The 4-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding punched his ticket to the Nov. 4 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar via the six-furlong Phoenix, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event.
"I'm going to relish this Phoenix victory, but the Breeders' Cup has been our goal, so if everything's great, we're going," trainer Ron Moquett said.
Whitmore, who races for Robert LaPenta, Moquett's Southern Springs Stables, and Sol Kumin's Head of Plains Partners, was seventh early and ran down Jacks or Better Farm's 16-1 shot Awesome Banner, who broke alertly from the inside post in a field of 11 and set opening fractions of :22.27 and :45.75 before digging deep through five-eighths in :57.73.
Fanned into the five-path entering the lane, Whitmore put in a hard-charging run under jockey Manuel Franco and prevailed in a blanket finish between Awesome Banner and 5-2 choice Limousine Liberal. The final time was 1:09.90 on a fast track.
"When I made my move, he was game," Franco said. "He never gave up, and we did it."
Whitmore, bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody's Spirit, came off a third in the Sept. 16 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel Park, and placed third one race prior in the June 9 True North Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. His string of five wins prior included the April 15 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park and the May 20 Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3) at Pimlico Race Course. The Phoenix was his first grade 2 score.
Whitmore contested the Road to the Kentucky Derby as a 3-year-old and held his own at Oaklawn, where he finished second in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and Rebel Stakes (G2), and was third in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Dialed back in distance after running 19th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), he found his niche when he returned to sprinting in December at Aqueduct Racetrack and launched his victory quintet.
"I'm proud of him. He's an awesome horse. I'm glad he got to show it today," Moquett said.
Whitmore returned $8.80, $4.80, and $3.40 at odds of 3-1. Awesome Banner paid $13.80 and $7.80, and Limousine Liberal was worth $3.40. The order of finish was completed by Threefiveindia, Loose On the Town, Uncontested, Favorite Tale, Richard the Great, Mr Manning, It's the Journey, and Seventh Sense.