Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher claimed Calibrachoa for $40,000 back in November. All he has done since then is win three consecutive stakes, each of them in more impressive fashion than the last.
On March 5 at Aqueduct, the 4-year-old son of Southern Image looked like anything but a former claimer, as he came flying from off the pace to destroy five rivals in the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO). Ramon Dominguez rode the winner to the 4 1/2–length victory. They completed six furlongs over the fast main track in 1:09.67.
Calibrachoa was aided by a sizzling pace up front, as stablemate Have You Ever helped push along pacesetter Deputy Daney through suicidal splits of :21.63 and :44.03. With Jeremy Rose aboard, Deputy Daney carried a 1 1/2-length lead into the stretch, but Calibrachoa, who sat a distant third through the backstretch, was just getting revved up at the top of the lane and easily overtook the leader nearing the sixteenth-pole en route to the convincing score.
Fastus Cactus rallied well to get second at 54-1 under Jose Espinoza, four lengths in front of a cooked Deputy Daney. Dahlgren Chapel was fourth, followed by Flat Bold and Have You Ever, who was sent off at 3-5 as part of a coupled entry with the winner.
“I was trying to slow him down as much as I could," Dominguez said. "I knew the horses in front of me were going extremely fast, and I just didn’t want to fall into chasing and then having someone close on me. I certainly at no point in the race wanted someone to take my position, but at the same time I was trying to reserve as much as I could. I was actually surprised at how much they opened on me. My horse finished up pretty strong. Visually, it looks better (than his last win), but it also felt like he was even better today than last time.”
Repole and Pletcher plucked Calibrachoa from the colt’s owner/breeder, Nelson Bunker Hunt, out of a Nov. 18 claiming race at Aqueduct in which he won by 4 1/4 lengths. Previously trained by Steve Asmussen, a month later he won the Gravesend Stakes in the first start for his new connections and opened his 2011 season with a half-length score in the Toboggan (gr. III) in his graded stakes debut.
"He’s been very consistent and a good horse to train, and we’re just happy to have him," Pletcher said. "It was Mike’s idea to put another horse in there to make sure we had an honest pace, and that allowed Ramon to ride him however he saw fit. It looked like he won with something left. We’ll look at the Carter (Handicap, gr. I, April 9) next.”
Bred in Kentucky and out of the Montbrook mare Fort Lauderdale, Calibrachoa improved his record to 7-3-1 from 13 starts and upped his earnings to $310,540.
Calibrachoa paid $3.10, $2.40, and $2.10. The exacta (1A-3) returned $59 and the trifecta (1A-3-2) was worth $140.50.