03/11/2017 7:03PM

Whitmore dominates Hot Springs, aims at Count Fleet

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Whitmore notched his first career stakes victory with the Hot Springs.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Whitmore established himself as the early favorite for next month’s Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn with a dominant performance in the track’s $125,000 Hot Springs on Saturday. He won by six lengths while covering six furlongs in a blazing 1:08.72.

Ivan Fallunovalot finished second, at 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Fish Trappe Road.

The Hot Springs was the first of two stakes on the card; the second was the Grade 3, $200,000 Honeybee won by It Tiz Well.

Whitmore ($3.60) settled off the pace along the rail Saturday, as Holy Boss and Candy Ruby dueled through an opening quarter in 21.60 seconds and a half-mile in 44.83. Whitmore advanced, was full of run coming to the quarter pole, had to wait, then found room and opened up on the field under Ricardo Santana Jr.

“We had confidence that our rider would make the right decision,” winning trainer Ron Moquett said. “I thought the race could unfold to where it would be better for us today to be a little farther off. It worked out. But he’s got enough tactical speed that he can put us where we need to be.”

Moquett, who also co-owns Whitmore, said he would talk to his partners about plans, but one goal has been the Count Fleet. The Grade 3, $400,000 race is on April 15.

Whitmore’s time in the Hot Springs was the fastest since 2011, when Chief of Affairs covered the distance in 1:08.56. It was the second time this meet Whitmore has won a six-furlong race in a sub 1:09 time. The other such win came Jan. 15, when he captured an allowance in 1:08.81.

He won his third straight race in the Hot Springs, a streak launched with an optional $62,500 claiming-race win in December at Aqueduct. Last year, the horse spent time on the Kentucky Derby trail, and finished 19th in the classic after a third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.

The Hot Springs was the first career stakes win for Whitmore.

Whitmore has now won five of 10 starts. The first-place check of $75,000 on Saturday pushed his career bankroll to $637,000. He is a son of Pleasantly Perfect who races for Harry Rosenblum, Bob LaPenta, and Southern Springs Stables.