Stay Thirsty wins Cigar Mile; Mike Repole, Todd Pletcher take three graded stakes
The filly Groupie Doll and Stay Thirsty hit the wire together in the Grade I Cigar Mile, and Todd Pletcher thought his colt had lost the head bob. On a magical day for the trainer and for owner Mike Repole, Pletcher should have known better.
On a blustery, cloudy afternoon in the borough where Repole grew up, he was the King of Queens. He and Pletcher teamed up in three consecutive graded stakes -- the Demoiselle, the Remsen and the Cigar -- Saturday at Aqueduct and won them all, the last two in photo finishes.
It was Stay Thirsty's last race before heading to Kentucky for a stud career, and for Repole, no finale could have been grander. "He had the lead once,'' he said, "and it happened to be when the wire came up.
"His career gave us a great ride. He was my first Derby horse and gave me my first Travers. This is a special, bittersweet moment, beating Groupie Doll, who's going to win an Eclipse Award. This is a great way to say goodbye to him.''
After taking the Grade II Demoiselle with the 2-year-old filly Unlimited Budget ($4.10), Repole celebrated with an entourage of about 40, including Nets coach Avery Johnson and Repole's 86-year-old grandmother, Assunta Guarnaccia. The entire crew stayed put in the overflowing winner's circle, from where they watched Overanalyze ($5.50) and Ramon Dominguez take the Grade II Remsen by a nose over Normandy Invasion.
"I wasn't being arrogant keeping everybody there,'' Repole said. "I just didn't want my grandmother to have to make the trip again if we won.''
A half-hour later, Stay Thirsty ($7.50) and Dominguez completed the $32 Repole pick 3 on the jockey's 36th birthday. Repole's friends and family serenaded him with "Happy Birthday" after his fourth of five winners. (John Velazquez, who rode Unlimited Budget, turned 41 yesterday, so it was party time all around.) Dominguez capped his day by a Grade I Gazelle victory on Dance Party ($5.30).
Even if Repole and Pletcher had been shut out Saturday, they already had enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving weekend at the Big A. On Thursday, they took the Grade III Fall Highweight Handicap with Caixa Eletronica, and on Friday Notacatbutallama won an ungraded stakes.
Repole didn't send any horses to Santa Anita for the Nov. 2-3 Breeders' Cup, partly because of its ban on Lasix for 2-year-olds. "My plan was to focus on these races, where my 2-year-olds could run on Lasix,'' the Nassau County resident said. "With five stakes wins, four graded, Repole Breeders' Cup weekend couldn't have turned out better.''
"Aqueduct is not the prettiest place in the world,'' he said, "but it means a lot to me, my family and my friends. I grew up 10 minutes from here. And I don't care how long I'm in racing, you're not going to win three graded stakes in a row.''