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Oaklawn Park doesn't poll the media for season-ending awards but might have had a unanimous winner as 2017 horse of the meeting.

After winning three races, two stakes included, and stamping himself as one of the nation's best sprinters, Whitmore is taking his act on the road. The 4-year-old gelding is entered in Saturday's Grade 3 $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico Race Course.

Acting on the advice of his wife and exercise rider, Laura, Ron Moquett is heading to Baltimore rather than wait for the Grade 2 True North June 9 at New York's Belmont Park. Whitmore worked a half-mile in 46 2/5 seconds under former jockey Greta Kuntzweiler on Sunday at Churchill Downs, the fastest of 59 workouts at the distance.

"The time doesn't matter," said Moquett. "It's the fact that he comes out of the stall in the afternoon after doing that kind of work and is bucking and kicking -- all those things that horse trainers like to see and hold their breath when it happens. He's so ripe that it's time to run."

Sired by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Whitmore is undefeated in six races at six or 6 1/2 furlongs, winning four straight since 19th of 20 in last year's Kentucky Derby. Following a second-level allowance win in December at New York's Aqueduct Racecourse, Whitmore set an Oaklawn January record for six furlongs (1:08.81). He then captured the Hot Springs Stakes by six lengths and the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths, shading 1:09 for six furlongs in both starts.

Mike Watchmaker ranks Whitmore No. 5 and A.P. Indian, one of his chief rivals Saturday at Pimlico, No. 6 among sprinters in his weekly Daily Racing Form poll. Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Drefong, last year's male sprint champion for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, is No. 1 on Watchmaker's list.

"I'm partial, but I would say he is (the best sprinter)," said Moquett. "And a lot of people I respect -- if I didn't say so, they would tell me. I've never been in the position where someone has come up to me and said, 'That might be the most impressive race I've seen at Oaklawn."'

Moquett converted Whitmore into a sprinter late in a 3-year-old season that the gelding finished second in the Grade 3 Southwest and Grade 2 Rebel and third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Moquett races Whitmore, an $877,000 earner with a 6-2-1 record from 11 starts, in partnership with Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains LLC.

"We're trying to develop him into the horse that can make the most money," Moquett said. "I didn't like the way he came out of the Kentucky Derby, stiff everywhere. That's one of the reasons I've kept him short. Obviously he's good at it. But the other reason is it's so easy on him. He comes back and has caught his breath before he gets to the test barn. When he runs a mile and an eighth, he's still finishing strong but he was tired. It's taxing on him."

Five-time Oaklawn jockey champion Ricardo Santana Jr. has the mount on Whitmore, one of three Oaklawn winners Moquett plans to run at Pimlico. Our Majesty is pegged for the Grade 3 $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness and Torrent for the G2 $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.

* The top three from the April 15 Arkansas Derby and two other Oaklawn starters remain on track for the 142nd Preakness on Saturday, Pimlico reported.

Lookin At Lee finished second, Classic Empire fourth and Hence 11th in the Kentucky Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs. Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money and Oaklawn allowance winner Senior Investment join the field, headed by Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and including Louisville starter Gunnevera (seventh).

Classic Empire, last year's male juvenile champion, finished a troubled fourth at Churchill Downs after winning the Arkansas Derby by a half-length with Lookin At Lee third. Mark Casse trains the Pioneerof the Nile colt for Tulsa, Okla., oilman John Oxley. Hence (Grade 3 Sunland Derby) and Senior Investment (Grade 3 Lexington) won Derby preps after Oaklawn victories.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a two-time Preakness winner, saddles Lookin At Lee and Hence. Ken McPeek, trainer of 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava, sends out Senior Investment while Conquest Mo Money represents the first Preakness starter for trainer Miguel Hernandez.

Others pointing to the Preakness are Cloud Computing, Multiplier and Term of Art.

Sports on 05/16/2017

Print Headline: Oaklawn star Whitmore goes to Pimlico

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