With Uncle Mo retired, Stay Thirsty is now the top gun in Mike Repole’s stable. And after a championship-caliber 3-year-old season in 2011, there are high expectations for the son of Bernardini next year.
Repole, definitely in the swing-for-the-fences category, has tentatively mapped out an ambitious campaign for Stay Thirsty in 2012—one that could include all of the high-profile races for older horses in New York. But first things first. After a full sophomore season that included three graded stakes wins from eight starts, the colt is receiving a much-deserved break at J. J. Crupi’s New Castle Farm near Ocala, Fla.
“He’ll get 60-90 days off and return to training with Todd (Pletcher) in mid-January or February," Repole said. “He probably won’t even race in Florida. We really want to focus on the second quarter of the year on. He might start in the Westchester (gr. III in April at Belmont) and then possibly the Met Mile (gr. I on Memorial Day at Belmont). He’s proven that he can run well anywhere from six furlongs to a mile and half, so we have plenty of options. Adding the Met Mile to his resume, which already includes the mile and quarter Travers, could be very attractive.
“With this horse we know he loves New York tracks, so he’ll probably stay there," Repole said. "We’ll also look at the Suburban Handicap (gr. II in July at Belmont) too. And then get ready for the big four—the Whitney, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup (all gr. I). Obviously, that’s ambitious and everything is a big ‘if’ right now, but we think he is that kind of horse.
“One thing I can guarantee you about him is that he’ll never run at Churchill again, even if he races until he’s 10. He’s 0-for-3 there and just doesn’t like the track. Some horses like it; some don’t.”
Stay Thirsty finished 11th in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill in his final start of 2011. It was a long and successful season that began with a victory in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, also included a narrow runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and was capped off by decisive wins in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) and Travers (gr. I). He was also third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), finishing behind Flat Out and eventually Breeders' Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer. Repole said Stay Thirsty deserves consideration for the 3-year-old championship, along with a couple of others.
“I’m not saying he should definitely win, but he had the kind of campaign that probably at least makes him a finalist,” Repole said. “He had a full campaign; won the Gotham, ran in the Derby, was narrowly beaten in the Belmont, dominated the Jim Dandy, and won the Mid-Summer Classic. He was overshadowed by Uncle Mo and I think that will probably hurt him.
“To me, Stay Thirsty and Caleb's Posse are the two favorites," he said. "I love Caleb’s Posse. He beat Uncle Mo in the King’s Bishop and ran huge in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He won four graded races and is a great horse. I just don’t know how many 3-year-old champions had their best races at a mile and under. The voters will figure it out.
“And you can’t take anything away from Shackleford. He is a nose away from winning two grade I stakes, and had he won either he would be the champion. Plus, he won the Preakness. I’m a big fan of that horse. He danced every dance. I would be more apt to have him as a finalist than Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom won the Derby, which is the biggest race for a 3-year-old, but he basically had one win of importance and didn’t race past the beginning of June. I’m not sure you can have a champion that raced half the year. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt.
“The good thing is that all four of these horses are coming back next year. So we’ll probably know in 2012 who the best horse was in 2011,' he said.
In addition to Stay Thirsty, Repole is looking forward to seeing his younger horses run. His standout 3-year-old heading into 2012 is Overdriven, a son of Tale of the Cat who is undefeated in two starts including the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga. He was shelved for a couple months after that race and is back in light training with Pletcher with an eye toward Gulfstream.
“He didn’t have surgery or anything like that; we just had to stop on him,” Repole said. “He needed about 60 days rest. We’re going to look at either the Hutcheson (gr. II, Feb. 11) or the Swale (gr. III, March 10) for his first race of the year.”
Repole also has Frizette (gr. I) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. II) runner-up Stopshoppingmaria and How Do I Win, a winner of two straight in New York, to look forward to as 3-year-olds. And he has about 25 yearlings being broken at New Castle Farm that he will see on the track next year.
Repole also said that Uncle Mo is thriving at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., as he readies for his new career as a stallion.
“He’s settled in great. He gained about 100 pounds and is meant for farm life,” Repole said. “He’s been very popular so far; he has about 120 contracts already and will probably be overbooked. He’s a great horse and breeders are loving him. Three years from now we’ll get to watch his babies run. It’s exciting.”