Stay Thirsty has played second-fiddle to his stablemate Uncle Mo since their careers began a year ago. He partially shed the label when he ran second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), but finally grabbed his breakthrough win July 30 at Saratoga when he turned in a dominating performance in the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) (VIDEO).
With Javier Castellano aboard, Stay Thirsty took over from Dominus at the top of the lane and put him away in early stretch on his way to a convincing four-length victory. The 3-year-old colt won the race in the same resounding fashion that his sire, Bernardini , did in 2006 while notching his second graded stakes of the season.
Stay Thirsty’s win capped a huge day for his connections. It gave Castellano a graded stakes double, as he rode Zagora to victory one race earlier in the Diana (gr. IT), and handed trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth win of the afternoon. The dark bay/brown colt is owned by Mike Repole, who nabbed his second win on the Saratoga card.
Stay Thirsty was returning to Saratoga for the third time. He broke his maiden there last summer and ran second in the Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I) one race later. He is now on his way to the Aug. 27 Travers (gr. I), perhaps as the horse to beat.
"That’s the plan," Pletcher said of the Travers. "Assuming he comes out of it well, that’s why we’re here.
"It was a great day. It was a breakthrough effort for Stay Thirsty; he’s kind of been living in the shadows of his stablemate, Uncle Mo, all along. We always felt as if he had a performance like this in him, and it’s a great place to do it here at Saratoga."
Stay Thirsty was never far off the pace set by longshot Will's Wildcat, who took the field of seven through early splits of :24 and :47.66. Favored Dominus, entering off a victory in the Dwyer (gr. II), tracked the leader for a half-mile from the outside, while Moonshine Mullin and Stay Thirsty were in the next group.
Dominus took over entering the far turn while running six furlongs in 1:11.39, but Stay Thirsty also advanced on his outside and those two hit the quarter pole in tandem. Stay Thirsty forged a narrow lead when they reached the top of the lane and easily put away a tiring Dominus in upper stretch. Woodbine shipper Moonshine Mullin, sent off at 37-1 under Emma-Jayne Wilson, made a late rally but was no match for the winner.
Stay Thirsty completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast track in 1:48.78. Moonshine Mullin was 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Dominus. Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Alternation was fourth.
“I was where I wanted to be, the spot right behind the front-running horses, and everything set up perfectly for me," Castellano said. "He’s a very handy horse; you can put him in any spot you want to be. I wanted to be close to the pace because I didn’t see a lot of speed. The way it unfolded, it was perfect.”
Stay Thirsty recorded his only previous stakes win in the March 5 Gotham (gr. III) at Aqueduct. He subsequently finished seventh in the Florida Derby (gr. I), 12th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and second in the Belmont, beaten three parts of a length by Ruler On Ice. He now has a chance to put himself at the top of the 3-year-old standings with a win in the Travers.
“I think we made a mistake when we went to New York for the Gotham and then came back to Florida," Pletcher said. "If we could do that over again we would have probably just went to New York and stayed there in the cooler climate. He’s overcome all that and has put together two big wins this year and a big race in the Belmont. I think he has established himself as one of the leaders in the division. The way he was training heading into this, we felt very optimistic.”
Stay Thirsty was bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther and John Darren Gunther, and he is out of the Storm Bird mare Marozia. He has now earned $800,000.
"That Belmont second hurt more than Uncle Mo scratching out (of the Derby), so him getting this win today, I just feel so good for the horse," said Repole, a New York native. "Saratoga is such a special place, getting a win here last Saturday (with) Overdriven, a top 2-year-old, Stay Thirsty today, how lucky, how fortunate, how blessed. I can’t be any happier.”
Sent off as the second choice, Stay Thirsty paid $7, $4.20, and $2.90. Moonshine Mullin returned $23.40 and $7.60 while filling out a $163 exacta (6-1). The trifecta (6-1-2) was worth $558.
Repole's other winner Saturday came with juvenile Giant Surprise but he had to be vanned off after his 4 1/4-length maiden score with what Repole said was a fairly serious ankle injury.