by NYRA Press Office | 04.06.2019 | 4:27pm
Life's A Parlay wins the Excelsior
St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable's Life's a Parlay took command out of the final turn and fended off Monongahela's deep-stretch challenge from the outside to capture the 107th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday, Wood Memorial Day, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Life's a Parlay, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, bumped with Shivermetimbers at the start but recovered to stay in third position as New York-bred Hit It Once More set the early pace, going the opening quarter-mile in 23.48 seconds and the half in 47.38 on the fast main track.
With Tour de Force challenging Hit It Once More, with three-quarters in 1:12.10, Life's a Parlay was urged up and gained command near the three-sixteenths pole under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Velazquez, bidding for his second straight graded stakes triumph after piloting Mind Control to a victory in the Grade 3 Bay Shore the race before, persevered with Life's a Parlay as Monongahela, under jockey Jose Lezcano, made a strong move to his outside. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt held on for the one-length win, hitting the wire in 1:51.54 to earn his first trip to the winner's circle in a stakes.
“He runs well every time,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “We shipped him to Oaklawn and ran there; shipped him back to Florida and came up to New York all in three weeks. It was a lot to ask of him, but he's been training well. He had a nice breeze the other day, so we felt confident that he bounced out of his last race in good shape. I think there's a little more in the tank. He has a tendency to idle a little bit when he gets to the lead like he did today, but I was proud of him for doing it.
“We felt like there would be a little bit of speed in there, we weren't sure. We just left it in Johnny's hands and when the other two horses went, I thought he was in a good stalking position and Johnny looked like he was just biding his time.”
Off as the 3-2 favorite, Life's a Parlay returned $5.10 on a $2 win wager to cap an impressive graded stakes debut. Bred in Kentucky by Bell Tower Thoroughbreds, he improved his career bankroll to $248,720.
“I had a perfect trip,” said Velazquez, who registered his third win on the day. “There were two speeds in the race, Mike [Repole] had another horse [Tour de Force] in there and I knew Gary Sciacca's horse [Hit It Once More] normally gets sent out of there, so it worked out perfect to let them go and sit behind the pace.
“This horse is better than I think he is but when he gets to the lead, he waits,” he added. “He sees everything in front of him and I have to wait for the horses to come to him for him to run again. He is very talented.”
Monongahela, trained by Jason Servis, edged the Rudy Rodriguez-trained Tour de Force by a neck for second. It was the seventh time in the last eight starts Monongahela finished on the board.
“I had a good trip. I got the position I wanted, and he ran a very good race,” Lezcano said. “At the quarter-pole, I had to wait a little longer than what I wanted but when I got out I still had plenty of time to go on and win the race, but the other horse [Life's a Parlay] just kept going.”
Nicodemus, Hit It Once More, Holiday Bonus and Shivermetimbers completed the order of finish.
Discreet Lover, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, was scratched due to a temperature.