OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor and Victoria Taylor’s Morello swooped to an emphatic score in Sunday’s rescheduled $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Jimmy Winkfield was initially slated for last Sunday’s card which was cancelled due to the impact of a powerful winter storm in the New York City metropolitan area.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and piloted by Jose Lezcano, Morello broke sharp from the outermost post 5, settling in third position as Hagler punched his way to the front through an opening quarter-mile in 22.60 seconds over the good main track.
Hagler led the field to the turn with Life Is Great stalking in second and Beast Or Famine advancing along the rail. Morello made an early wide move prompting Life Is Great to pop outside of Hagler mid-way through the turn to take command after a half-mile in 45.55.
Morello continued to make up ground outside of Life Is Great and surged clear down the lane en route to a five-length win in a final time of 1:23.30. Life Is Great completed the exacta by 4 1/2-lengths over Beast Or Famine with Dance Code and Hagler rounding out the order of finish.
A $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase, the Classic Empire chestnut entered from an impressive 4 1/4-length debut score over next-out winner Inevtabl Conection in a six-furlong maiden special weight on November 27 at the Big A.
“He broke very good today. Last time, he broke a little slow but today it was good, Lezcano said. “He was in the bridle the whole way and was really going like a good horse. I didn’t have to touch him with the whip or anything. I just let him go. He had the same kick as last time.”
Dave Lyon, founder and managing partner of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, said he was impressed with the effort by the colt he named after Tom Morello, guitarist for the rock band Rage Against the Machine.
“This was the plan all along. Sprint him, then take him to seven,” Lyon said. “The allowance race we were looking at didn’t go, but we thought this would be the right race to move forward. It looked like by the way he galloped out he could go longer. He handled this field pretty well and we’re excited for the future.”
Lyon said he will speak to Asmussen and his Belmont-based assistant Toby Sheets about a potential start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, a one-turn mile for sophomores on March 5 at the Big A offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
“I’m going to let Steve and Toby make that decision, but I think it’s a realistic spot. I don’t think he needs too much time,” Lyon said. “That race is on March 5, so we’ll talk to the guys who lead the charge in the training barn and make a decision on that. We’re excited, we think we have a good quality horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Tillyer and Dr. Chet Blackey, Morello banked $55,000 in victory while remaining perfect through two starts. Sent to post as the 7-5 mutuel favorite, Morello returned $4.80 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Thursday at the Big A with an eight-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Release
Photo: Morello wins the Jimmy Winkfield/Susie Raisher