Trainer Todd Pletcher added yet another powerful runner to this year’s Kentucky Derby picture on Saturday with Repole Stable and Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso, who captured the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) at Aqueduct. Under jockey John Velazquez, the chestnut son of Curlin made a bold move from of the pace to win by three lengths as 4-1 third choice in the field of eight others and was good for $10.20, $4.40 and $3.40.
Gotham Stakes (GIII) winner Enticed, as the 6-5 favorite, held on for runner-up honors and was good for $2.90 and $2.40. California shipper Restoring Hope checked in for third, another 2 ¼ lengths back, and paid $3.30 at 7-2. The exacta returned $15.70 and the $.50 trifecta was worth $26.62.
Firenze Fire, Heartfullofstars, King Zachary, Evaluator, Old Time Revival and Catch Twenty Two rounded out the order of finish.
In the early going of the nine-furlong race, Vino Rosso contently settled in mid-pack as the speedy Old Time Revival set all the pace, first a couple lengths in front of the field past a quarter in :22.69 and then by at least six past a half-mile in :46.88 and down to three or so lengths as he posted six furlongs in 1:11.44. Enticed and Restoring Hope sat closest to the early leader, but by the time he rounded the far bend, they were on the move and closing strongly with each stride.
Vino Rosso began his winning move just as Old Time Revival relinquished control to Enticed and Restoring Hope and, at the top of the lane, Restoring Hope backed off slightly while Enticed dug in to hold off the rally of Vino Rosso. The winner passed the eighth pole in 1:36.98 and, in the final strides, shook clear of Enticed to claim the victory, stopping the clock in in 1:49.79.
There was a stewards’ inquiry and a jockey’s objection lodged by Junior Alvarado, who was aboard Enticed, into the stretch run of the race, but no action was taken.
“I got close to him and he was coming out,” Velazquez said. “So, I made my horse switch leads and when he switched, I leaned on him a little bit, and then he pushed me out and my horse went right back on him. That’s what happened. I got him easy, anyway. He was holding his ground out and I was holding him back in. He was the horse to beat and I wasn’t going to give him a chance.”
Vino Rosso, who is out of the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride, was bred in Kentucky by John Gunther and was purchased for $410,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2016. Not only did he earn $535,000 and his third career win, bringing his total bankroll to $620,500, he earned 100 points to guarantee his spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate and his total now stands third overall with 107. He earned his previous points with a third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (GIII) and a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII).
Enticed earned 40 points and is also fairly certain to claim a Derby slot as his total not stands at 103 thanks to his Gotham win, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GIII) win and Holy Bull Stakes (GII) fourth.
“I was a little worried right at the start, because his hind end kind of slipped out leaving the gate, and it looked like it took him about a hundred yards to get engaged,” Pletcher said. “He was a little farther back than I thought he would be, but when you take the pacesetter out, he really was close to the contenders. I felt good about it. I was just hoping he would sustain his momentum around the turn, and he finished up and did great. We’re feeling like we’re seeing a horse that has that talent, and he’s doing well, and we felt like that mile and an eighth is something he’s looking for. This is the performance we’ve been looking for.”
Vino Rosso joins the previously Pletcher-trained Florida Derby (GI) winner Audible, Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Noble Indy and Rebel Stakes (GII) hero Magnum Moon, who will look to solidify his spot in next week’s Arkansas Derby (GII) at Oaklawn Park.