Morello Takes on Elders in G2 Kelso

October 21, 2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Graded stakes-winning Aqueduct specialist Morello will make a return to graded stakes company when facing elders for the first time in next Saturday’s one-mile Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso at Belmont at the Big A.

Owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor and Diamond T Racing, the 3-year-old son of Classic Empire was a force to be reckoned with on the local Road to the Kentucky Derby over the winter, capturing the Grade 3 Gotham on March 5 following a win in the Jimmy Winkfield one month earlier at the Big A. 

Arriving at the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino as the undefeated lukewarm favorite, Morello finished sixth behind eventual American Classic heroes Mo Donegal and Early Voting and replicated that result in the next out Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun on June 11 at Belmont Park. 

The two distant efforts garnered a break for Morello, who returned to the work tab at Belmont in early August under the watchful eye of Toby Sheets – the Belmont-based assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen – before scoring at allowance level two weeks ago at Laurel Park, travelling six furlongs. 

Morello won his last start at Laurel Park on Oct. 8 in an Allowance.

Despite breaking a step slow, Morello had enough class to earn an easy 2 3/4 length triumph after making a five-wide move in upper stretch under Sheldon Russell.

“He’s been training lights out,” said Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds. “Obviously, we made the decision to give him the summer off after the buildup of heading to the Kentucky Derby. We got hit with a string of bad luck in the Wood Memorial and then the Woody Stephens. At that point, I think Toby and Steve and the team made the right decision to shut him down, give him some time off and let him be a horse.”

Lyon said an Aqueduct edition of the Kelso is a perfect fit for Morello, who boasts a 4-3-0-0 local record.

“We wanted to run him here in New York for his comeback race, but it didn’t fill so we sent him down to Laurel and he ran very well there after a slow start,” Lyon said. “He looked good doing it and came out of the race great. The Kelso is the next step here, but we’re taking it one race at a time like we always do with Morello. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to just go from there, but we feel pretty confident that he’s back.”

Lyon continued to speak volumes of the job done by Sheets and Asmussen, adding that the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on December 3 could be a viable option should Morello run well enough in the Kelso. 

“Just like any other horse we’ve had; they need to take some time off and we need to give it to them. Toby and Steve have done a masterful job of managing his career,” Lyon said. “It’s disappointing we had to miss Saratoga, but if we can get this horse to win a Grade 2 next weekend, and then maybe the Grade 1 Cigar Mile as the next goal, no one on my team is going to complain.” 

Bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Tillyer and Dr. Chet Blackey, Morello is out of the Congrats mare Stop the Wedding and was purchased for $250,000 from the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where he was consigned by Sequel Bloodstock. 

NYRA Press Office
Photo: Morello winning the Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct in February. Photo by Susie Raisher

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