Positive Response made the trip from California worthwhile for his connections with a dominant victory in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park March 5.
Third in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 12, Positive Response appeared to toy with his rivals, leading most of the way and drawing off to win the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia Memorial by seven lengths. Locally based Taptowne rallied nicely for second, while Pennsylvania shipper Son of Posse held well after pushing the winner for about seven furlongs.
The $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 26 could be next for Positive Response, who is owned by Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman, Ray Pagano, and trainer William Morey. Positive Response was bred in Florida by Rosebrook Farms and Moreau Bloodstock.
“We had planned to come here because of the synthetic surface and the potential of running him here in three weeks,” said Newman, who was joined at Turfway by Pagano and Morey.
“I would have preferred better weather,” Pagano said, “but this is great.”
With steady rain falling and temperatures dropping into the 30s from the 60s earlier in the day, the Battaglia Memorial was run on a Polytrack surface that had withstood more than 2 1/2 inches of rain in 24 hours. The surface sped up slightly because of the moisture, though it played fair all night.
There was no doubt about Positive Response, however. Ridden by Julien Couton, the 3-year-old gelding by Pomeroy out of the Farma Way mare Lisa’s Approval led eight others on a merry chase. Positive Response nursed a one-length lead over 93-1 Son of Posse, opened up by three lengths on the far turn, and was never threatened en route to a victory in 1:45.13, less than three seconds off the track record for the distance.
Couton looked over his shoulder several times up the backstretch and into the far turn but had nothing to worry about. Clovertowne Farm’s Taptowne, by Tapit , raced wide from post eight and gradually made up ground to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Karma Stables’ Son of Posse, by Posse . Second choice Twinspired (by Harlan's Holiday ), winner of the local WEBN Stakes, finished fourth.
Fractions for the race were :24.26 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.29 for the half-mile, and 1:12.84 for six furlongs. Positive Response paid $6 to win as the slight favorite.
“The only concern I had was flying him in here,” said Morey, who shipped Positive Response from California to Turfway March 1. “But once I saw how he was acting and training here, I didn’t think these horses had a chance with him.
“The next group (in the 1 1/8-mile Vinery Racing Spiral) will be a lot tougher. We came here intending to run two races: this one and either the Spiral or the Rushaway. Obviously with his performance tonight we’d probably lean toward the Spiral. I think we’ll probably take a shot at it. I have to see how the horse is, that’s the main thing.”
Morey said he would opt for the $100,000 Rushaway for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles March 26 “if the top 10 horses on the Kentucky Derby list show up” for the Vinery Racing Spiral.
Positive Response is now five-for-eight with three stakes victories, all on synthetic surfaces. He has earned $223,201; his graded-stakes earnings stand at $24,000.
Wayne Mogge, who trains Taptowne, said the colt continues to learn and improve. The Battaglia Memorial was his second start around two turns, and he improved from a third-place finish in the WEBN.
“We’ll be looking at both options,” Mogge said of the Vinery Racing Spiral and Rushaway. “The Rushaway might give us a better chance. He’s still learning. If I can get him to relax a little more, I think he’ll be a better horse than he showed today.”