Sometimes success doesn't come from being the best. It comes instead from just showing up consistently and being pretty good. Good attendance plus decent talent - it's not inspiring, but it was enough to get Whitmore in the Kentucky Derby. That's more than all but 20 horses a year can claim. So, is just showing up and being somewhat talented going to be enough to allow this horse to make a statement in the Kentucky Derby? Or is this when Whitmore runs into too much talent and pretty good is no longer good enough?
Last race: Like so many others in this year's Derby, Whitmore is a deep closer. That is why he is where he is - the Arkansas Derby set up well for closers and he was able to take advantage. Early fractions were swift, but he didn't mess with them, choosing instead to bide his time at the back of the pack. He probably would have stuck to the back of the pack anyway, but a bobble out of the start made the decision to start slow for him. He started to move around the final turn, was moving forward into the stretch, encountered some mild traffic, and was only good enough for third on the day.
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Prior experience: Whitmore actually broke his maiden in November at Churchill Downs, so we know that he likes the track - or at least the last six furlongs of it. He jumped immediately from there up to graded stakes company but wasn't ready and finished a flat fifth, well behind fellow Derby entrant Exaggerator. After a win in an allowance tuneup at Oaklawn he followed the Arkansas prep path - Southwest, Rebel, Arkansas Derby. He got his trip in the first two races, closing from deep to finish second behind Suddenbreakingnews in the Southwest and Cupid in the Rebel. So, it's a mixed bag for this horse. On one hand he has never won a stakes race, and is now facing by far the deepest, strongest and toughest field that he has ever seen. On the other hand, though, he has made it through a tough prep path in Arkansas this year, and he was a big part of the race each time. That's ultimately how you have to look at the horse, I think - he would need a quantum leap forward and massive luck to win the Derby, but it would be far from shocking to see him pick up a piece. At the very least he has to be an exotics consideration.
Trainer: Ron Moquett has been training since 1997. In that time he has won exactly three graded stakes races. He's talented and on track to have his best-ever year this year, but this is new ground for him. He'll have the horse ready, but I have to question whether his lack of experience combined with the horse's lack of top-level accomplishment is too much to overcome in this spot. Moquett is a co-owner of this horse, though, so his motivation will certainly not be in question.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr. had been riding this horse, but his most important client is Chad Brown, and Brown has two in the race, so Ortiz will be aboard My Man Sam. That left an open seat, and it was in demand. Moquett made the best possible decision in the circumstance - Victor Espinoza. He's the guy, of course, who won the Triple Crown last year, and the first two Triple Crown races the year before aboard California, and in 2002 on War Emblem. I struggle to believe that Whitmore is a peer with any of those horses, but still he is in great hands in this race.
Breeding: Whitmore is a son of Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of both the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup, so we know stamina is present from there. Pleasantly Perfect is a son of Pleasant Colony, who won both the Derby and the Preakness in 1981. Whitmore's damsire is Scat Daddy. He won the Florida Derby in 2007, but injuries suffered in a disastrous Kentucky Derby outing ultimately ended his career. Scat Daddy died last year at just 11, so we will never get to see his full potential. Whitmore is his third Derby runner, though, so there is some quality there.
Odds: The third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby actually improved the horse's chance in the Kentucky Derby slightly in the eyes of bettors. In the final official Kentucky Derby futures pool weeks before the Arkansas Derby, Whitmore opened at 20/1 on the morning line but closed at 33/1 three days later. Now, though, he sits at +3000 to win the Derby at 5Dimes.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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