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Calibrachoa Shoots for Tom Fool Repeat

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 $40,000 horse.”


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 Tom Fool.


“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.”




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