Heavy favorite Whitmore, making his first start since a runner-up performance in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) last November, came from off the pace to win his third straight $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes Saturday before a crowd of 16,000 at Oaklawn Park.
With his regular pilot Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons, Whitmore was reluctant to load, but broke sharp from the rail and settled into fourth as Share the Upside and Welder battled within a head of each other through opening fractions of :22 1/5 and :45 for the first half mile. The winner made his bid early in the stretch and drew away from his competition to win by 1 ½ lengths over Share the Upside in 1:09 2/5 for six furlongs over a good track.
Welder held on for third and was followed by Control Stake and King Cotton winner Heartwood. Petrov was scratched.
“He was about 75 percent today,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “I know him and it's a lot better for us to bring him to a race like this and let him have a race. If he gets tired, it's my fault. But, I'm just going to take care of the horse. The gate guys did great. They showed patience and horsemanship. I'm so appreciative that they're willing to work with the horse instead of trying to overpower him.”
Whitmore, a 6-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, was winning his fifth Oaklawn stakes and overall has a record of 12-7-2 from 24 starts. He has now earned $2,471,000 for owners Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables and Head of Plains Partners LLC. He returned $3.20 and $2.20. There was no show wagering.
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. first post.
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