SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Winless in nearly a year and absent from racing since last August, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso bounced back big in his return to his home track, fighting hard in the stretch run to win Saturday’s Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct.

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Breaking from post 8 under John Velazquez as the 9/5 favorite, Vino Rosso raced four-wide in a front-running pack separated by less than a length, with California Night the leader at first call. The equine wall posted opening fractions of :23.34 and :45.93 before California Night and Hero’s Welcome began to give way, allowing Vino Rosso the chance to take command as he ran three-wide off of the far turn. Title Ready challenged him at the top of the stretch, but Vino Rosso dug in gamely and repelled that foe’s bid before inching away late. The Todd Pletcher trainee crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:35.27 for the mile-long event over the fast main track.

“He broke well,” Velazquez said. “I was not going to take anything away and (stay with) what he does easy. I tried to get him back and put him behind horses, and then he’s going to take me a long way to get him going. That’s the way he broke, and I left him where he’s comfortable. He got away from the competition pretty easily. I was just worried I was a little too soon. He was pretty sharp today – we got a little close to the pace, like I said – but he put in a good run.”

Over 7 lengths behind the top pair came Shivermetimbers, who grinded his way from the rear to take third by a 1/2-length over Sunny Ridge, who was favored in both the Place and Show pools. California Night weakened to fifth, a 1/2-length ahead of Stan the Man. Completing the order of finish came Curlin’s Honor and a tired Hero’s Welcome.

Vino Rosso’s win came in his 2019 debut, having been given an extended vacation since finishing a dull fifth in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 25. The 4-year-old son of Curlin improved his overall record to 10-4-0-2 with $929,125 earned.

“It feels great to have him back,” said co-owner Mike Repole. “He hasn’t raced since the Travers. He had a pretty busy 3-year-old campaign. Todd said he’s been training great down at Palm Beach Downs, and Johnny came up, and they got the job done here today.”

Vino Rosso returned $5.80 to win, $4.50 to place, and $3.80 to show. Title Ready brought back $7.80 to place and $5.10 to show, while Shivermetimbers paid $5.50 to show.