SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso finally delivered on the strong promise he’d shown during his young career, scoring his first stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 9 under John Velazquez, Vino Rosso took position mid-pack while Old Time Revival blazed ahead by multiple lengths through fractions of :22.96, :46.68, and 1:11.44. As the leader faded badly through the far turn, allowing the rest of the field to catch him, Vino Rosso was in prime position to pounce. Hitting the top of the stretch a head past the favored Enticed to his inside, Vino Rosso battled his foe for the first half of the stretch run, with the two playing briefly playing bumper cars with each other. Successfully intimidating the rail horse, Vino Rosso drew off late to win by 3 lengths in a final time of 1:49.79 for the 1 1/8-mile main track event.
“I got close to him and he was coming out,” Velazquez said. “So, I made my horse switch leads, and when he switched, I leaned on him a little bit, and then he pushed me out, and my horse went right back on him. That’s what happened. I got him easy, anyway. He was holding his ground out and I was holding him back in. He was the horse to beat and I wasn’t going to give him a chance.”
Both a steward’s inquiry and a jockey’s objection (lodged by Enticed’s rider Junior Alvarado) regarding the stretch run was conducted, and though each was ultimately dismissed, not everyone agreed with the decisions.
“”We ran very well to finish second, but I thought [the stewards] could have put us up,” said Enticed’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “It was an excellent race, we finished second, and he deserved to win.”
Restoring Hope ran well enough to finish third in his first career start outside of southern California. Several lengths back, Firenze Fire was up for fourth by a 1/2-length over Heartfullofstars, with King Zachary, Evaluator, Old Time Revival, and Catch Twenty Two completing the order of finish.
The Wood Memorial is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Vino Rosso earned 100 points for the win, with Enticed receiving 40 for second, Restoring Hope 20 for third, and Firenze Fire 10 for fourth.
Vino Rosso’s win came in his return to Aqueduct, the sight of his maiden-breaking debut last November, and improved his record to 5-3-0-1 with earnings of $620,500. The son of Curlin finished third in February’s Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, then faltered slightly in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. After that effort, trainer Todd Pletcher stated that his colt needed a longer distance.
“We’re feeling like we’re seeing a horse that has that talent, and he’s doing well, and we felt like that mile and 1/8 is something he’s looking for,” Pletcher said. “This is the performance we’ve been looking for.”
Vino Rosso returned $10.40 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.40 to show. Enticed brought back $2.90 to place and $2.40 to show, while Restoring Hope paid $3.30 to show.