June 30, 2022

Whitmore tops True North; By the Moon in Bed o’ Roses title defense

Whitmore winning the 2017 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) (c) Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography

Whitmore was untouchable at Oaklawn and had to overcome a track he didn’t particularly like three weeks ago at Pimlico. On Friday, the rising sprint star will look to score his first significant win in New York in the $250,000 True North (G2) at Belmont Park.

Still undefeated around one turn, including five straight since December, Whitmore has knocked out stakes wins in the Hot Springs, Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) and Maryland Sprint (G3) heading into this six-furlong fixture.

“We’re letting him decide when he runs. After [a half-mile work at Churchill Downs last week] and how he came back, we decided he wants to run now,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “We’ll probably space his races a little bit more after the True North, with our main focus being the Breeders’ Cup and getting there to win it.”

Graded stakes veterans Stallwalkin’ Dude and Noholdingback Bear tuned up for the True North running one-two in the $100,000 Diablo on May 7, with the former registering a 1 3/4-length victory for David Jacobson, six weeks after an unsuccessful trip to Dubai.

“He’s very good, as good as he’s ever been,” Jacobson said. “We were a little concerned with his last race coming back so quick from Dubai, but it didn’t seem to faze him in the least. He should run a big race.”

Also in the lineup are upset Carter H. (G1) winner Green Gratto, who ran fourth in the Diablo; Roy H, an impressive Santa Anita allowance winner last time for Peter Miller; and Holy Boss, third beaten a length in the 2016 True North but generally off form this season.

By the Moon will look to continue her strong recent form with a title defense in the $250,000 Bed o’ Roses, a seven-furlong dash for fillies and mares. The five-year-old returned from a near three-month layoff on May 5 with a 1 3/4-length tally in the Vagrancy H. (G3). Returning rival Quezon was third in her season debut.

“I’m really happy with her. She’s doing great,” trainer Michelle Nevin said. “She’s training forwardly for the race, loves Belmont, and looks fantastic. If it rains, she can handle that too.”

High Ridge Road, who beat By the Moon twice at Laurel over the winter, exits a third in the one-mile Ruffian (G2) over a mile. Also coming out of that race is Indulgent, who faded to fifth after setting the pace.

Other notables include Grade 2 winner and Test (G1) runner-up Lightstream, fifth in the Humana Distaff (G1) in her seasonal return, and ultra-consistent Mia Torri, heroine of the Sunshine Millions Distaff and Sugar Maple this term.

“I didn’t think she was 100 percent fitness wise going in to the Humana Distaff,” trainer Brian Lynch said of Lightstream. “She caught a track that was speed favoring, but she’s 100 percent going into this race so I’m hoping she brings one of her A-game performances. It would be nice. I don’t think it’s a deep field. It might be a big field, but I don’t think it’s as deep as the Humana Distaff. For two-hundred and fifty, it might not be a bad spot.”

The $150,000 Tremont features a showdown among eight debut winning two-year-olds, four of which are trained by Todd Pletcher. His quartet — Admiral Jimmy, Analyze Your Luck, Salmanazar, and Analyze the Odds — will face Keeneland graduate Direct Dial, Maryland shippers He Hate Me and Wonder How, and the George Weaver-trained Presence of Mind.