SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Training the strong-minded reigning Champion Sprinter Whitmore comes with its challenges, but Arkansas-born conditioner Ron Moquett said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wouldn’t like it if it were easy. It wouldn’t mean as much if everything works out if it were easy,” Moquett said. “I think for me, at this stage in my career, it’s good to get something that’s a little quirky and a little different and show that you can handle those types and then hopefully get some of the easier ones down the road.”
Owned by Moquett in partnership with Robert V. LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, Whitmore looks to add a third Grade 1 victory to his ledger in Saturday’s Grade 1 $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt. The veteran 8-year-old gelding boasts a lifetime record of 41-15-13-4, which include triumphs in the Grade 1 Forego in August 2018 at the Spa as well as the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Whitmore developed a good rapport with some of his previous pilots, with six jockeys having guided the talented veteran to the winner’s circle, which include, Jose Ortiz, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Manny Franco, Didiel Osorio and Joe Talamo. Other jockeys of note to have piloted the 8-year-old veteran include Luis Saez, Joel Rosario, and Flavien Prat, as well as Hall of Famers Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza.
“He’s quirky, but he’s not hard to ride,” Moquett said. “These guys are professionals. When you look at the list of jockeys that have ridden this horse, those are some top riders. I’ve always said you ride riders for the comfort that they will get done what you want to get done, but it also has to do with the fact they’re very sure and confident. If he catches a little glimpse of any thread, he can pick on you, he will pull that thread.”
Through a racing career which dates back to a 7 ¼-length debut win in November 2015 at Churchill Downs, Moquett has been able to spend more time with Whitmore than most trainers can say they’ve spent with some of their star pupils.
“He still deals with things that aren’t easy. He hasn’t had a nail in his shoe since he was a 3-year-old. He wears glue-on shoes,” Moquett continued. “He’s not the easiest to be around at the gate. He likes to train backwards; he refuses to train by himself. He wants competition or he’ll give you the middle finger. We have to soak his feed a certain way before he’ll eat it. Everything is a collaboration of figuring out how to get along with him.”
Moquett credits his wife and assistant trainer Laura for being instrumental in coaxing the most from Whitmore.
“Laura is the master of that, and she has the patience of Job, which is probably how we’re married,” Moquett said. “Being married to me has trained her to get along with Whitmore.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. appears to know Whitmore better than any other jockey, having finished in the money 15 of the 17 times he has been in the irons.
“Sometimes it works like that. Certain riders say, ‘Hey we’re doing this, let’s go,’ and Santana does that. They work well together,” Moquett said.
Whitmore winning the 2018 Forego on August 25.
Whitmore – 2018 – The Forego Stakes
NYRA Press Office
Photo: The connections of Whitmore in the winner’s circle accepting the trophies. Trainer Bill Mott is on the very end of the right. (NYRA/Coglianese) Inset photo: Whitmore winning the 2018 Forego G1 with jockey Javier Castellano up. (NYRA/Adam Mooshian)