Helen Pitts and For You Reppo, who is known around the barn as Troy, are a deadly duo that are out to conquer 11 foes in Saturday’s $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II). But, for the fourth time in a row, For You Reppo will be going into battle with a wound suffered in the entry box.
The son of El Corredor will be making his fourth start of the year, all at a mile and an eighth, and each time he has drawn a bad post. After drawing posts 11 and 10, and running big races anyway, he wound up on the rail in his last start, which meant he needed to break sharply and get lucky. Neither happened, as he broke sluggishly, costing him valuable early position. Now, in the Lane’s End he winds up back on the outside in post 11.
But on the plus side, he appears ready to do something special, and if he can get good position going into the first turn, he is going to be very tough to beat. This is one of those colts that is improving steadily and just figuring the game out, and is extremely close to a breakout performance.
In his last start, a strong allowance race, he made a big early move, blazing his third quarter in a tick over :23. But instead of charging to the lead without it taking much out of him, he hooked up with a stubborn colt in High Act, and didn’t shake him until he turned for home. After that quick early move and the ensuing tussle, he just didn’t have quite enough to hold off Chelokee, who beat him by three-quarters of a length in a solid 1:49 3/5.
He turned in a bullet :47 3/5 half on March 18 before shipping to Kentucky, and looks to be coming into the Lane’s End in great shape.
“He’s learned a lot since that race,” Pitts said. “Ideally, the farther the better; he’ll run all day. Kent (Desormeaux) said you better be tied on when you push the go button on him. The Gulfstream meet is tough, with all those mile and an eighth races, but it sets you up well for the spring stakes. He’s run three great races down there and I think it well set him up for Lane’s End. He’s a real big colt, and the farther he goes the better he gets and the stronger he gets. He’s got the turn of foot and at the same time he’s got the stamina.”
Assistant trainer and exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen, who teamed up with Pitts as Kenny McPeek’s top two exercise riders, has always had an affection for For You Reppo.
“He’s a nice, nice colt, I know that much,” she said. “What I like about him is that he’s really changed, fast. He was so immature for the longest time. All of sudden, when we came down here and he got that first race under him, it was like, ‘Oh, I know what you want now.’ He’s filled out, he knows how to relax, and he looks like he wants to go long.
“No one really knows how he got his name, other than it has something to do with someone in high school basketball. He didn’t have a name for the longest time, so we just started calling him Troy after the guy we bought him from. So, now he’s Troy Boy. I just hope he can step up to the plate.”
Jorgensen, like Pitts, was crushed when their brilliant colt, Curlin, was sold and sent to trainer Steve Asmussen.
“I galloped Curlin and I cried my eyes out when they sold him” Jorgensen said. “We babied him for such a long time. He was a little weak-boned. He bucked his shins and we tried to get him through it and worked with him. And then, one big race, and he’s gone. I understand that it’s hard to turn down that kind of money, and they did keep a piece of him, so it’s not hard for them. But it’s hard for us, because you get so attached to them.
“What he’s done so far doesn’t surprise us, because from the moment we had him we felt he was something special, we really did. You could tell from the way he worked. I don’t know how far he’ll go, but he’ll go fast. He could have broken the track record in his first start, but his legs go so fast, his brain doesn’t catch up to it. But he is fast. I remember working him and coming back and saying, ‘I’ve never sat on a horse like this before.’
“But For you Reppo looks like a Derby horse to me. He’s starting to get seasoned and I like that about him. The owners were made an offer for him, but they turned it down. If we had lost this horse, too, I would have packed up and gone home.”
Pitts is a realist, but, like everyone, gets a touch of Derby fever this time of year. “I went there with Harlan’s Holiday, and Repent was on the Derby trail for a while, so I know it’s not going to fall on the plate in front of you,” she said. “It’s very exciting to get a chance to feel like you have something in the barn that can take you down the same road.”
The Lane’s End doesn’t have too many big name 3-year-olds, but there are several, in addition to For You Reppo, who could be after the race. With the brilliant Hard Spun entered, and Todd Pletcher saddling two horses, Twilight Meteor and Bullara, and Nick Zito stretching out Forefathers, this should be an interesting race. And Pitts’ old boss, McPeek, has a live longshot in Highest Degree, a late closer who has shown promise and who should improve a great deal off his last start, in which he was a troubled sixth in the same race in which For You Reppo finished second.
Wayne Lukas will be represented by longshot Starbase. WEBN winner and Battaglia runner-up Joe Got Even loves this track and will make his presence felt. New York invader Helios has a huge closing kick. Sedgefield has been first or second in his last four starts. Sports Town, third in the Whirlaway Stakes, has a ton of early speed, and Approval Rating has shown a liking for the synthetic surfaces at Turfway and Woodbine.
The Rushaway Stakes on the same card also will preview several up and comers, such as the undefeated Dubious Miss, Pitt’s improving Trust You Luck, the Pletcher-trained Meritocracy, and proven stakes-caliber horses Passport, Reata’s Rocket, Pink Viper, Dominican, and Skip Code.