What daddy didn’t do, his kid did.
Five years to the day since Uncle Mo lost the Wood Memorial, Outwork avenged that upset for owner Mike Repole, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez on Saturday at rainy, chilly Aqueduct.
But just barely, and not without serious stress in the final 50 yards, when 81-1 maiden Trojan Nation came charging along the inside. Outwork held him off by a head, which in real time looked more like a nose. “I was scared a lot when I saw that horse coming up the rail,’’ Repole said. “Thank God the wire came up, because another jump, he probably wouldn’t have made it.”
Repole was “very confident” his colt had hung on but didn’t want to jinx himself by celebrating too soon. “If this had been a $25,000 claimer, I would have rushed down to the winner’s circle,” he said. “But because it was the Wood, I waited to make sure.’’
Outwork seemed confident he had won in upper stretch, when the inexperienced colt decelerated after kicking clear from fellow pacesetter Matt King Coal. That didn’t surprise Pletcher. ”I had mentioned to Johnny that if he made the lead, he might idle a bit, and he did,’’ he said. “But I loved the performance, a great run. To win the Wood with a son of Uncle Mo is a pretty cool story.’’
The Grade I victory was worth 100 qualifying points, guaranteeing Outwork a spot in the Kentucky Derby. A liver ailment kept Uncle Mo out of the Derby, and Repole always has believed he would have worn the blanket of roses if he had been healthy.
“You did it for dad, didn’t you? You did it for dad, didn’t you?” Repole yelled, inches from Outwork’s face.
It was the ultimate family moment for Repole, whose wife, parents, brother and grandmother were part of a boisterous entourage of “about 55.” He did double duty as he led Outwork to the trophy presentation, clutching his 9-month-old daughter, Gioia, in his left arm while holding the colt’s shank with his right.
Outwork ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.92 on a muddy, sealed track, with a final furlong in a slow 14.02 seconds. He earned $590,000 for his third win in four starts, raising his total to $701,800 for Repole Stable. He paid $6.80 as the second favorite to 9-5 Shagaf, who never got involved and ran fifth, about 4 lengths behind.
Coming in third was Adventist, followed by Matt King Coal, Shagaf, Tale of S’avall, Flexibility and Dalmore.
Shagaf’s trainer, Chad Brown, was not disheartened. “If the horse is healthy, I’m inclined to hope for a dry track at Churchill and a better trip,’’ he said. “I’m confident he can get a mile and a quarter.’’
Shagaf belongs to Shadwell Stable, whose top Derby hopeful, Mohaymen, finished fourth eight days ago in the Florida Derby. The colt who dominated him, the 7-for-7 Nyquist, also was sired by Uncle Mo, and he’s the favorite for the May 7 Derby.
“Two big Derby preps, both winners by Uncle Mo,’’ Repole said. “I hope on Derby Day I have the best son of Uncle Mo.’’
Notes & quotes: Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. won five races, including the Grade II Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies on Lewis Bay ($5.50).