Count Fleet Sprint Handicap Picks: Whitmore to bounce back

Horse-for-course Whitmore should move forward in his second start of 2021
Horse-for-course Whitmore should move forward in his second start of 2021

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The $500,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap sees a renewal of the Whitmore and CZ Rocket battle as our in-house handicapper provides us with his selections ahead of the race at Oaklawn Park this Saturday...

It doesn’t feature a big field, but this is a pretty intriguing edition of the G3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. The two obvious contenders are Whitmore (#2) and C Z Rocket (#6), who were separated by just a neck last out in the Hot Springs over this track. The latter, despite never cracking the triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure threshold for trainer Peter Miller, has been in razor sharp form since being claimed by Miller last year. He’s won 6 of 7 starts for his new connections including the Hot Springs, in which he was decidedly best over Whitmore, though I actually like that one to turn the tables on him.

C Z Rocket was my pick in the Hot Springs as I expressed concerns that Whitmore could be over the hill as a newly turned 8-year-old and entered the race on a very limited worktab, however I’m happy to say Whitmore proved me wrong. Even though he lost, the Oaklawn legend put in another terrific performance over his favorite track, and I believe he’s going to move forward off that effort. The margin separating him and C Z Rocket in the Hot Springs was minuscule, and I think Whitmore is in a better position to win this race as he’s drawn inside for his second start of the year. With added fitness and a ground-saving trip, I believe he has what it takes to reverse the decision from the Hot Springs.

The two other horses that need to be discussed in this race are No Parole (#1) and Strike Power (#4). It’s not hard to envision either of these horses winning as their last dirt races are actually faster than Whitmore and C Z Rocket, however they got great trips in those softer spots and could compromise each other’s chances. If either were to get away with moderate splits on the front end they’d be very dangerous, though I don’t know how likely that is to unfold and I just prefer the classier pair of Whitmore and C Z Rocket, who can safely be relied upon to run big races.

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