Multiple Graded-Stakes Winner Whitmore Targeting G3 De Francis; Journeyman Jockey Pimentel Back in Action Following Injury

Multiple Graded-Stakes Winner Whitmore Targeting G3 De Francis; Journeyman Jockey Pimentel Back in Action Following Injury

Journeyman Jockey Pimentel Back in Action Following Injury
Full Fields to Open Penultimate Weekend of Summer Meet
MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament Saturday, Aug. 19
 
LAUREL, MD – Multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter Whitmore, having overcome a minor foot issue, returned to the work tab over the weekend and is expected to make his next start in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 16 at Laurel Park.
 
Trainer Ron Moquett had planned to run Whitmore in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) July 29 at Saratoga Race Course but he was forced to withdraw the 4-year-old Pleasantly Perfect colt from consideration the day entries were taken.
 
“He pounded his foot traveling on the plane and he basically dislodged his shoe. It caused him to be sore, but it was just very temporary,” Moquett said. “The timing was unfortunate but I’m just glad he’s OK.”
 
Whitmore was returned to Moquett’s string at Churchill Downs, where he drilled four furlongs in 49 seconds Aug. 6 under the trainer’s wife and exercise rider, Laura. He is scheduled to work again there this weekend.
 
“It was exactly what I asked for,” he said. “I’m lucky I’ve got a great person that always works him. She’s got a very good clock in her head and if I say I want 49, she gives me 49. I was very, very happy with it.”
 
The six-furlong De Francis was moved up this year from its traditional mid-November spot on the Maryland racing calendar, making it an attractive option for horses pointing to the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
 
Past winners of the De Francis, which dates back to 1990, include Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull. Moquett won the 2015 edition when Gentlemen’s Bet was elevated from second to first following the disqualification of Trouble Kid for interference.
 
“Our major goal is the Breeders’ Cup,” Moquett said. “It leads us toward that goal plus the De Francis is a historic race, and it would be a feather in our cap to win it.”
 
Put on the Triple Crown trail last spring, when he was second in the Rebel (G2) and third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) before finishing 19th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Whitmore was cut back to sprint distances upon his return and reeled off five consecutive victories.
 
Three of those wins came in stakes, including the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 at Oaklawn and Maryland Sprint (G3) May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course. Last time out, Whitmore was third as the even-money favorite following an unlucky trip in the True North (G2) June 9 at Belmont Park.
 
“He likes to win,” Moquett said. “His personality, he’s got the will to win and he’s got the body to follow through with it. He’s a cool horse.”
 
Journeyman Jockey Pimentel Back in Action Following Injury
 
Just in time for the end of Laurel’s summer meet, journeyman jockey Julian Pimentel is set for a return to riding after being out of action with back and knee injuries suffered in a fall during training hours July 1.
 
Pimentel, 36, is named on four horses Friday and three Saturday at Laurel, including Grade 1-placed Line of Best Fit in the $75,000 Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and older. He rides his first race back Thursday at Delaware Park.
 
Pimentel began getting on horses again over the weekend said his agent, Ronnie Gerardo. Already having missed time this spring with two broken toes, Pimentel fractured the T-12 vertebrae in his back and suffered a hairline fracture of his left knee when thrown from his mount last month.
 
The initial estimate called for Pimentel to miss as much as 12 weeks but the recovery was cut in half after visiting a sports medicine specialist that discovered the injuries were not as severe as first thought.
 
“He’s very excited. You go five, five and a half weeks where you can’t do anything, and all he wants to do is ride horses,” Gerardo said. “The horses you ride are winning, but that’s part of the business. You can go down but the horses keep going.”
 
Pimentel, a winner of more than 1,500 career races, had eight wins and $239,634 in purse earnings from 47 mounts at the meet when he was hurt. He last rode June 30 at Laurel when he had a pair of mounts.
 
“So far, so good. People are taking him back and we are thankful for the opportunities. Hopefully we make the best of it,” Gerardo said. “He’s already in riding shape. He’s been working a lot in the morning and he’s been running. He’s ready to go.”
 
Full Fields to Open Penultimate Weekend of Summer Meet
 
The penultimate weekend of the 33-day summer meet begins with full fields for a pair of 11-race cards Friday and Saturday. Post time both days is 1:10 p.m.
 
A total of 116 horses was entered Friday, an average of 10.5 starters per race. Seven races carded for Laurel’s world-class turf course attracted 84 entries, an average of 12 starters per race.
 
Saturday’s program has 121 horses entered, an average of 11 starters per race. A total of 80 horses was entered for six turf races, an average of 13.3 per race.
 
Friday and Saturday’s grass races are scheduled over the Fort Marcy and Kelso Turf Course layouts.
 
There will be a jackpot carryover of $948.78 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 on Friday. The sequence begins in Race 6 and includes a pair of second-level, $45,000 optional claiming allowances for 3-year-olds and up in Races 9 and 10.
 
Laurel closes its summer meet on Sunday, Aug. 10 and opens the 60-day fall stand Friday, Sept. 8. The Maryland State Fair will hold its annual Timonium meet Aug. 25 to Sept. 4.
 
MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament Saturday, Aug. 19
 
In addition to four stakes for Maryland-bred/sired horses worth $300,000 in purses, the final Saturday of Laurel’s summer meet will offer horseplayers the Maryland Jockey Club Champions Handicapping Tournament Aug. 19.
 
Along with prize money, automatic berths will be on the line for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, National Handicapping Championship and The BIG ONE, the latter hosted by Laurel Park Sept. 23 and 24.
 
Thomas Camann of Providence, R.I. captured the spring session of the MJC Handicapping Tournament in March, which drew 243 entries from 168 players. He will be competing in the BCBC Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar.
 
The MJC tournament winner can choose any of two berths to the NHC, held January 2018 in Las Vegas, or spots in the BCBC or BIG ONE. The cost is $300 per entry with a maximum of two entries per person.
 
Players will wager on races from Laurel and Gulfstream Park, Saratoga, Monmouth Park and Woodbine. Registration can be done over the phone at 301.470.5432 until noon Friday, Aug. 18.
 
For more information email [email protected] or click here.