Quick, who is owner Mike
Repole’s leading runner by graded stakes wins? The answer isn’t
2010 Champion Two-Year-Old Uncle Mo, nor is it 2011 Travers winner Stay
Thirsty. That distinction belongs to Calibrachoa, who on Saturday will attempt
to capture Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap presented by
Corona Extra for the second straight year.
Calibrachoa – who has won four graded stakes, compared to three apiece
for Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo – was claimed by Todd Pletcher on
behalf of Repole for $40,000 in November 2010.
“He ran a really big number for $50,000 [when second at Belmont in October] and
then was in for $40,000,” recalled Repole. “Todd was concerned that
he ran so big for $50,000 but was in for $40,000. He was 1-5 that day [when he
was in for $40,000] and Todd called and said, ‘You sure you want to claim
him? He’s 1-5 and nobody is looking at him.’ We were the only ones
in for him.”
It proved to be $40,000 well spent.
“We worked him a couple of times and Todd said, ‘This horse
looks great,’” said Repole. “He definitely has a sprinter
body, but when you see him in the paddock you would never think he’s a
Based off Calibrachoa’s workouts for Pletcher and Repole, the
team decided to make the 2010 Gravesend at
Aqueduct his first race off the claim. He defeated fellow Repole Stable
color-bearer Driven by Success by 1 ½ lengths in that race, then came back to
take the Grade 3 Toboggan by a half-length in January. A 4 ½-length score in
the 2011 Tom Fool gave him a third straight win on the inner track.
Away from the Big A, Calibrachoa finished third in both the Grade 2
True North Handicap presented by Emirates Airline at Belmont
and the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga Race Course, then was
fifth in Belmont’s
Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational. When racing resumed at the Big A, he took the
Grade 3 Bold Ruler by 2 ¾ lengths and was third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile
Handicap, both on the main track, and overcame a troubled start to win by 2 ¼
lengths on the inner track February 4 to repeat in the Toboggan.
“There aren’t many times in your life when you’ll win
four graded stakes with a single horse, much less with a horse you had
claimed,” said Repole. “He has the potential to be even better this
year and be one of the best sprinters in the country. He ran the fastest time
at the distance on the inner track this season [1:09.47 when he won the 2012
Toboggan]. He stumbled at the gate. What if he hadn’t stumbled?”
That said, Repole believes Calibrachoa doesn’t receive the
respect he deserves, although that could change with a win in Saturday’s
“The race came up like a Grade 1,” noted Repole. “I
think he’s an under-the-radar horse that people haven’t embraced.
If he beats Kiaran’s [McLaughlin’s] horse [Emcee] or Caleb’s
Posse, people will start to pay attention.”
Repole noted Calibrachoa’s tendency to regress off a big
performance but said the 5-year-old still could be a major factor on Saturday,
despite having delivered a top effort in his most recent start.
“He has a pattern where he’ll run a run a Beyer in the 100s
and then a Beyer in the 90s,” said Repole. “It doesn’t matter
if we give him three months off or four months off. He’s won stakes with
a Beyer in the 90s. For a horse who runs consistently between 93 and 108, I
guess you can consider that a slight bounce, but he’s still very capable
of running a big one.”