Calibrachoa collected his third consecutive stakes victory and second in a graded race on Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack when he closed into a hot pace to win the 36th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite, Calibrachoa settled well back in third as entrymate Have You Ever and Deputy Daney opened up on the field, hurrying through a quarter in 21.63 and a half-mile in 44.03. Gaining ground as the front runners lost momentum, Calibrachoa easily overtook Deputy Daney just past the eighth pole and drew off to win by 4 ½ lengths.
His final time for six furlongs over Aqueduct’s fast inner track was 1:09.67.
“I was trying to slow him down as much as I could,” said jockey Ramon Dominguez, who picked up his second stakes victory on the card in the Tom Fool. “I knew the horses in front of me were going extremely fast, and I just didn’t want to fall into chasing and then having someone close on me. I certainly at no point in the race wanted someone to take my position, but at the same time I was trying to reserve as much as I could. I was actually surprised at how much they opened on me. My horse finished up pretty strong.”
It was the third straight stakes victory over the inner track for the 4-year-old son of Southern Image, who won the $65,000 Gravesend on December 18 and the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 22. Owner Mike Repole claimed the colt for $40,000 out of a winning effort at the Big A on November 18.
“It was Mike’s idea to put another horse in there to make sure we had an honest pace, and that allowed Ramon to ride him however he saw fit, and obviously Ramon sensed that they were flying early, so he just let him settle and he relaxed really well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “Even though he was far back, when the fractions are that fast, he was in the race fine. You could see when they started to come back to him it was the same time he was starting to find his stride, and so he made up a lot of ground in a short period of time. It looked like he won with something left.”
Longshot Fastus Cactus was second and Deputy Daney held third, while Dahlgren Chapel, Flat Bold and Have You Ever completed the order of finish.
With the victory, Calibrachoa earned $90,000 for Repole Stable, boosting his lifetime winnings to $310,540. The heavy favorite in the field of six, he returned $3.10.
“Here’s a $40,000 claimer and now he’s come back and won an ungraded stakes, a Grade 3, and a Grade 3,” Repole said. “He looked like a monster. He’s only moving up. Todd’s done an amazing job with him.”
Pletcher said Calibrachoa would likely be pointed to the Grade 1, $250,000 Carter Handicap on the Wood Memorial Day undercard at Aqueduct on April 9.