Repo Rocks (SR Photo)
NYRA Press Release
C Two Racing Stable and Antonio Pagnano’s White Abarrio will look to secure his second career Grade 1 score in Saturday’s $300,000 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Carter is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race program which is closed out by the Grade 2, $750,000, Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino, a nine-furlong test for sophomores offering 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers. The blockbuster day of racing includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore at seven-furlongs for sophomores in Race 6; and the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle in Race 3, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies offering 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-five finishers. First post is 12:15 p.m. Eastern.
Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., White Abarrio captured both the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby last year at Gulfstream Park en route to finishing 16th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. He completed a productive 7-2-1-1 sophomore campaign in December with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets.
The 4-year-old Race Day colt, a five-time winner at Gulfstream, made his seasonal debut with an eighth-place effort in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational before Joseph, Jr. decided to focus the talented gray on one-turn races.
Last out, in a seven-furlong optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream, White Abarrio garnered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure with a 4 1/2-length score over next-out winners Weyburn, who captured Saturday’s Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream; and third-place Collaborate, who earned a 95 Beyer in a starter-allowance sprint at the Hallandale Beach oval.
“He won well. It was a big relief to get him back on track on the cutback to seven-eighths,” Joseph, Jr. said. “It turned out to be a good race. A couple horses came back from there to run well, but it just felt good to get him back to the winner’s circle.”
Joseph, Jr. said he was pleased with how White Abarrio responded to jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the closing stages.
“He asked him a bit to finish it off, but I thought he finished it off well and did the best part of his running in the latter part of the race,” Joseph, Jr. said. “From the quarter-pole, he got into a good rhythm and I felt from there on he was going to get the job done.”
Paco Lopez will guide White Abarrio for the first time Saturday when they exit post 6 carrying 119 pounds.
“I think he’s versatile in these one-turn races. He can sit or, if the pace is slow, he can be the leader,” Joseph, Jr. said. “Paco is a good, tactical rider. Hopefully, he gets him in a good spot and White Abarrio can do the rest.”
A good result Saturday could propel White Abarrio to the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan on June 10 at Belmont Park, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita Park.
“To try and get a second Grade 1 on his resume is very important for him. If he was to win or run well, you would definitely consider the Met Mile after this,” Joseph, Jr. said.
The last horse to pull off the Carter-Met Mile double was Vekoma in 2020.
Joseph, Jr., who recently defended his training title at Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, is hopeful he can continue that steady run of form through to the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park where he will have a strong stable.
“To come back and repeat was big for the whole team and I’m thankful to be in that position,” Joseph, Jr. said. “Overall, I was happy with how consistent we were the whole meet.”
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, White Abarrio is out of the Into Mischief mare Catching Diamonds, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 3-winner Cool Cowboy.
Double B Racing Stables’ Repo Rocks [post 4, Andrew Wolfsont, 122 pounds] is undefeated since joining the barn of trainer Jamie Ness, taking the 6 1/2-furlong Let’s Give Thanks in November and six-furlong Blitzen on January 4 at Parx ahead of an 8 1/2-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Toboggan on January 28 at the Big A that garnered a 111 Beyer Speed Figure.
Last out, he was a strong 3 1/4-length winner of the one-mile Stymie here on February 25 to notch his first score beyond seven furlongs. Repo Rocks carried a field-high 124 pounds in the Stymie, overcoming a troubled trip under regular rider Andrew Wolfsont where he was boxed in behind rivals in third position before finding a way out late in the turn to best Grade 1-placed Miles D.
Ness had hoped for a prominent effort last out for Repo Rocks, who was stretching out as the well-backed mutuel favorite. This time, on the cutback, Ness said he would be happy to stalk the pace.
“He overcame it a little bit,” Ness said of the Stymie effort. “I wasn’t happy with the way he was ridden and the instructions were to do the opposite of what he did, but he still got the job done. Hopefully, this time everything will go a little smoother. He’s still very versatile and I’m sure going seven-eighths there will be a little more speed in the race. He likes to sit in the pocket and find a spot and make his run down the lane.”
Repo Rocks has posted a trio of bullet works out of his Stymie score, including a half-mile effort in 47.05 seconds Monday at his Parx Racing base.
Ness said the Virginia-bred gelding is thriving ahead of his Grade 1 debut.
“Six weeks between starts is probably going to benefit him. He trains hard, so this will hopefully keep him a little fresher,” Ness said.
Ness said a good result next weekend could see Repo Rocks stretch back out in the Met Mile.
“I think he wants to go even longer. If I had my druthers, I’d rather run him a one-turn mile or mile and a sixteenth,” Ness said. “He’s a big horse and when he gets going seven-eighths is fine, but a little more ground would be even better for us.”
