Team Moquett Back for More with Whitmore
Team Moquett Back for More with Whitmore: Last year, rising trainer Ron Moquett had a promising Kentucky Derby runner in Far Right, a ridgling co-owned by Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta. While Far Right’s race for the roses ultimately left them empty-handed, Team Moquett is back to try again in this year’s Derby with Whitmore.
A chestnut Pleasantly Perfect gelding whose race record appears at first glance to be subpar, Whitmore has simply not had a chance to run his race. In his three preps for the Derby at Oaklawn Park, the Southwest Stakes (GIII), the Rebel Stakes (GII), and the Arkansas Derby (GI), Whitmore was subjected to a myriad of bad trips that saw him running extremely wide throughout, bobbling, and being shuffled back. In spite of his poor racing luck, the gelding was still able to manage come-from-behind runner-up finishes in the Southwest and the Rebel and a third in the Arkansas Derby. Thus, Whitmore’s signature running style was deemed to be that of a closer, but Chance Moquett, involved son of the gelding’s trainer, maintains the belief that their Derby horse has simply been forced to run that way and will be even better if he can get an actual good trip.
“Ninety percent of people know that how good a horse is depends on his trip,” Chance maintains. “Zenyatta got beat because of a bad trip. Rachel Alexandra got beat because of a bad trip. Secretariat got beat in the Travers, and American Pharoah got beat in the Travers. He continues to have a troubled trip, and he continues to have to use run on the backstretch and use run on the far turn.”
Because Whitmore will be entering the Kentucky Derby starting gate with only a maiden victory and an allowance win at sprint distances, much criticism has been made about how he – along with multiple other Derby starters – belongs in the classic.
Chance whole-heartedly defends Whitmore, explaining, “It’s frustrating to me that people say he can’t get the distance. He’s got the pedigree. If you look at the trips this horse has had, in all actuality, he’s already gone the distance. People say he flattened out in the Rebel Stakes. No, he didn’t. The first thing Irad Ortiz said when he got off was that the horse didn’t quit but that Cupid just had more than him.”
In terms of his running style thus far, Chance maintains that Whitmore is not a cut and dry closer.
“People say he comes from too far out of it. What people don’t realize is that he would rather run in traffic. We’ve been compromised in every race. We don’t want to be that far back; we want to be closer. Whitmore is a multi-move, multi-run kind of horse, and he’s very push-button. He has a high cruising speed.”
Assuming his start from the gate isn’t compromised by nearby front-runners shuffling for position, Chance foresees a much different race plan for Whitmore in the Derby.
“Post position is really going to come down to who’s around us. As long as we don’t have a lot of horses around us that are pushing for the front, we’ll be okay. In the Derby, I think he’ll be five lengths or so off the lead. I see multiple horses going to the front, and I see us being second flight with a good break and the right maneuvering. If we get a good trip in the first part of the race, we don’t need to use horse on the backstretch to find ourselves with a shot to win.”
Multiple Triple Crown series-winning jockey Victor Espinoza believes in Whitmore, too, seeing as he reached out to Ron Moquett in search of his Derby horse. Team Moquett is thrilled, and Chance expressed, “I think Victor is very talented, and we are honored to have him on our horse. It can’t hurt, right?”
In regards to the daily attitude of Whitmore, it seems as if the gelding may be a bit of a handful.
“Whitmore is a very quirky horse,” Chance said. “He’s honestly kind of scary to be around, and it’s especially terrifying since he’s a gelding. From what my dad’s told me, he was nearly untrainable before being gelded. He wants to dominate you. There are not that many people that can go in his stall without asking the right way.”
Perhaps Whitmore will dominate on the first Saturday in May, too.
Majesto the Forgotten Horse in Kentucky Derby 142