Cutting back to a one-turn sprint after running sixth in Point Given's San Felipe (gr. II), Greystone Stable and Vincenzo LoVerso's Skip to the Stone pressed the pace before drawing away to win Saturday's $150,000 Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.
"The one turn is good for him," said trainer Mike Mitchell. "Seven-eighths is a good distance, but I think he'll be okay at a mile, too. I'm not saying he won't go longer, because in the San Felipe, he wasn't where we thought he would be. The Breeders' Cup Sprint (Belmont Park, October 27th) is a good goal for us."
Under jockey Victor Espinoza, Skip to the Stone pressed longshot My New Love through an opening quarter-mile run in :22.64, put his head in front while running a half-mile in :45.84, drew off to build a 2 1/2 length in the stretch, and held a closing Multiple Choice at bay to win by 1 3/4 lengths at the wire. The Baldwin Stakes (gr. III) winner completed the seven furlongs in 1:22.46 on a fast track.
"He broke slow, he made a right turn," Espinoza said. "I was worried because he has to be on the lead. I rushed him up to take the lead. It was a longshot (My New Love) on the inside, and I didn't want to race with him. I got clear. I didn't want to go head-to-head with the longshot. Then, I got pretty clear. I turned him loose, but I had to keep riding because he wanted to slow down."
Multiple Choice finished second, seven lengths clear of Friday's a Comin'. City Zip was a nose farther back in fourth, followed by Forest Heir, Wicked Will, Charlie's Cards, and My New Love.
Saturday's race was the first outside of California for Skip to the Stone (Skip Trial - Winner's Ticket, by Jolie's Halo), who earned his maiden win on a track listed as good at Santa Anita in January before winning an off-the-turf renewal of the Baldwin on a sloppy track in February. He earned $90,000 for the win, his third in six starts. Skip to the Stone was bred in Florida by Brambly Lane Farm.
"We'll probably keep him here for the Withers (Grade 3, Saturday, May 5th), and I think it is important to keep him running against three year-olds. This is the first horse I've had for these owners, so this is very nice. I'm trying to upgrade my stock from claimers to better horses. We've been stabled here at Rich Stoklosa's barn, and he's been a big help. We'll probably leave the horse here in New York."
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice behind even-money favorite City Zip, Skip to the Stone returned a generous $8.50, $5.10, and $4.50. Multiple Choice paid $5 and $4.30 and Friday's a Comin' paid $11.40. The winning exacta combination returned $47.20. (Chart, Equibase