The 5-year-old Tapiture gelding posted a record of 11-2-2-2 last year, including a second in the Grade 3 Toboggan and a third in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap, both at the Big A, as well as completing the trifecta in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud at Belmont Park while in the care of trainer Juan Vazquez. He made seven starts for conditioner Gregory DiPrima from April through October before joining Ness.
Bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, III, Repo Rocks, out of the Not For Love mare Hawaiian Love, boasts a record of 33-8-6-6 for purse earnings of $639,621.
Reddam Racing’s New York-bred Today’s Flavor [post 1, Manny Franco, 117 pounds] brings a four-race win streak into his graded stakes debut for trainer George Weaver.
The 5-year-old son of Laoban is undefeated in his four starts since transferring to Weaver from the barn of Doug O’Neill, beginning with an 8 1/2-length romp to break his maiden at fifth asking in a state-bred sprint on November 27 at the Big A. He followed with a pair of open-lengths scores against state-bred allowance company before stepping up to open company for a 6 1/2-length victory last out on February 18.
“You see horses that get in the zone and feel that win, and he’s just doing well,” Weaver said. “He’s always been a talented horse and he’s in a good groove right now.”
Today’s Flavor has finished first or second in 7-of-8 lifetime outings, including runner-up efforts in his first two starts in California to subsequent graded stakes-winners Laurel River and Essential Wager.
Bred in the Empire State by Joseph Calvo, Today’s Flavor is out of the Speightstown mare Evangelical, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes placed Worship the Moon.
Little Vic [post 5, Carlos Olivero, 120 pounds] enters from a stalking 1 1/2-length score over graded-stakes winner Runninsonofagun in the six-furlong Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap. The victory, which provided both Little Vic and jockey Carlos Olivero with their first graded score, registered a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
The Juan Carlos Avila trainee, a 4-year-old Practical Joke colt, is owned by Victoria’s Ranch – the racing operation of retired professional baseball player Victor Martinez, a five-time MLB All-Star.
Little Vic made his Big A debut three starts back on December 30 in the six-furlong Gravesend where he lost focus at the quarter-pole and was defeated a nose by multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Drafted. He added blinkers for his next start in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Toboggan on January 28 at the Big A and completed the exacta behind a romping Repo Rocks with Drafted completing the trifecta.
Little Vic has finished first or second in each of his last five starts, including an allowance score over older horses in October at Delaware Park ahead of a win in the seven-furlong City of Laurel in November at Laurel Park.
A $50,000 purchased at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Little Vic is out of the multiple stakes-winning Rock Hard Ten mare Rock and Glory, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes-placed Gorgeous Ginny.
Multiple graded-stakes placed Doppelganger [post 7, Jevian Toledo, 118 pounds] will look to secure his third successive win since transferring to trainer Brittany Russell.
Owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm, the Into Mischief bay tried his luck on the Kentucky Derby trail last year finishing second in the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and fourth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in the care of conditioner Tim Yakteen.
He finished a distant sixth in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard at Churchill Downs ahead of a prominent third in the Grade 3 Affirmed in June at Santa Anita. He completed his sophomore campaign on July 9 with a non-threatening fourth in the nine-furlong Los Alamitos Derby.
The $570,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase returned to action for Russell on January 27 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Laurel Park, posting a 2 1/2-length score over next out allowance winner Nostalgic Run. Last out, he matched a career-best 89 Beyer with a 1 1/2-length score in a one-mile optional-claimer on February 24 that third-place finisher Shaft’s Bullet exited to win an optional-claiming tilt.
Russell said Doppelganger, who returned to the work tab in December at Laurel Park, has benefitted from a patient approach.
“We gave him some time. He really did well when he came back after having that time. He’s run two nice races for us,” Russell said. “He has a lot of stepping forward to do to run with these kind, but he was well meant early on and currently, he’s extremely confident. He’s coming off two nice races and he couldn’t be doing any better.”
Russell said the bay colt will also require patient handling Saturday when cutting back to one turn under Jevian Toledo.
“The way he’s been training, he’s been quite sharp,” Russell said. “Naturally, he’s going to have to sit and pounce at them. I think he can handle the seven-eighths, it’s just a matter of things setting up right.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Doppelganger is out of the multiple graded-stakes placed Quiet American mare Twice the Lady.
Rounding out the field are the stakes-placed Bold Journey [post 2, Eric Cancel, 114 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; and two-time winner Expressman [post 3, Jose Ortiz, 117 pounds], who notched a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in a memorable debut in August at Saratoga Race Course for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of the Aqueduct spring meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.