By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Stay Thirsty gave owner Mike Repole what he wanted--a win in the Grade III Gotham Stakes. And he made enough doing it to virtually assure him a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Stay Thirsty won $150,000 of the $250,000 purse to run his graded earnings total to $260,000. Owner Mike Repole said after the race that the next target would be either the Grade I Arkansas Derby or Grade I Florida Derby.
The winner was timed in 1:44.78 for the 1 1/16-mile race in his first competition since racing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in early November. But he'd been working in company with 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo at Palm Meadows and was well-prepared for the Gotham.
It was an eventful start for Stay Thirsty as he hit the left side of the starting gate. Sitting in fourth, then third position outside of and two or three lengths from the pace set by The Fed Eased, Stay Thirsty tracked moderate fractions of :24.79, :49.18 and 1:13.47 while three wide around the turns under Ramon Domingurez. As they straightened for home, Stay Thirsty went ahead around the furlong marker and eased off to win by 3 1/4 lenghths.
Norman Asbjornson finished second, and rider Julian Pimentel lodged an objection when the winner crossed in front of him around the sixteenth pole. The incident was minor and didn't change the inevitable--and didn't cost the runner-up a placing. Stewards disallowed the objection.
Toby's Corner loomed in the stretch, looking like he might get up for second, but he hung in the final 100 yards and finished a length behind Norman Asbjornson. The trainers of those two weren't brimming with confidence. Christopher Grove said Norman Asbjornson isn't being pointed to the Kentucky Derby but might be brought back for the Grade I Wood Memorial. Graham Motion downplayed the chance that Toby's Corner would compete in the Wood.
The order of finish was completed by Nacho Saint, The Fed Eased, Isn't He Perfect and Starship Caesar. Preachintothedevil and Dawly were both scratched by their trainers.
Stay Thirsty, a son of Bernardini, is out of the Storm Bird mare Marozia. He was bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther and John Darren Gunther. Sold for $160,000 at the Keeneland September 2009 sale, Repole bought him for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2-Year-Olds in Training sale.
The Gotham was his second win in five starts. After breaking his maiden second time out, Stay Thirsty was second in the Grade I Hopeful, then ran fifth in the Juvenile.
Repole developed the Vitamin Water brand--hence the name of the winner. He now looks to Florida for Uncle Mo's first start of the year next Saturday at Gulfstream Park. or possibly Tampa Bay Downs.
Todd Pletcher, winning trainer: “I thought he ran huge. 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 a little concerned when he broke just a step slowly, sort of tossed his head at the break, but he recovered real quickly and put himself in a good spot. I was very, 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.”
Mike Repole, winning owner: “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. Today is all about Stay Thirsty and I think he proved that when you get away from Boys At Tosconova and you get away from Uncle Mo, this is a pretty special horse. Uncle Mo will go to the Wood Memorial, and Todd and I will discuss the two options for Stay Thirsty, probably either the Arkansas Derby or the Florida Derby.”
Ramon Dominguez, winning rider: “At the very last second he threw up his head and missed the break. On the second jump, I barely got after him and he got into the race pretty good, but he was also very relaxed at the same time. That’s always a concern after they break like that – after you encourage them to get into the race, they might get too rank. Turning for home, he was drifting in slightly, but there was barely any contact. I was very happy with him. He gave me whatever I asked him, and he galloped out very strong, too.”
Christopher Grove, trainer of runner-up Norman Asbjornson: “It was a bigger effort than I expected coming off the 60-day layoff. I was happy with him. Our goal is the Preakness, not the Derby, but we might be back for the Wood. I haven’t decided yet.”
Julian Pimentel, rider aboard Norman Asbjornson: “(Stay Thirsty) came over on me, he wasn’t clear. I know he was much the best and he was going by me, but he still came over on me. Otherwise, everything went really well and the horse ran well. It set up for us, he was going along pretty easy, he just ducked in when I asked him to run.”
Graham Motion, trainer of third finisher Toby’s Corner: “I was a little disappointed he didn’t get up to finish in the top two, but I think he showed he belonged with those horses. He ran a big race last time in the Whirlaway, and a lot of handicappers thought he might regress off that race, and I think he may have regressed a little. I’ve always taken it one step at a time with him, and I think it’d be asking a lot to come back in the Wood.”
Eddie Castro, rider of Toby’s Corner: “He made a little charge in the last eighth. The pace was a bit slow. He had a good trip, he ran a nice race, but lost to a very good horse.”