Where Are They Now: Whitmore

Whitmore winning the BC SprintBreeders' Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

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In this new TDN column, Christie DeBernardis will tell the stories of accomplished and/or popular former racehorses who are now enjoying second careers as show horses, track ponies, etc.

Champion sprinter Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect) and Laura Moquett's relationship goes back to when he was just a 2-year-old who refused to go around the racetrack without some coaxing. Fast forward seven years and that cantankerous juvenile is now an Eclipse winner and Breeders' Cup winner and has been retired from racing as Moquett's personal riding horse.

On Thursday, less than 13 miles from the scene of Whitmore's greatest racetrack triumph, the pair had their show ring debut in the Retired Racehorse Project's competitive trail event at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“We had some issues to deal with between the wind and sun creating some scary shadows,” Moquett said. “He looked at the first obstacle and said hard no, but he worked through it and completed the course. I was really proud of him. He kept his composure really well despite that, which was incredible.”

She continued, “He had so many groupies. It was phenomenal. They followed him from the barn all the way up to the course. They were adoring. It was really cool to see. If this gets even one person to give a horse a second shot at a new career, that is so important.”

Whitmore entered Ron and Laura Moquett's barn as a rambunctious 2-year-old and was initially owned by their Southern Springs Stables. While new owners later bought into Whitmore, one thing remained unchanged and that was Laura Moquett, who was the chestnut's regular rider and traveling companion.

“As a 2-year-old, I really had to focus on him because he was a maniac,” Moquett said. “We couldn't get him around the racetrack, not one lap, and would not go the right direction. We did a bunch of schooling on that to teach him to go forward. We kept him company, even breezing, until the last couple of years because otherwise he would stop in the middle of the track and do some shenanigans. But, with company, he did his job and ran other horses down, which is funny because it ended up being his running style.”

She continued, “Basically, if I was in town, I would be on his back every day. If we had to go out of town for a stakes race, I was his companion. Most of it was great, but sometimes he pushes your buttons and he loves doing it.”

With a stallion career off the table for the gelded seven-time graded stakes winner, Ron Moquett consulted his partners about Whitmore's future when it came time for retirement. Everyone readily agreed to leave him in the hands of his lifelong friend Laura Moquett.

“Ron had talked to the partners and everyone came to the consensus we could keep him the rest of his life,” Moquett said. “I still wanted to be around him daily, so thankfully they were totally on board. He got injured at Saratoga last summer and they said he could come back to the races, but the partners agreed he had done more than enough. I was upset when he was injured, but I knew he was going to be okay and I would get to keep him, so it was a weird mix of emotions. It was devastating in the barn for our team because he was the big horse and had that mojo everyone wants to be around.”

That injury came during Saratoga's 2021 meet and Whitmore was given down time for the rest of the year.

“We couldn't bring him back until late December and I was just too busy at Oaklawn to start him,” Moquett said. “It didn't materialize this winter and I was just trying to get his feet back in shape. That will always be a challenge. I thought there was no way we could do the RRP, though that was all I wanted to do. I thought it would be really great for his fans to see him do something else. There are a lot of people that follow him and were upset when he got injured.”

She added, “I worked with him five or six times in the round pen just doing ground work in late March. Then I hauled him to a friend's place maybe four times and did some basic under saddle work. That was about as much as I could do until we got back to Kentucky after the Derby.”

Moquett and Whitmore did manage to fit one other outing in during their winter in Hot Springs, a trip to Oaklawn for “Whitmore Day.”

“The first day at Oaklawn he was actually decent,” Moquett said. “I think he was like, 'I'm back baby!' Days two through four, I was like I might die. One of the jocks went by and was like, 'He's going to drop you.' I said, 'He hasn't yet! Don't worry, I will make it home.' He was just so excited. By the fifth day, he realized we are just going to go out there and walk. I had the outrider next to me in case. He got out there and everyone was yelling for him and he was like, 'Okay, this is for me. That's right. I get it.' I told them if they didn't get me off the track before the gates popped and we accidentally won the race, I was taking the money.”

Once they returned to Kentucky in May, the real work began.

“He is at a barn in Goshen that the mounted police use,” Moquett said. That was part of what inspired the competitive trail idea. When he first got up here, I just legged him up trail riding at first. The first time I went anywhere with him was in June to Masterson Station for a jumper/trail night. It took me like 30 minutes to get him to the course. He was terrified of all the stuff they had set up. It blew my mind too. I was like there is no way I can do this. The mounted police take their horses to Hinkle Equestrian Center in Indiana to prep for competitions. We went over there about 12 times and that helped him a bunch. He is a fairly easy horse to ride and he will only get better. I am lucky.”

Whitmore's age and experience racing at venues from coast-to-coast have aided him in his second career.

“He has been on airplanes and at a bunch of different venues with music and crowds,” said Moquett. “I think that is an advantage, especially for this class, as is his age. He is a lot more settled than a young horse is.”

As for the future, Moquett has a few ideas, but is letting Whitmore dictate the plans.

“I would love to try the hunters with him,” the horsewoman said. “But, I am enjoying every second of it and we will see what he wants to do. It's his world, I am just living in it.”

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