05/02/2016 2:16PM

Whitmore living up to namesake's ability

Barbara D. Livingston
Whitmore is named for an old friend that trainer Ron Moquett calls a "freak athlete."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer and co-owner Ron Moquett dubs Kentucky Derby contender Whitmore a “freak athlete” and named the gelding for an old friend who also fits that mold.

Moquett acquired Whitmore privately from breeder John Liviakis, and his Southern Spring Stables group owns him with Robert LaPenta and Harry Rosenblum. Moquett named the gelding for Wilbur Whitmore, a basketball teammate and football player at Pocola High School in Oklahoma.

“I decided that he was kind of a freak athlete,” Moquett said of the gelding. “And he looked like everything he did was easy, and it looked like he was good at it. And I thought to myself, ‘Well, that reminds me of Wilbur Whitmore.’ He’s a natural athlete and a good guy. I was a friend of his and his brothers in high school.”

To underscore the point, Moquett told Wilbur Whitmore that his equine namesake showed great promise.

“‘I bet you this horse goes to the Kentucky Derby and I’m going to make you famous,’” Moquett said he told Whitmore. “And he started laughing.”

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Wilbur Whitmore attended his first horse race at the Arkansas Derby, in which his namesake finished third. He plans to attend the Kentucky Derby with his family.

While both Whitmores are new to the Derby scene, Moquett has a bit of experience, having saddled his first starter, Far Right, to finish 15th last year. He has used the experience to make some minor adjustments this year – for example, sending Whitmore out for his final breeze when the track opened instead of during the Derby session later in the morning.

“I think you always use the information that you gained a year before to make this year’s decisions,” Moquett said. “There’ll be a few things we’ll change. Not with the care of the horse; we’ll care for the horse the same way. But, for instance, like this year we breezed first set, regardless of the Derby time, because first set’s the best track.”