Empire and Whitmore shine at Oaklawn

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

April 18th, 2017

Champion CLASSIC EMPIRE has endured his share of mishaps this season in preparing for a hopeful run in the Kentucky Derby on May 6, but the Mark Casse pupil put a lot of his doubters to rest following a game score in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1).

Three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile had a superb juvenile campaign but could only muster a third at Gulfstream in his seasonal debut when soundly defeated in the Holy Bull (G3). A few setbacks held this one up until the middle of April, but his class oozed at Oaklawn Park in a stout performance under Julien Leparoux.

Kentucky-bred proved to me that he is among the main players in Louisville next month and the colt displayed that there is no substitute for class, as he overcame a less-than-ideal voyage en route to a deserving victory. He didn’t run on the correct lead in late stretch and also did not topple the deepest field of all time, but give him props for winning at nine panels off the layoff with minor trouble and this race should do a whole lot for his fitness going forward. He could be set to peak this spring.

Ron Moquett’s WHITMORE sent notice that he was a budding sprint star as I shed light upon in a previous posting and his win in Saturday’s Count Fleet (G3) at Oaklawn did little to hurt his status as one of the better one-turn horses in training right now. The son of Pleasantly Perfect rated in fifth while widest of all to the top of the lane behind quick early splits, but took command in the matter of a few jumps in displaying push-button acceleration in early stretch to decimate his foes with staggering ease.

I didn’t like how the four-year-old drifted out some in the lane past midstretch on Saturday, though the race was already in the balance and he remains a perfect 6-for-6 in one-turn events by a now combined 24 1/2 lengths in total. Kentucky-bred has endured trouble while inside and won, and has raced widest of all with the same result. I fully expect an ambitious campaign this summer in the Empire State for the sprint dynamo.

A pair of current, and future, stars highlighted the Holiday weekend in Hot Springs…and their best is yet to come!

(Coady Photo)