Charles Fipke’s homebred Tale of Ekati may have turned in a sub-par effort in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) , but he sparkled at Aqueduct when he ran down War Pass in the final strides of the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO) April 5.
Although the Barclay Tagg trainee came off a questionable performance after running sixth behind Pyro at Fair Grounds March 8, Tagg blamed the result on a poor start and had confidence in his starter, even if the betting public did not.
“He actually broke a little slow in all of his races, but we always though he was a good horse. (In the) Louisiana Derby he got a little tangled up in the gate... and ran a disappointing race. We still felt good about him, and we worked out some of those issues in the gate. He showed up today big time."
Sent off at odds of 8-1 in the Wood, the Tale of the Cat colt got a solid stalking trip behind the pacesetting 4-5 favorite War Pass, who was pressed through a blistering early quarter in :22.46 by the Bill Mott-trained Inner Light. Giant Moon ran third and Tale of Ekati stalked along in fourth. They went the half in :46.07 with Tale of Ekati moving up to third, tracked by Texas Wildcatter.
"I thought War Pass was the horse to beat," Tagg remarked. "It was nice to see Inner Light go after War Pass. We were laying a little closer than I wanted him to be, but Edgar (Prado, jockey) has an intuitiveness that has served him pretty well for the last 30 years."
After three quarters in 1:11.50, Prado moved Tale of Ekati up to second, chased by Giant Moon again. They ran a mile in 1:38.42 and War Pass hung on gamely in the final strides, but did not have enough to hold off an inside run from Tale of Ekati, who finished up with a solid run in the 1 1/8-mile event – proof that he should relish the longer distance of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The final time was 1:52.35.
"Today, he broke sharp and he made my job easier," Prado said. "I had a beautiful trip and I knew War Pass was going very fast. I was very proud of him. He kept on trying all the way."
Of course, all eyes were on War Pass after the Cherokee Run colt's last-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). According to trainer Nick Zito, the Robert LaPenta runner ran well enough to merit a trip to Kentucky, and a Derby start is still on the table.
"It’s sad that we didn’t win because he is a champion," Zito said of the 2007 Eclipse Award winning juvenile. "It would have been wonderful to win the Wood Memorial. I’m still glad with the way he ran; he wasn’t up the track. There were no excuses. I told (jockey Cornelio Velasquez) to drift off the fence because the rail was dead all day. It was a tiring track. I wanted him to change leads so it would be easier for him. We’ll take him to Kentucky. We’ll take it one day at a time. We still have to salute the winner — he ran a big race. If War Pass has a good month, we’ll see if we can make it to the Derby.”
Third-place finisher Court Vision also earned a ticket to Kentucky with his effort, said trainer Bill Mott.
"The jockey (Garrett Gomez) said he was slipping a bit on the track," Mott said. "He dropped himself a pretty far way back and made a decent run to get third. Maybe he has lost a bit of confidence. I would think we would go on to Kentucky and evaluate from there.”
“I was hoping that with the position he was in, he would get it done, (but) it didn’t look like he was getting across the racetrack all that great," said Gomez. "I was in a drive on him for a long time and he was never up in the bridle. I know he ran on this track last fall, but it wasn’t as drying out as it was today.”
Tale of Ekati paid $19, $6.30, and $3.60, while War Pass returned $3.70 and $2.60 and Court Vision brought $2.40. Giant Moon, Anak Nakal, Spurrier, Roman Emperor, Texas Wildcatter, and Inner Light completed the order of finish. First Commandment was a late scratch.
Bred in Kentucky out of the Sunday Silence mare Silence Beauty, Tale of Ekati has won three races and owns a second from six starts. The Wood purse boosted his earnings to $769,200. According to Tagg, the colt will ship to Lexington April 6 to train over Keeneland's Polytrack surface.