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Rontos Racing Stable has been in the headlines of late with unbeaten Kentucky Derby hopeful Social Inclusion, but appears to have an improving older turf horse in Hey Leroy. Making his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the former claimer rallied from last to deny pacesetting Mr. Online by a neck.
Like budding superstar Social Inclusion, Hey Leroy is trained by Manny Azpurua. He was claimed for $20,000 from Ken and Sarah Ramsey at Saratoga last July, and has climbed the class ladder since switching to turf for his new connections.
Overlooked at 11-1 off an entry-level allowance score over this course on March 15, where he was not entered for the tag, Hey Leroy raced well off early fractions of :23 4/5, :46 3/5 and 1:09 on the firm course. Mr. Online, who took over before the half-mile mark, opened up a 2 1/2-length lead in midstretch. But Hey Leroy kicked into overdrive for Alex Solis, getting up in time to finish the grassy mile in 1:32 2/5 and rewarding his loyalists with a $25.60 win payout.
Salto, the 5-2 favorite, settled for third. Next came Tetradrachm, Grand Tito, Midnight Cello, Fredericksburg, Kharafa and Five Iron. Cozzetti was scratched, along with the main-track-only pair of Csaba and Catron. Csaba instead ran one race later in the Grade 3 Skip Away and failed to hit the board.
Hey Leroy was bred by Spruce Lane Farm in Kentucky and sold for a mere $2,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. The Ramseys claimed him out of a four-length score in a $20,000 maiden claimer on the Churchill Downs dirt last June, but he made only two starts for Mike Maker before being haltered by his current connections. His scorecard now reads 22-5-5-3, $174,991.
The four-year-old gelding is by Any Given Saturday and out of the winning Gulch mare Galashey. His dam is a half-sister to stakes winner Salinja, a Mountaineer track record-setter who also equaled a course record at Monmouth on turf. Galashey is also a three-quarter sister to stakes-placed Kisbey, dam of stakes victress and Meadowlands track record-setter Thoroughly Holy. Further back, this is the family of Grade 1 stars Sardula, Imperial Gesture and Divine Park.