By Bill Heller
Reaching the winner’s circle after the $ 2 million Gr1 Breeders Cup sprint on November 7 at Keeneland, Laura Moquett hugged her seven-year-old Whitmore gelding, telling her, “You’re a tough guy. to cook.
Speaking about that moment a week later, she added, “This also applies to my husband.”
She says this with legitimate pride either way. She is part-owner, assistant coach and runner of Whitmore, who was chasing her first win in her fourth start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
If there was an equine dictionary and you searched for the word “thug,” Whitmore’s picture would probably be there. He is the poster horse for bad behavior.
ALL ABOUT CARPET
Ron, husband of Laura, 48, co-owner and coach of Whitmore, survived three years with atypical sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the lungs. Think you are afraid of COVID? Ron did not miss a step in training his stable of 38 horses. âIt’s nothing,â he said. âA lot of people have lived worse than me. I can go to the barn. I can do my job. I wore a mask before it became a fad.
There is a third member of that Whitmore team – former jockey Greta Kuntzweiler, now Whitmore’s Breeze Rider and an assistant coach. Ron calls her a hippie. Greta laughs when asked about it. âHe thinks I’m a hippie because I’m a Democrat,â she said.
Together, the Moquetts and Kuntzweiler reached that remarkable Breeders’ Cup moment when Whitmore won the 3Â¼-length Sprint, thanks to a perfect run from Irad Ortiz, Jr. Whitmore had peaked at age seven in his 38th start in career – a testament to Ron’s belief that doing good through the horse allows you to maximize success. Ron transfers the credit to his horse. “He tells me everything,” Ron said. “Every day. He is honest, very honest. He is very available with information on what he needs.
It only matters if his trainer is listening. Ron has listened to animals his whole life. At a young age, he preferred the company of animals rather than people.
Her mother died at the age of four. âWe went from place to place for a while,â he said. âWe got together with our grandparents. I was drawn to animals – all kinds of animals. I didn’t care – dogs, cats, horses, chickens. An animal will never lead you astray. An animal is very honest. For some reason they respected me and I respected them. Without cats, dogs, horses and chickens, I would need a lot of therapy. This is what I used for therapy. This is where I find comfort. I like people, but I prefer to be with my animals.
He built his life with horses. âA horse never lies to you,â he said. âIf he’s scared, he shows it. If he’s hungry, he shows it.
And if that horse is Whitmore, he’ll kick you to hell if you hit him in the wrong place. Or at the wrong time. Or just for the kicks. His specialty was a double kick. Ron can live with that because Whitmore has incredible talent too.
Ron was born near Blue Ribbons Downs, a Quarter Horse track in Sallisaw, Okla. Ron continued his interest in horses on the bush tracks. âWe used to go there on Sunday,â he said. âThey would have run on a strip of 400 yards. We would have renowned runners. “
Ron couldn’t get enough. âI worked at the gate,â he said. âI was preparing the horses to run. I would help the pony trainers. My friend came up – it was my first introduction. They played and climbed. I just wanted to be with the horses. I thought it was cool as hell. I was probably 13 years old.
Then came a sobering awareness. âNo one was making money doing this,â he said.
So he began to supplement his income with fierce fighting. âIt was kind of like a predecessor to Ultimate Fighting,â he said. âThere are three one-minute rounds with 16-ounce gloves. The winner moves on. If you win five or six, you are fighting for the money. I did well from 18 to 24 years old. I haven’t done it all the time. He got to the point where others were improving. It happened where I made money with horses; I didn’t have to do it anymore.
This happened at Oaklawn Park, where he started training. âI was 22,â Ron said. âI lived in a saddlery probably for the first six months. It’s no different from a lot of people today. I was no one special.
Ron took a huge break, landing a job for coach Bernie Flint. âBernie was the perfect guy for me,â Ron said. âHe allowed me to do everything and taught me a lot about handling different situations. He was always kind to animals. For a pretending trainer, he was very nice. He’s 6-3, 300 pounds, a former cop. Bernie was a natural rider. I had been with him for less than two years, and he showed me so much more than if I had gone to a big operation.
Ron was about as far away from a big deal as he could get when he started his own team, posting just a second and a third out of seven starts in 1997. âHow bad do you want it?â Ron asked. âEveryone likes it when you do well with a barn full of good horses. Try to do this whenever you have a barn full of other people’s junk. You don’t have a lot of money to fall back on. Mike Tyson said: ‘Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. ”
He had been literally punched in the face when he was a tough guy for years. He was able to quit his second career when his numbers improved during his first full year of training in 1998 with five wins out of 82 starters and $ 80,354 in earnings. In 1999, he scored 12 wins out of 141 starts with $ 259,385 in cash. He was on his way.
“I just wanted too badly not to keep doing it,” Ron said. “How are you going to get there? First of all, you must have a love for the animal. Second, you must hate money because you won’t get it for a long time. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years, and ended up winning a few. The third thing is you need to be where you don’t need to sleep. If you don’t like money, love horses and don’t sleep, then you have a chance to become a trainer. It is so hard. The game is frustrating and so difficult.
Having a partner helps get through tough times, and Ron has a 24/7 partner in Laura. Raised in Lawton, a small town in Iowa, she discovered her passion for horses as a child. âI had my own horses at home,â she says. âI was 16 when I started to gallop. There is a different way of looking at the world through their eyes. I am talking about horse. It’s like a second language. They communicate with you through their body language. “
Ron was working for Bernie Flint when Laura got a job with him. She saw a cognate spirit. âHe cares about horses,â she said. “He is not in a hurry. He cares about getting to the bottom. A team aspect comes into play. â
They got married. âPretty much that was in 2014,â Laura said. “I’m guessing. We’re both terrible about this anniversary.