It was 12 years ago in the state of Kentucky that Mike Repole became more than “Mike from Queens” in the world of thoroughbred racing.
Oh, he still bought seekers and strove to become the main owner of Saratoga Racetrack. But one autumn afternoon in 2010 Churchill Fallssuddenly, he becomes Mike Repole, owner of Uncle Mo winner of the Gray Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), 2-year-old champion, and favorite of the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Although he became a prized stallion, Uncle Mo fell ill in the spring of his 3-year-old year and never achieved the Triple Crown for trainer Todd Pletcher, part of Repole’s history in race that he could well rewrite this spring.
The charismatic owner savored victory in the $2 million BC Juvenile FanDuel presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for the second time on November 4 when Strong followed in the illustrious footsteps of Uncle Mo and recorded a convincing one-and-a-half-length victory over the favorites and previously unbeaten cave rock for Repole, Pletcher and Repole’s close friend and racing partner Vinnie Viola of St. Elias Stable.
“It’s come full circle for me,” said Repole after the victory of the 2-year-old son of Violence at Keeneland. “It started here for me 12 years ago with my 93 year old grandmother who passed away about 2 and a half years ago… and it continues with my daughter Gioia, who was not even born in the time.”
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Mike Repole hoists the Breeders’ Cup trophy with Maria Repole and Gioia Repole to his right in the winner’s circle
This victory can be seen as a reward for at least 150 yearlings that Repole and Viola have purchased in recent years. But when Repole reflects on capturing eight Grade 1 wins since June, including a 1-2 finish in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) with Mo Donegal and the filly Nest (who is racing in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, G1 on Saturday), he considers this a blessing.
“He doesn’t know if it’s a reward. It’s a blessing,” Repole said. “I’m so happy for (everyone). We have a great team and so many great family and friends. We’ve won eight Grade 1s since June. Some people don’t win one in their lifetime.”
One race that eluded Repole, but not Viola, is the Kentucky Derby. Viola, who missed the juvenile due to back surgery, was co-owner of the 2017 Run for the Roses winner Always dreaming . Now he and pal Repole own the early favorite for the Triple Crown opener in Forte, who picked up 30 qualifying points for a start in the Kentucky Derby thanks to his juvenile victory and now has a total of 40. .
“We won so many special races. Three Breeders’ Cups. I can’t say I wouldn’t want to win the Kentucky Derby. I would love to, but I did so many good things in the race that I’m would be happy if someone else wins it,” Repole said.
Forte is on muscle in the paddock before the Juvenile
The decision that sparked Saturday’s win came when the Connections decided to head to Keeneland for Forte’s final build in British Columbia. After winning the Hopeful Stakes (G1) in Saratoga, the Champagne Stakes by one turn (G1) in Aqueduct Racecourse seemed a viable option. But in the end, the choice became the Claiborne Breeders’ Future (G1) at Keeneland, which gave Forte a race on the track, experience at the Juvenile’s 1 1/16 mile distance and an uphill battle to beat Connections by a neckline for his third win in four starts.
“We came here to win this race,” said Repole. “That was the whole plan. Race it on the track. Bring it into a battle. Bring it here. We made the right decision and even though sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, we’re not afraid to ‘trying to get a head start.’
Bred by South Gate Farm, Forte is the first colt in the Blame mare Queen Caroline, who also has a yearling full brother of the juvenile winner. Forte was sold for $110,000 of the Eaton Sales consignment at Keeneland’s September 1 Year Sale and has now earned $1,595,150.
Forte (on the outside) makes her move into the final corner
Fast pace certainly helped Forte rally from fifth-place jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. As expected, Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Cave Rock raced to take the lead, but the 1-2 favorite formed by Bob Baffert was joined. by 70-1 from afar Hurricane J through an opening half mile in a demanding: 22.90. After a half mile in :47.01, Cave Rock and jockey Juan Hernandez kicked clear around the turn, only to find Forte swinging outside of them and gobbling up the ground.
“In the corner I felt really good because when I asked him to run he responded and picked up really well. But the horse outside of me was moving better than me,” Hernandez said.
Although Cave Rock, a son of Arrogate was still ahead by 1 1/2 lengths at eighth pole, Forte ($12.04), the 5-1 second pick, passed him leaving sixteenth pole and crossed the wire in 1:43.06 for Pletcher’s third juvenile win.
“Obviously thrilled with everything,” Pletcher said. “He had a great trip. He kept coming.”
Strong heads for the wire
Baffert finished with a 2-3 finish as Cave Rock came home 2 1/4 lengths ahead of his stablemate national treasure a quality road colt belonging to a partnership organized by SF Racing, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables. Baffert’s two foals finished 1-2 last month in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
“I think they ran well. They were beaten by a good horse but we were in a position to win. At the 2 ½ (pole) I thought I was running 1-2 but they got tired at the end. C is racing,” says Bafert. “I was worried that Cave Rock was tied to this speed horse and it took something from him. We need to get him to relax a bit. Well, find out his style and go from there. National Treasure is one of those horses that in a few months he will become himself. We will refresh them and we will move on.
[image url=”//cms-images.bloodhorse.com/i/bloodhorse-images/2022/11/2a15c20bcc08457aa20f6ed3b37fc3f7.jpg?preset=medium” alt=”Forte with Irad Ortiz Jr wins the Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland in Lexington, KY on November 4, 2022.” credit=”Skip Dickstein”]Forte joins her connections in the winner’s circle