Odds-on favorite Eightyfiveinafifty blew the first turn and was pulled up by jockey Jorge Chavez, leaving the door open for Peppi Knows to win the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes (VIDEO) Feb. 6 at Aqueduct.
Eightyfiveinafifty, a 17 1/4-length winner when breaking his maiden over the same strip Jan. 9, was making his first two-turn start in the 1 1/16-mile Whirlaway, which went to post with a field of only five 3-year-olds after Turf Melody was scratched earlier in the day. After breaking a half-step slow from post 2, Eightyfiveinafifty was rushed up along the inside by Chavez, but shortly after taking the lead he could not navigate the turn and drifted very wide into the center of the track while briefly taking second choice Three Day Rush with him.
Chavez could not get the son of Forest Camp straightened away and tried to pull him up. The Gary Contessa trainee reportedly jumped two outside rails before dumping Chavez to the ground. A New York Racing Association official said Chavez had a sore back and would be taken to a hospital for examination. Eightyfiveinafifty, who ran back to the barn area before eventually being caught, sustained a small cut to his right hind leg.
“The horse is OK," said Contessa, who has called Eightyfiveinafifty the most talented horse he has ever trained. "He has a two-inch cut on his right hind leg, and he’ll need a couple of stitches, but he was walking sound. I’m completely mystified as to what happened. I don’t know if it was the horse, the jockey, or an equipment malfunction. The bit was broken and the rein was shredded. The equipment was in shambles but I don’t know if that happened during the race or after he bolted. He’s handled the turns fine in the mornings. I have no idea what happened.”
David Cohen was able to get Three Day Rush on the right path and they chased new pacesetter Papa's Nice Cat and Peppi Knows through a :23.79 opening quarter and a :48.66 half mile. Peppi Knows, with Richard Migliore aboard, took over from Papa’s Nice Cat as they moved into the far turn and put his rival away turning for home.
Three Day Rush chased Peppi Knows in the final furlong but could not catch the son of Stephen Got Even. Afleet Again, the longshot shot on the board at 21-1, made a late charge to get up for second under Angel Serpa but finished one length behind the winner. The final time on a fast main track was 1:47.10. Three Day Rush was another half-length back in third.
“It worked out real good for us," Migliore said. "We got to save ground when the other horse didn’t make the turn. He’s just a real nice handy little horse. He’s not a whole lot to look at, but he has a big heart. Anytime he felt the presence of the other horse, he ran on a little more. I just hope Jorge’s alright.”
Peppi Knows, a bay gelding out of the Seeking the Gold mare Miracle Worker, was making his 3-year-old debut after winning three times in five starts as a 2-year-old, including the Finger Lakes Juvenile Stakes in October. He also ran a solid runner-up to Buddy’s Saint in the Remsen (gr. II) Nov. 28 at Aqueduct.
Peppi Knows, a $6,500 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase, is owned by Phillip Messina. He was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr.
Trained by Timothy Kreiser, Peppi Knows improved to 4-1-1 from six starts and earnings of $178,400.
“It would have been nice to see (Eightyfiveinafifty) run just to see what we had there," Kreiser said. "We can’t do anything about that, he ran his race and we’re really happy. The rider did everything perfect; he didn’t rush him, he just settled him down. With that horse out ... you think you have a heck of a chance. We took advantage of it.”
The winner, sent off as the third choice, paid $17.40, $5.60, and $7.70. Afleet Again returned a healthy $8.40 and $9.80, while Three Day Rush was $5.50 to show. The exacta (3-4) was worth $161.50, and the trifecta (3-4-5) was $437.