Whitmore trains at Keeneland on Nov. 3
Vekoma – R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma arrived from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. by van early Tuesday morning before getting acquainted with the Keeneland racetrack during a 1 3/8-mile gallop.
“Everything’s gone smoothly so far,” trainer George Weaver said.
Vekoma, who was installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, drew post position 14.
“I like it. I’d rather draw outside than inside,” Weaver said. “You run the risk of being parked real wide on the turn, but I think he has enough tactical speed to clear horses and get in a favorable spot before he gets to that turn.”
Vekoma is 3-for-3 this year but hasn’t run since capturing the July 4 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park.
“He’s been training really well. We’re looking forward to getting him back to the races. I don’t know how he’s going to run off a four-month layoff, but it’s not a six-month layoff or a year layoff,” Weaver said. “It’s four months. Once we got him into a breeze pattern he jumped back into fitness very easily.”
The 4yo son of Candy Ride popped a foot abscess about a month after the Met Mile.
“I would have obviously liked to see our horse run. He’s such a star,” Weaver said. “I wanted to run him in the Forego at Saratoga – that didn’t happen. We were hoping to make the Vosburgh, not so much needing a race but to see a star run.”
Vekoma, who won the Nashua at Aqueduct at 2 and the Blue Grass at Keeneland at 3, finished 13th in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before going to the sidelines for more than 10 months. He returned to win the March 28 Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park by 3 ¾ lengths before scoring by 7 ¼ lengths in the Carter at Belmont Park June 6.
“At the time I was worried that Gulfstream might get shut down [due to the COVID-19 pandemic]. Luckily, they got to keep going and we got the race in. From that point on we were looking at the Carter and the Met Mile,” Weaver said. “He’s a good horse. I can’t stress that enough. To win off a layoff like that, if you have a good one, all those things don’t matter that much. I’m not saying he’s going to win, but it won’t be the fitness, it won’t be the layoff (that would get him beat).”
Whitmore – The veteran Whitmore got reacquainted with the Keeneland track Tuesday morning after arriving Monday afternoon from his Churchill base and jogged 1 1/2 miles under regular rider Laura Moquett, wife and assistant to her husband trainer Ron Moquett, as he prepares for his fourth start in the Sprint. Whitmore, who was second in the Sprint in 2018 and third last year, has prepped for each of his Breeders’ Cup starts in the Phoenix at Keeneland and has a record of 1-2-0 in four tries. He was fourth in the race this year.
“He’s doing great,” said Moquett, who also co-owns the gelding with Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners. “He’s doing very good right now, we’re excited. I think he’s coming in to this race as good as he’s ever been.”
When asked about the accomplishment of getting a horse to the Breeders’ Cup four times, Moquett said, “First off you have to have a horse that likes his job. They have to want to do this. And, we’ve been able find a routine that suits him.
“What I think is really awesome about Whitmore is how he’s been able to connect with people over these last four years. I don’t think a day goes by that someone doesn’t reach out through social media to comment about how much they enjoy following him. A lot of people have been following him since he ran in the (Kentucky) Derby (in 2016). The connection he’s made with fans is really cool.”
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