Vino Rosso earns his first grade 1 score in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
· By Meredith Daugherty
A change of scenery and a trip to California proved to be just the right move for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, who closed late over grade 1 winner Gift Box to take the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) May 27 over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita Park.
Snapping a five-race win streak for owner Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler in the Southern California handicap division, the son of Curlin earned his first graded win since April of his sophomore season, when he took the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Longshot Blitzkrieg led the way from the break on the rail, dueling with Gift Box and jockey Joel Rosario, who split runners to find a space between Blitzkrieg and Core Beliefs.
Never more than a half-length behind the leader, Gift Box stalked the pace through fractions of :22.97, :46.37, and :1:10.70 for six furlongs before Blitzkrieg dropped back dramatically leaving the second turn and gave way. A head in front for brief seconds, Gift Box was overtaken by Vino Rosso, who drifted in towards the rail to do battle with the new leader down the stretch.
Driving home under urging from Johnny Velazquez, Vino Rosso increased his margin by increments and was ahead by three-quarters of a length as the field of seven reached the wire in a final time of 2:03.
"I didn't have to give John any instructions, just a leg up," said Pletcher's assistant trainer Amy Mullen. "John got here six hours ago and he had a conference call with the owners and Todd. I've been here a week with Vino Rosso and Mike McCarthy, we trained over the track to get ready for this race."
"Todd told me he was ready for a mile and a quarter," Velazquez said. "I talked to Mike Repole on the phone and he said to make sure to thank him because he's the one who gave me instructions to win the race. So thank you Mike and thank you Todd. We come from seven eighths, we knew we were going to be close.
"I knew the pace would be fast early and I just wanted to stay close. He broke very well and we settled in there. When it was time to go, we knew we had to engage Joel (Rosario) to play the game because he was the horse to beat. And we got the job done. Vino Rosso seemed to have it all put together today."
Lone Sailor took third followed by Mongolian Groom and Higher Power. It was another 6 1/2 lengths back to Core Beliefs, who finished nine lengths in front of Blitzkrieg.
"He broke well out of there," said Rosario of Gift Box, who entered the race off a win in the April 6 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). "In the beginning, they all got into position and I thought I was in a good spot. I guess he was just second best today. I used him a little in the beginning to get my spot but he settled and was very comfortable after that. Everything he did was just right, he just got a little tired in the end.
"I still think he's one of the best handicap horses in the country and he'll improve off of this. I had the trip I wanted, the other horse just ran a better race today."
Monday's win was a long-awaited grade 1 score for Vino Rosso, who has competed unsuccessfully in four prior top-level events beginning with last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs in which he finished ninth. He ran fourth next out in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Belmont Park before closing out the year two starts later with a fifth-place finish in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
Vino Rosso entered Monday's race off a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) April 6 at Aqueduct. Prior to that effort, the 4-year-old colt won his season debut in the one-mile Stymie Stakes March 9 at Aqueduct. His victory also marked the first Gold Cup win for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther, Vino Rosso is the second foal out of the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride, who has also produced grade 3-placed So Alive. Consigned by the Gunther's Glennwood Farm to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Vino Rosso was purchased by J.J. Crupi on behalf of Repole and St. Elias for $410,000.
Vino Rosso holds a 5-0-2 record from 12 starts and earned $1,253,125 in purses.