Champion gelding Whitmore, who went from the last horse across the line in the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) to Breeders’ Cup hero four years later, has been retired after suffering an injury while finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 28.
Trainer and co-owner Ron Moquett announced Whitmore’s retirement on social media saying that although the injury was “small in nature”, the son of Pleasantly Perfect will call it a career at the age of 8 after seven seasons on the track.
“Thankful for the abundance of caution shown by jockey Joel Rosario, NYRA, and the equine medical staff,” Moquett posted. “Also thankful he walked into his stall sound. When he walks out of stall 19 and gets on the van to go home, it will be as a retired champion.”
Whitmore enduring excellence over the years made him both a favorite among fans and a touchstone charge for his venerable trainer. As a 3-year-old, he placed third in the 2016 Arkansas Derby (G1) to earn a spot in that year’s Kentucky Derby field but chipped a knee and finished 19th – the last horse across the line as fellow entrant Shagaf was pulled up.
When the quirky chestnut returned to the races that December, he did so as a sprinter and the change in his game paid immediately dividends. He rattled off five straight wins, including his first career graded victory in the 2017 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park. He would win the Count Fleet twice more during his career but his first breakthrough at the top level came in 2018 when he captured the Forego over a field that included future Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner City of Light.
Each fall when the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) would roll around, Whitmore would make his presence felt. After finishing eighth in his initial try in the race in 2017, he would post second and third place efforts the next two years, respectively.
There would be no such bridesmaid role for Whitmore when the World Championships came to Keeneland last November, however. Using his trademark closing kick, the veteran runner closed against an apparently bias to prevail by 3 ¼ lengths and put the stamp on a campaign that would see him honored with the 2020 Eclipse Award for champion male sprinter.
“For him to run against the bias the way he did and the patience of the rider, the willingness to listen, it all worked out,” Moquett said after that Breeders’ Cup win. “I’m so proud of the horse, proud for the connections. I’m proud for everyone out there that’s thinking when you run last in the Kentucky Derby, kick them out, do right by the horse come back, and you have a shot to reach other dreams. You don’t discard them. You just do right by the horse and it keeps working out.”
Though Whitmore went winless in five starts in 2021, he was still right there with some of his division’s best, finishing third in both the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) and Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1). Owned by Moquett, Robert LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners, Whitmore retires with 15 wins from 45 starts and $4,502,350 in earnings.
“He’s not perfect. He’s… well, he’s human, for lack of a better word,” Moquett told turf writer and TVG columnist, Gary West of Whitmore.
Moquett posted on Saturday that Whitmore will be begin his transformation “from ornery racehorse to ornery RRP (Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover) competitor “if that’s the path he chooses.”