Repo Rocks draws off in the Westchester to claim the victory (Susie Raisher)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Repo Rocks rebounded from a last-out runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets to post a sharp 5 1/4-length victory in Friday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Westchester, a one-mile main track test for older horses, at Belmont Park.
Trained by Jamie Ness and owned by Double B Racing Stables, Repo Rocks earned his fifth lifetime stakes conquest and boasts a 5-for-6 record since entering Ness’ barn in November. He added to previous scores in the Let’s Give Thanks and Blitzen at Parx Racing, and the Grade 3 Toboggan and Stymie at Aqueduct Racetrack. The 5-year-old son of Tapiture suffered his first loss for Ness last out in the April 8 Carter where he rallied from fourth and was defeated 2 1/2 lengths by Doppelganger.
Ness said Belmont’s sweeping turns helped Repo Rocks return to the winner’s circle.
“He wants to get out a little bit in the turns and he always has,” said Ness. “The Aqueduct turns are a little tight for him. I thought the bigger track would be better, and I think a mile is his distance. He’s this big, long-striding horse.”
Away cleanly under Ruben Silvera from the outermost post 7, Repo Rocks and Expressman, who bobbled at the break, went head-to-head for the early lead before the latter took the advantage exiting the chute and posted an opening quarter-mile in 22.99 seconds over the fast main track. Repo Rocks remained in second to the outside of Expressman while the trio of Weyburn, Unbridled Bomber and Dr Ardito battled for third position just ahead of the stalking post-time favorite Zandon through a half-mile in 45.80.
Repo Rocks was given his cue by Silvera into the turn and easily passed his pacesetting rival at the three-quarters call as Zandon was asked for more from jockey Dylan Davis. Repo Rocks extended his margin to four lengths at the stretch call and was kept to task by Silvera, drawing off down the lane to post the victory in a final time of 1:34.96 over the late-running Zandon.
Weyburn completed the trifecta three-quarters of a length behind Zandon with Unbridled Bomber, Dr Ardito, Expressman and Bourbon Calling completing the order of finish. White Abarrio was scratched.
Ness said the pace-pressing trip went exactly to plan.
“This is the trip I wanted, and it was perfect on the outside with one horse to chase,” said Ness. “When I saw the outside post, I was ecstatic – being out there with a little more room is good for him. Ruben rode him great. He had a great start and he was properly prepared for this race today. He’s a calm, cool horse.”
Silvera, who rode Repo Rocks to a December 2021 allowance victory at Aqueduct, said the gelding was full of run.
“I rode him before, so I felt comfortable with him,” said Silvera. “Last time, my horse ran seven furlongs, but today it was a mile, and it was more easy for him. I tried to sit behind the speed and see what happens at the end. I know he’s a good horse and he fires every time. I tried to give him every chance and stay close to the lead. In the end, I had a lot of horse.”
Ness had previously indicated that Repo Rocks responded well to a rigorous training regime this winter, but said he relished an easier schedule heading into the Westchester.
“He came into the race great and I thought after his last race that maybe I pushed him a little too hard,” Ness said. “So, I took him to my barn at Fair Hill, gave him a week off to let him be a horse, and backed down. I gave him one slow work up to this race and I think that’s the way we need to approach our next start. I just put him back to where he’s comfortable and he performed for us.”
Ness added that a logical next start for Repo Rocks could be in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 going the same distance over Big Sandy.
“This is kind of the prep for it and that would be a great goal,” said Ness. “The owner is from the area, and he loves to come watch his horse run, so why not? You can’t win if you’re not in, and he looked like a horse who deserves a shot in that race. It’s horse racing, so we take it race to race, but that’s a great goal to go for.”
Bred in Kentucky by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, III, Repo Rocks earned $96,250 in victory and improved his lifetime record to 35-9-7-6. He returned $12 for a $2 win ticket.
Dylan Davis said he was pleased with the trip he engineered for Zandon, who won last year’s Grade 1 Blue Grass and made his seasonal debut off a five-month respite for trainer Chad Brown.
“The horse on front ran well – Repo Rocks. I thought I was in great position mid-pack there and making his run,” Davis said. “I tried to get his run started a little earlier, but the other horse found more. He ran well, but he just couldn’t close on him. The speed was probably tough today.”
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont with an 11-race card, featuring the $150,000 Elusive Quality in Race 8, the Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Marcy in Race 9 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian in Race 10. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern. Gates for the Kentucky Derby Day card will open at 10 a.m.