Notching his first win since the 2011 Travers Stakes (gr. I), Repole Stables' Stay Thirsty got the bob on Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) winner Groupie Doll in the $343,000 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 24 (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old son of Bernardini surged by a nose to complete a sweep of the first three stakes races on the holiday card for Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher, who sent Unlimited Budget to win the $250,000 Demoiselle (gr. II) before taking the $250,000 Remsen (gr. II) with Overanalyze . The duo actually kicked off their win streak in graded stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 22, winning the $150,000 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) with Caixa Eletronica.
Groupie Doll, the even-money favorite in a field scratched down to five, took a narrow lead in the Cigar Mile with a three-wide move turning for home. She had been stalking in third behind opening fractions of :23.80 and :47.04 set alternately by Coil and Buffum , while Stay Thirsty was fourth on the outside through three-quarters in 1:11.11.
Stay Thirsty made his way from fourth with a late stretch run under Ramon Dominguez to challenge on the outside, engaging Groupie Doll in a ding-dong battle while closing tenaciously to wear her down in the final stride. It was two lengths back to Coil, who finished third.
"I wasn't sure; I thought we got a good bob, but I still wasn't 100 percent sure," Pletcher remarked. "He's been a good horse every day that we've had him; he was successful at 2 and won races like the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers at 3, and the breeders love milers. He proved today he can be versatile enough to do all of those things. It was a huge win for him."
"She ran a hell of a race," trainer Buff Bradley said of Groupie Doll, who remains a slam-dunk for champion female sprinter this year. "I'm glad we came. I knew Stay Thirsty was coming at us, he ran a great race, too. I thought she ran her race and ran very well. I'm very proud of her. I knew she'd gotten nosed out. Tough field."
"The pace didn't develop fast and I was close," jockey Rajiv Maragh said of Groupie Doll's loss. "The pace was slow. She naturally put herself in the bridle. I got the trip I wanted to. Just a tough beat."Off at odds of 3-1, Stay Thirsty returned $7.50, $3.20, and $2.20. Groupie Doll paid $2.80 and $2.10 while Coil, two lengths back in third, brought $2.60. Buffum and Hymn Book completed the order of finish. Jersey Town and Associate scratched.
It was a fifth win on the card for Dominguez, who was celebrating his 36th birthday. Dominguez also brought home Overanalyze in the Remsen and Dance Card in the $350,000 Gazelle (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies.
"I would have loved to have been sitting closer, but it turned out I was happy with the position," the jockey said. "When I had a chance to go outside, I did. Groupie Doll was game and she was hard to get by. It was great to see him do that and show a different style today."
Stay Thirsty, who ran the mile in 1:35.47, came off a runner-up finish in the Sept. 29 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) to record his fifth win from 17 starts. Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther & John Darren Gunther out of the Storm Bird mare Marozia, he will retire to Ashford Stud for the 2013 breeding season.
"Aqueduct is not the prettiest place in the world, but it means a lot to me, it means lot to my friends, it means a lot to my family." Mike Repole said. "I grew up 10 minutes from here. I said, 'this is my Breeders' Cup weekend.' We won four graded stakes. I don't care how long I'm in racing, 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, who's going to win the Eclipse Award," Repole concluded. "He had the lead one time, and it happened to be when the wire came up... just amazing."