(Whitmore / Coady Photography)
From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team:
Robert LaPenta, trainer Ron Moquett and Head of Plains Partners’ Whitmore surged to the front at midstretch and cruised to a 3 ¼-length victory in the 37th running of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Whitmore covered the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.61. It is the first Breeders’ Cup victory for Moquett and 11th for Ortiz, first in the Sprint.
For Whitmore, it was his fourth start in the Sprint, Previously, he had finished eighth at Del Mar in 2017, second at Churchill Downs in 2018 and third last year at Santa Anita.
Longshots Jasper Prince and Empire of Gold dueled for the early lead as Whitmore raced near the back of the second flight of horses. At the head of the stretch, Whitmore found running room between horses, shifted to the outside and spurted clear of Empire of Gold at midstretch and not was not threatened in the run to the wire.
C Z Rocket got up for second, saving the place spot by a neck over Firenze Fire.
The 7-year-old Whitmore is a Kentucky-bred son of Pleasantly Perfect out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody’s Spirit. The victory was worth $1,100,000 and boosted his earnings to $4,307,850 with a record of 38-15-11-3. It is his second Grade 1 victory to go with a score in the 2018 Forego at Saratoga.
Winning trainer Ron Moquett (Whitmore) – “I said in the prerace interview that whenever there are this many track records, it’s almost impossible to think a closer is going to do well. For him to run against the bias the way he did and the patience of the rider, the willingness to listen, it all worked out. I’m so proud of the horse, proud for the connections. I’m proud for everyone out there that’s thinking when you run last in the Kentucky Derby, kick them out, do right by the horse come back, and you have a shot to reach other dreams. You don’t discard them. You just do right by the horse and it keeps working out.
“I’m just grateful. Grateful for the horse. Grateful to everyone that sends me well wishes and congratulations after the race. Just grateful.”
Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Whitmore) – “He had a great trip. We wanted to break and have him relax and that’s what we did. He relaxed so good. I was able to cut the corner on the turn and when I tipped him out he just exploded. He’s a nice horse. He’s been running for so many years. He’s a warrior.”
Second-place trainer Peter Miller (C Z Rocket) –“He ran his eyeballs out. I think the draw really hurt us. If we drew where Whitmore drew, I think it’s a different deal, but that’s horse racing. We had to ride him away from there and that’s not the way he really wants to run, but he had no choice on this speed-favoring racetrack. From the inside, you don’t want to get shuffled back to last. He rode a super race. It was just circumstance. Speed favoring track and an inside draw on a horse who wants to sit and doesn’t want to be ridden away from there, but I couldn’t be prouder of the horse. He’s shown up every time we ran him.”
Second-place jockey Luis Saez (C Z Rocket) – “He had a beautiful trip. I thought he was going to win but he just kind of stayed there. But he ran a nice race.”
Third-place jockey Jose Lezcano (Firenze Fire) – “We kind of lost a little bit of contact early. The pace was very fast early and he was a little bit more behind than I wanted to be. From the five-sixteenths to the three-sixteenths I didn’t have any place to go. I was waiting and waiting and when I really asked him to go he gave me a good kick. He really came running. If we could have gotten a little clear earlier we would have been right there. He gave me a good race.”
Eighth-place jockey Joel Rosario (Yaupon, favorite) – “Coming out of the gate he kind of hesitated for a little bit. I think that cost the chances for us to probably win the race.”
Whitmore through the Eyes & Lens of the great team at Coady Photography: