OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Repole Stable’s Never Surprised led at every point of call in Saturday’s $100,000 Central Park, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for juveniles at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Constitution colt arrived at the Central Park from a dominant score in a six-furlong maiden turf sprint on November 8 at the Big A that garnered an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
An eventful start saw longshot Counterfeitcurrency unseat Mike Luzzi at the break as Never Surprised surged to the lead to dictate terms under returning rider Kendrick Carmouche through splits of 23.85 seconds and 49.37 on the good turf.
Never Surprised continued to lead down the backstretch as maiden winner Hard Love chased in second with Take Profit and Laurel Futurity-winner Catman tracking from five lengths back. Carmouche asked Never Surprised for more into the final turn and the colt responded as Take Profit tried to rally up the rail into contention inside of the loose horse.
With a 2 1/2-length lead at the stretch call as the slight 2-1 favorite, Never Surprised maintained command and was ridden through the wire a 1 3/4-length winner in a final time of 1:43.74. Hard Love completed the exacta, ten lengths in front of Take Profit.
Pletcher said the $200,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase demonstrated grit and determination in victory.
“I was talking to Mike [Repole] this morning and I said we’re doing pretty much everything wrong that you can do,” said Pletcher. “We were running back off short rest after an impressive debut; going from a maiden to a stake; going from short to long; and going from firm to soft ground. We pretty much threw the book at him today. It obviously is the last opportunity to run on the grass here. The options were to wait for Florida. I just wanted to see how he does with three weeks in between races. He had a nice breeze and has been doing well, showing good energy, so we felt like we should do it.”
Carmouche said he felt confident throughout.
“I knew my horse was coming off a sprint, but he was so kind and gentle in my hands last time and was rating going three-quarters,” said Carmouche. “Todd Pletcher does such a great job, so all I had to do today was put him in the right spot and slow him down a little on the backside. This horse is a class horse. He sits in your hands so nicely.”
Rounding out the order of finish were Scarlett Sky, Catman, Royne, Breadman and Run Casper Run. Luzzi walked off under his own power, while Counterfeitcurrency was apprehended by the outrider after completing the course and walked home. Original was scratched.
Jose Ortiz, aboard Hard Love for the first time, said the pace scenario changed significantly after the gate incident.
“We were a little unlucky,” said Ortiz. “The three-horse [Counterfeitcurency] stumbled and he was supposed to be the other speed. I tried to be close as I could without rushing off my feet. The horse that won is a good horse, he was just coming off a sprint. The only question mark was if he could go long, and he did. We were second-best, but I think my horse will be a better horse next year.”
Bred in Kentucky by Golden Pedigree, Never Surprised banked $55,000 in victory while maintaining a perfect record in two starts. He returned $6.50 for a $2 win ticket.
Central Park Replay
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a 10-race card highlighted by a trio of $100,000 stakes, including the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap for 3-year-olds and upward going six furlongs over the main track; the Tepin for juvenile fillies going 1 1/16 miles over the turf; and the Autumn Days at six furlongs on turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
Press Release/Keith McCalmont
Never Surprised (Chelsea Durand)