by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Bruce Levine has been a mainstay in New York and New Jersey since winning his first race at Aqueduct in 1979. Levine, however, never won a training title until Nov. 10, when he saddled the most winners at the Meadowlands meet.
Levine won 19 races from 53 starts, three more winners than the runner-up Frank Costa, who had 103 starts at the meet. Levine’s runners earned $459,245, second only to Todd Pletcher, whose stable accounted for $475,020 in purses won.
“It was nice, it really was nice,” Levine, 52, said Nov. 13 of his first training title. “We usually don’t have the numbers to do it. But we clicked at this meet and everything fell into place. We were stronger this year at the claiming box. I had one guy who claimed 15 to 20 horses, and he probably won nine races. I don’t usually claim like that.”
The owner who helped Levine secure the Meadowlands title is Mike Repole. Repole, 38, was one of several people involved in developing the popular energy drink Vitaminwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola for a reported $4.1 billion in May.
Repole’s association with Levine began a year ago. He previously had several horses with other trainers, but according to Levine, began claiming and buying horses in earnest this year. Levine said he trains “around 18 to 20 horses” for Repole, a native New Yorker.
“I was introduced to (Repole) through a friend, Matt Muzikar,” Levine said. “Mike is very enthusiastic. He has been buying younger horses, yearlings, and 2-year-olds, and is really getting his feet down in the business. He likes the action of claiming horses, too.”
Levine capped off his weekend by winning the $77,700 Smartangle Stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 11 with More Angels for his longtime owner, Roddy Valente. Levine said More Angels, who won her first stakes in the Smartangle, would be pointed to the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park in January.
Valente and Levine frequently claim horses, such as More Angels, on the West Coast and bring them to the East Coast. Using that method, Levine and Valente struck gold with Coyote Lakes, who they claimed for $50,000 in California in 2000. Coyote Lakes became the darling of winter racing at Aqueduct with his three consecutive wins in the Gallant Fox Handicap.
Despite his success claiming horses, Levine said he gets the most satisfaction out of developing younger horses into stakes runners.
“It’s nice to have stakes horses in the barn,” said Levine, whose winter stable at Aqueduct will carry about 70 horses. “I’ve been trying to get away from (claiming), but you claim, drop, and you can win in a heartbeat.”