Baddest of the bad?

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Ron Moquett settled into a chair in his office, out of the rain that fell in the Louisville area for what seemed like days this week, and started to flip through his spiral bound past performance printouts.

Hosting a first-time visitor to his comfortable office that he build in the loft area at the end of Barn 10A in the Churchill Downs stable area not far from the back gate, Moquett wanted some answers on the puzzles that are the 14 Breeders’ Cup races to be run Friday and Saturday at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

“What race are you looking forward to the most this weekend?” Moquett asked, certainly knowing the answer.

The pages of one of his printout packets were open to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, one of the deepest races on Saturday’s card and where he’ll run Whitmore for the second straight year.

Once the $2 million Sprint was selected, Moquett offered his analysis of the field.

“I’ll tell you this, it’s filled with a bunch of bad-ass horses,” Moquett said of the nine-member field that includes defending champ Roy H, multiple Grade 1 winner and 2017 runner-up Imperial Hint, Grade 1 winner Promises Fulfilled and multiple Grade 2 winner and six-time Churchill winner Limousine Liberal.

And of course, Whitmore.

“My post-position is good,” Moquett said of Whitmore’s No. 1 spot in the field of nine. “And we’re the leading money earner in the field. I don’t hear anyone say that. Also, if you look at our PPs you’ll see we’ve run against the most. You need to look at who have you competed against.”

Whitmore does have that distinction. Horseplayers will see Whitmore faced five other members of the Sprint field on eight occasions dating back to the 2017 True North Handicap at Belmont Park. He’s faced Roy H twice, Imperial Hint twice and Limousine Liberal six times.

So what does Moquett think of those opponents?

“Roy H is a bad-ass horse, you’ve got to give him credit, he’s the champ,” he said of the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship last time out by 2 3/4 lengths over stablemate and fellow Sprint entrant Distinctive B. “But how do you get a 0 (Ragazin speed figure) for running that last race? A 105 Beyer Speed Figure and the horse that was second was part of the program? A horse that would have been the longest shot in the race he scratched out of here (the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland) and took my pace from me.

“How about two races ago he’s running for $32,000 and a 13 on the sheets and now all of a sudden beating him in a Grade 1 is worthy of a 0?”

Distinctive B did scratch from the Phoenix, leaving a field of five and Promises Fulfilled alone on the lead through a soft opening quarter en route to a head victory over Whitmore with Limousine Liberal another half-length back.

“What you look for when you’re gambling is maybe a misstated number or too much quality given to a number or something like that,” Moquett said. “Don’t get wrong, (Distinctive B) has back class. He’s a bad-ass horse. He’s fast. I just don’t think that race visually was as impressive as everybody is oohing and ahhing over it.”

Imperial Hint beat Whitmore by a neck in this year’s True North, the first of three straight victories that also included back-to-back Grade 1 scores in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga and Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont.

Imperial Hint is the 9-5 favorite for the Sprint off those victories, visually easy scores for trainer Luis Carvajal and jockey Javier Castellano. Imperial Hint finished a length behind Roy H in last year’s Sprint at Del Mar and is 0-for-2 at Churchill, including a sixth in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard this spring.

“Then you look at Imperial Hint, he’s a fast bastard, too,” Moquett said. “He beat us and we’re closing every jump (in the True North). He beat us by a neck, you’d think he beat us by 20 lengths and we’re closing.”

Moquett puts Limousine Liberal in the same “bad ass” category, a justified distinction considering the Successful Appeal gelding is 6-for-8 at Churchill with an overall career bankroll of $1,730,261 for trainer Ben Colebrook and owner Katherine Ball.

“He shows up every time. He’s underrated in this,” Moquett sad. “I think we are, too. I’m betting on us, but I’m biased.”

Whitmore is 6-1 from his inside draw with regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard. He’s won three of seven starts this season with three seconds, the lone off-the-board effort a fourth in the Churchill Downs.

Whitmore is based at Churchill with Moquett for most of the year and he’s made three starts at his “home” track. He broke his maiden in his debut going 6 furlongs in early November of his 2-year-old season and finished 19th in the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

The son of Pleasantly Perfect hasn’t raced around two turns since the Derby and he’s won nine times in 16 starts. He, too, obviously fits into Moquett’s criteria.

“He’s a good boy, and a bad ass,” he said. “I’ve studied and studied and I still can’t tell you how this race is going to unfold. The only thing I can tell you is if we sit in the pocket and wait we’re going to be strong enough.”

 

Read more about Whitmore:

Check It Off (Page 24 of the Aug. 26 issue of The Saratoga Special)

2018 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Ron Moquett

Whitmore wins 2017 Phoenix at Keeneland