09/14/2017 1:36PM

Whitmore stands out in De Francis Memorial Dash

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Michael Amoruso
Whitmore wins the 2017 Maryland Sprint Stakes.

Whitmore will be a short price when he makes his first start since June in the Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park on Saturday. How he performs will determine whether his next start comes in three weeks or seven.

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Trainer Ron Moquett is pointing Whitmore to the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 4. Prior to heading west, he could start in the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland on Oct. 6.

“If he whistles, we’ll go straight to the Breeders’ Cup,” Moquett said. “If he runs like this race is a tightener, we’ll go to Keeneland and then to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Also entered in the six-furlong De Francis are Awesome Banner, Favorite Tale, Mr. Jordan, Struth, and Chublicious. Blu Moon Ace is cross-entered in the $250,000 De Francis and the Laurel Dash, one of six other stakes on the card.

Whitmore had a five-race winning streak snapped in the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park when returning on three weeks’ rest. The True North followed a late-charging half-length victory over A. P. Indian in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint at Pimlico.

“He was allowed to become disinterested early in the True North and fell too far back,” Moquett said. “He was left with too much to do.”

Moquett shipped Whitmore from Churchill Downs to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 29, but declared him from the race due to a minor injury incurred during travel.

“He came off the plane with his shoe altered – it was turned sideways,” Moquett said. “I understand he was pawing during the loading and unloading process on the plane. The next day he was 100 percent. We could have run, but it was a Grade 1 at Saratoga, and I didn’t want to go into the race having had an off day three days before the race.”

Moquett will be seeking his second De Francis win in three years. He was awarded the win in 2015 when Gentlemen’s Bet was placed first following the disqualification of Trouble Kid.

Late-running Whitmore is ready for his return, according to Moquett.

“It’s going to be all about the trip and if he likes the surface,” Moquett said, “and he’s pretty much liked every surface he’s been over.”

De Francis Dash, race 9

Key contenders

Whitmore, by Pleasantly Perfect
Last 3 Beyers: 97-101-100

◗ In addition to the Maryland Sprint, his winning streak included impressive scores in the Grade 3 Count Fleet and Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

◗ Laurel rider Feargal Lynch will be aboard for the first time.

Awesome Banner, by Awesome of Course
Last 3 Beyers: 94-90-99

◗ In the Maryland Sprint, he finished third, beaten a half-length by Whitmore. He has since finished second to Imperial Hint in the Smile Sprint and second to El Deal in the Vanderbilt.

◗ Awesome Banner is stabled at Laurel with trainer Kenneth Decker, who is training a string of horses for the Jacks or Better Farm of Fred and Jane Brei.

“He shows up every time, and we’ve been running him against some nice horses,” Decker said. “I’m hoping a little home-court advantage will help us.”

Favorite Tale, by Tale of the Cat
Last 3 Beyers: 93-85-83

◗ Trained by Lupe Preciado, this eight-time winner of $920,000 comes back on two weeks’ rest after finishing a hard-trying second while making his first start in 17 months.

Mr. Jordan, by Kantharos
Last 3 Beyers: 94-91-82

◗ He will be shortening up from 1 1/8 miles, but has run some powerful races and won at seven furlongs two starts back.