Whitmore rides rail to G2 second at Belmont

By Bob Wisener
This article was published July 11, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

At Oaklawn Park, where he has never lost sprinting, Whitmore has developed an explosive, signature move outside horses in the stretch. It's carried him to back-to-back victories in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap and the listed Hot Springs Stakes.

Whitmore went up the rail at New York's Belmont Park on Saturday with almost dire consequences. The 5-year-old gelding literally "scraped the paint bulling his way inside" (Equibase Co. footnote) before placing second in the Grade 2 $343,000 Belmont Sprint Championship.

Winning by a neck, Limousine Liberal ($5.70) earned automatic entry to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint in November at Churchill Downs. Jose Ortiz had the mount on the winner, who clocked a fast-rated seven furlongs in 1:21.53. Six-time Oaklawn champion Ricardo Santana Jr. rode Whitmore for trainer and co-owner Ron Moquett.

Owned by co-breeder Katherine Ball and trained by Ben Colebrook, 6-year-old Limousine Liberal won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs at the same distance for the second-straight year May 5 on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Whitmore ran fourth in the latter race. Both horses ran at Belmont Park in June with Limousine Liberal third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap one day after Whitmore ran second in the Grade 2 True North.

Moquett races Whitmore in partnership with Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners LLC. The Pleasantly Perfect gelding, a 10-time winner of $1,671,000, placed third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and 19th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby as a 3-year-old in 2016.

"Very proud of him, even when we run second," Moquett posted on his Facebook site Saturday. "I appreciate natural athleticism and pedigree as much as anyone, but I will stand and applaud effort and honesty. Whitmore likes what he does and I love to watch him do it."

High marks

An Oaklawn stakes winner not quite ready for the Arkansas Derby in April is collecting some nice consolation prizes.

The Iowa Derby winner Friday, High North is a two-time stakes winner and 3-1-0 from nine starts. Earning $335,850, the Midnight Lute colt has recouped the $230,000 Hot Springs lumberman John Ed Anthony (Shortleaf Stable) paid at the September 2016 Keeneland yearling sale.

High North saved ground from the rail post and got up by a half-length in the ungraded $250,000 race at Prairie Meadows, paying $6.60 to win and collecting $149,400. Mr Freeze finished second by a length over Oaklawn winner Lionite with the top seven finishers separated by only 2 1/2 lengths. Time for the fast-rated mile and sixteenth was 1:44.35.

"I was thinking about coming out, but (the horse outside of me) was holding his position, so I didn't have much choice," winning jockey Florent Geroux said. "So I kept to the inside and hoped to get through."

Brad Cox trains High North, a maiden winner at Keeneland last fall. Seventh in Oaklawn's Grade 2 Rebel March 17, High North benefited from class relief in the April 14 Northern Spur, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over the Bob Baffert-trained Ike at a mile and sixteenth. Cox also trained High North's 4-year-old half-sister Benner Island for Shortleaf Stable, the Speightstown filly winning Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Eight Belles in 2017.

Strong support

Arkansas horse owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, of Conway, paid $435,000 Tuesday for a Strong Mandate filly at the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale in Lexington, Ky.

The bay filly is produced by the Giant's Causeway mare Fly the Flag, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and champion Storm Flag Flying. Strong Mandate won the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and raced at Oaklawn.

"I wasn't going to come, but there wasn't anything going on today so I came up here," Lieblong said on bloodhorse.com. "She is just a nice, nice filly. I really like the Strong Mandates, and she has a Giant's Causeway mare under her, so if she proves she can do something she ought to have pretty good value. She looks the part. I bought a Strong Mandate colt at (Ocala, Fla.) earlier this year, and he should start at Saratoga. He's been a very straightforward horse."

Lieblong paid $230,000 for a Shackleford filly and said both would be trained by Steve Asmussen or Moquett. Lieblong is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Sports on 07/11/2018
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