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Saturday, August 20, 2011
Highs and lows at the Spa

Owning race horses and spending a day at an amusement park exist at different spectrums of everyday life.

Yet for native New Yorker Mike Repole, life as one of New York’s most successful owners can often take on the feel of a rollercoaster ride.

As recently as the start of this week, Repole was blissfully going up, up, up. His 2-year-old filly, Stopshoppingmaria, was an eye-catching maiden winner at Saratoga on Sunday, giving him an outstanding juvenile filly prospect to go along with his 2-year-old stakes-winning colt Overdriven and his 3-year-old stars, Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo.

But now, just as Repole gained one star, he might be losing another for a while. Trainer Todd Pletcher, citing unhappiness with the way Overdriven was moving on the racetrack, abruptly cancelled a scheduled workout for Repole’s Sanford Stakes winner on Thursday. Once considered a cinch to win the Hopeful on Sept. 5, Overdriven may now be forced to miss the race as his connections have him examined in hopes of finding out what ails him.

“This is the only sport that every time I get a call or an email it is to congratulate me for one horse and apologize for another at the same time,” Repole said.

Repole said Overdriven will undergo a nuclear scan on Friday with the hope that he will not miss much time.

“He seems fine back at the barn and all the tests we’ve done seem negative,” Pletcher said on Thursday morning. “I’m just not happy with the way he’s moving, so I am going to (schedule a scan) just to be safe.”

Repole was in a more festive mood about Stopshoppingmaria.

After finishing third in her debut, a race in which she went to her knees at the start, Stopshoppingmaria had a clean trip Sunday, and, in the words of track announcer Tom Durkin, she could not be stopped, much like a fashionista at a mall. Taking command in the stretch, she romped to a 10-length win in 1:09.87 for six furlongs, amounting to a Beyer speed figure of 101 and, according to Repole, an exceptional and very Uncle Mo-like Ragozin speed figure of 4.

“Maria was so impressive,” Repole said. “She’s probably the best 2-year-old filly in the country right now. We probably should have run her in the Adirondack (a stakes for 2-year-old fillies later on Sunday’s card) instead of the maiden race.”

Repole said the Grade 1 Spinaway on Sept. 4 would be the primary target, though if she needs more time to recover off such a powerful effort, the Frizette on Oct. 9 at Belmont Park was an option.

Before all that, of course, Repole will be sort of busy next weekend on Travers Day with Stay Thirsty in the famed Mid-Summer Derby and Uncle Mo’s eagerly awaited comeback in the King’s Bishop.

Hang on. It looks like the rollercoaster is heading up the tracks again.

Off to an early start

Interesting day at the Spa on Thursday.

If the early bird catches the worm, then the starter for the second race of the day must have caught enough crawlers to supply everyone in the next world bass fishing championship.

Just moments after Durkin announce there were three minutes left before post time for the steeplechase race, the starter stunned everyone -- except the horses and riders -- by dropping the flag to send the field on its way.

Thankfully Durkin didn’t head out to the Shake Shack after telling everyone there were a few more minutes before post time. Though discombobulated a bit, Durkin quickly returned to his microphone and managed to call the race, but his fluster was shown in that he called the wrong horse as the winner of the race. One Giant Step, who he proclaimed as the winner, finished fourth. Instead it was Italian Wedding who crossed the wire first, but it really didn’t matter to bettors since both horses were owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard and were coupled in the wagering. It was simply a matter of 1 or 1A winning.

Guess they aren’t kidding when they warn you to bet early. But, hey, what are you going to do about it? Jump up and down?