Stay Thirsty outran six other 3-year-olds and
the shadow of Eclipse winner and stablemate Uncle Mo Saturday afternoon at
Aqueduct Racetrack, charging through the stretch to win the 59th
running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham, New York’s first major prep for
the Kentucky Derby.
Making his 2011 debut for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher,
the pair behind early Derby favorite Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty broke a step slowly
and was three-wide on the first turn under jockey Ramon Dominguez as The Fed
Eased led through an opening quarter in 24.79 and then a half-mile in 49.18.
Ranging up on the outside turning for home, Stay Thirsty, who was the 4-5 favorite,
kicked into high gear in the stretch and squeezed by Norman Asbjornson to take
command with 200 yards to go, hitting the wire in 1:44.78 for the 1 1/16 miles.
Finishing 3 ¼ lengths back in second was 47-1 shot Norman Asbjornson,
whose jockey, Julian Pimentel, lodged an unsuccessful objection against the
favorite. He was followed under the wire by Toby’s Corner, Nacho Saint,
The Fed Eased, Isn’t He Perfect, and Starship Caesar. Dawly and
Preachintothedevil were scratched.
“I thought he ran huge,” said Pletcher of Stay Thirsty, who
gave the trainer his third stakes victory of the afternoon at the Big A, having
won the Grade 3 Tom Fool with Repole’s Calibrachoa and the Fred
“Cappy” Capossela with Sensational Slam for celebrity chef Bobby
Flay. “He’s coming in off only five breezes, going a mile and a
sixteenth, and he hasn’t run since November 6. It was very
encouraging…I was very pleased with the way he finished up. Ramon said he
was very handy and was there every time he called on him. He was impressed, as
we all were.”
[Watch the replay of the Gotham and all the Derby preps on the Derby Trail replay wall.]
Purchased by Repole for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Calder Selected
2-Year-Olds In Training sale, the son of Bernardini broke his maiden in his
second start last year, and subsequently finished second to Boys At Tosconova
in the Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful and fifth to Uncle Mo in the Grade 1
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November.
“I couldn’t be any happier for this horse, because I keep
hearing about ‘Mo’s shadow’ and ‘stablemate’ and
this is one of the top six 3-year-olds in the country,” said Repole.
“Today is all about Stay Thirsty and I think he showed that when you get
away from Boys At Tosconova and you get away from Uncle Mo,
this is a pretty special horse.”
Repole said that Stay Thirsty, now 2-2-0 from five starts, will next
head either to the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 3 at Gulfstream Park
or the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 16 at Oaklawn. Uncle
Mo makes his highly anticipated first start as
a 3-year-old in the Timely Writer at Gulfstream
Park on March 12 and is
then expected to head to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9.
Chris Grove, trainer of runner-up Norman Asbjornson, said his colt
might return for the Wood as well.
“It was a bigger effort than I expected coming off the 60-day
layoff,” said Grove. “I was happy with him.”
Stay Thirsty, who doubled his earnings to $300,000 with the victory,
returned $3.80 to his backers in the Gotham Day crowd of 7,114, an increase of 77
percent from the 4,028 who attended last year’s running. On-track handle
at Aqueduct on NYRA races totaled $1.59 million, a 32 percent increase from the
$1.2 million wagered last year on Gotham Day.