Owner Mike Repole leads Stay Thirsty to the winer's Circle after he defeated Groupie Doll to win the Cigar Mile Handicap on Saturday at Aqueduct, one of three graded stahes wins for the high-profile owner. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
JAMAICA, N.Y. – When Mike Repole was a teenager, he used to sit in the grandstand at Aqueduct and daydream about how it would feel to own a horse good enough to win a Grade 1 race there.
Repole was always one to think big, but he enjoyed an afternoon at Aqueduct on Saturday that exceeded even his wildest expectations. Accompanied by a contingent of family and friends large enough to provide his own cheering section, the ambitious teenager turned prominent owner watched gleefully as his silks of royal blue and orange flashed across the finish line first in three consecutive graded stakes races.
A contingent headed by Repole’s 86-year-old grandmother let out a mighty cheer when Unlimited Budget, a 2-year-old filly with blistering speed, went wire to wire in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2), proving to be 1 ¼ lengths better than Emollient. The group tested fate – and gave grandma a chance to catch her breath – by remaining in the winner’s circle for the Remsen Stakes (G2). They were where they needed to be when Overanalyze gutted out a nose victory against Normandy Invasion.
They returned to their seats for the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) only to be on the move again when Stay Thirsty closed his outstanding career with a flourish, barely overtaking the sensational filly Groupie Doll to snap her five-race winning streak.
“I didn’t go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Repole said, “so this was my Breeders’ Cup.”
Certainly, the case could have been made for Stay Thirsty to have gone on to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on the first Saturday in November after he finished second to Flat Out by a head in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) on Sept. 29 at Belmont Park. But the colt had always done his best running in New York and, to Repole, it only seemed fitting that the 4-year-old close his career at Aqueduct in the Cigar Mile.
“He is a New York guy, and he wants to win New York races,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains al three winners for Repole.
Stay Thirsty, biding his time in fourth place before launching a dramatic rally for jockey Ramon Dominguez, caught Groupie Doll by a head bob. It was his first victory in seven races, dating back to his score in the Travers Stakes (G1) in August 2011 as a 3-year-old.
STAY THIRSTY EDGES GROUPIE DOLL IN CIGAR MILE THRILLER
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Heavily-favored Groupie Doll fell short for the first time since she ran third in the Inside Information Stakes (G2) last March at Gulfstream Park, her final start before she was equipped with blinkers.
“I don’t care how long I’m in racing,” said Repole, “you’re not going to win three graded stakes in a row, two with 2-year-olds and one with Stay Thirsty, who means so much to me.
“This is a special, special bittersweet moment to go out a winner, beating Groupie Doll. … He had the lead one time, and it happened to be when the wire came up. What a great feeling to win three stakes in a row. Just amazing!”
William “Buff” Bradley was not disappointed that he asked Groupie Doll to take a shot against males after she rolled to a 4 ½-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). “I’m glad we came,” Bradley said after the defeat by a nose. “I thought she ran her race and ran very well. I’m very proud of her.”
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