Repole celebrates his own Cup

November, 25, 2012
Mike Repole may own one of the nation's largest and most successful stables, yet for a variety of reasons he elected to sit out the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park in California.

Instead on Thanksgiving weekend in his hometown, Repole celebrated his own Breeders' Cup, the birthday of one of his top jockeys, plus Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and possibly even Festivus all wrapped up into one neat package.

If prodded, he might have even performed Cousin Balki's Dance of Joy from an old TV show (Perfect Strangers).

It was that kind of a joyous weekend for the 43-year-old native New Yorker.

A few months after proclaiming he would rather win November stakes in the Big Apple such as the Remsen than a Breeders' Cup race, Repole's wish came true through the help of trainer Todd Pletcher and several talented Thoroughbreds.

Of the six graded stakes on the three-day Holiday program at Aqueduct, Repole won four of them, including the most important and stirring of them all, the $350,000 Cigar Mile. Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Travers winner, waited until the final stride of his final race to beat the dead-game filly Groupie Doll by a nose to take the Grade 1 Cigar and give Repole his third straight graded stakes win on an unforgettable day -- even if it was Ozone Park instead of Arcadia, Calif.

"Aqueduct is not the prettiest place in the world, but it means a lot to me," Repole said. "It means lot to my friends, it means a lot to my family. I grew up 10 minutes from here. I said, 'this is my Breeders' Cup weekend.' We won four graded stakes. I don't care how long I'm in racing, you're not going to win three graded stakes in a row, two with 2-year-olds and one with Stay Thirsty, who means so much to me. This is a special, special bittersweet moment, for him to go out a winner, beating Groupie Doll, who's going to win the Eclipse Award."

As a kid growing up in Queens, I dreamed about winning a Grade 1 stakes at Aqueduct. Uncle Mo couldn't do it for me, but Stay Thirsty did.

-- Owner Mike Repole
It was Uncle Mo who made the rarely reticent Repole a household name in racing. The undefeated juvenile champion of 2010, Uncle Mo seemed destined to win at least one leg of the Triple Crown. But he never even made it to the series as he was scratched on the eve of the Kentucky Derby due to a liver ailment. Instead it was Stay Thirsty who gave Repole his first Triple Crown starter when he ran 12th in the Kentucky Derby, as well as other thrills like a Travers victory and runner-up finishes in the 2011 Belmont Stakes and this year's Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Last, but certainly not least, there was Stay Thirsty's determined effort in the Cigar as he rallied on the outside and wore down Groupie Doll, the year's unquestioned champion female sprinter, in his final start before heading to stud.

"Finally, luck went his way," said Repole, whose colt chose a highly opportune time to post his first win in five 2012 starts. "As a kid growing up in Queens, I dreamed about winning a Grade 1 stakes at Aqueduct. Uncle Mo couldn't do it for me [the now retired Uncle Mo was third in the 2011 Wood Memorial], but Stay Thirsty did."

While the Cigar marked the final start for Stay Thirsty, Repole figures to be an active presence on the New York stakes scene once again next year. Prior to the Cigar, horses in his New York Mets-themed orange and blue colors took both the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-old colts and the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies.

Overanalyze rebounded from a third in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs to take the mile-and-an-eighth Remsen by a nose in a tight, three-horse finish. The son of Dixie Union pressed the pace of the front-running Delhomme before edging past that one in the final yards and outdueling Normandy Invasion, who settled for runner-up honors to a more seasoned rival in a rather promising stakes debut.

"He's got speed and the ability to carry it," Pletcher said about Overanalyze, who had previously won the six-furlong Belmont Futurity. "He's a ratable horse, a tractable, smart horse. It looked like the horse who finished second had a lot of momentum, but actually, when he got to Overanalyze it kind of emboldened him."

Jockey Ramon Dominguez, the aforementioned 36-year-old birthday boy, was aboard both Stay Thirsty and Overanalyze and illustrated why he's a candidate for a third-straight Eclipse Award by prevailing in a pair of closes finishes.

"When [Normandy Invasion] came to me, he actually got ahead of me," Dominguez said. "I wasn't happy about that. My horse was taking sand by that point, but I kept after him and he kept on coming. I was very proud of the way he came back at the other horse. The other horse never stopped running. It was actually my horse doing the comeback. I was very pleased about that."

In the Demoiselle, it was John Velasquez who used some slick race-riding to hold off the favored Emollient and post a 1 1/4-length victory with Unlimited Budget, which marked the first of three winner's circle appearances by Repole and an entourage of family and friends that seemed to account for a healthy portion of the day's attendance at Aqueduct.

After Emollient broke awkwardly, Velazquez set a slow pace with Unlimited Budget just a couple of paths off the rail. When Junior Alvarado on Emollient took the bait and moved up inside of him, Velazquez spurted away. Then in the stretch when Emollient seemed intent on collaring the leader, Velazquez came out slightly into Emollient's path and that one seemed to lose interest.

"The inside is slower, so I wanted to keep [Emollient] inside a bit. I wanted to keep her down in there and make her try to get by me there," Velazquez said.

Unlimited Budget's only other start was a 9 1/2-length maiden win.

On Thanksgiving Day, Repole's torrid run started with a victory by Caixa Eletronica in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap. For good measure, on Friday his Notacatbutallama won the Super Mario, an $80,000 overnight stakes.

With the Breeders' Cup scheduled for Santa Anita next year as well, it will be interesting to see if Repole sticks with his 2012 itinerary and stays home in New York next fall.

If he does, New York's Holiday-fest might be ripe for a new name.

Perhaps they should just call it Repole Gras.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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