by Teresa Genaro
Six months ago, Stephen Brunetti might well have envisioned his homebred Mind Control running at Aqueduct on the first Saturday in April. Winner of the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga, the bay colt by Stay Thirsty seemed a likely contender, based on both pedigree and performance, for the Kentucky Derby trail.
But Brunetti, trainer Greg Sacco, and assistant Rick Sacco shifted gears.
“As he went further in his progression,” said Brunetti, “we kind of thought he was more middle-distance and that keeping him at seven furlongs or a mile is probably best at this point.”
That strategy did indeed pay off at Aqueduct on Wood day, when Mind Control, cutting back to seven furlongs in the $250,000 Bay Shore (G3), won by 1 1/4 lengths.
“Not at all,” said Rick Sacco, asked whether he was disappointed the horse was no longer a Kentucky Derby contender. “We love all of our horse the same, and ppl get Derby fever. We’ve been doing this a long time, and when that Derby horse comes along, we’ll enjoy it.”
It was Rick who suggested running in the Bay Shore, given the timing of the race between Mind Control’s last start and his possible next one.
“We wanted to legitimize him against a tough field before going to the Grade 1 Woody Stephens,” he said. “We thought Mucho and Much Better [his rivals in the Bay Shore] are as good as it gets.”
The seven-furlong Woody Stephens will be run on the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 8.
Owner Mike Repole got the first of two stakes wins on the day when his Life’s a Parlay, co-owned with St. Elias Stable, won the nine-furlong, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes (G3).
The lightly-raced four-year-old was the post-time favorite and won by a length for his sixth fourth victory in six lifetime starts. He’s never finished worse than third.
A $725,000 yearling purchase, Life’s a Parlay is by Repole’s Uncle Mo and out of Mir Cat (Tale of the Cat). He raced twice as a three-year-old, both in January, then was off until October of last year.
“It’s hard to believe that Uncle Mo will be a better sire than he was a racehorse, because he was brilliant,” said the ever-understated Repole. “When my team’s out there looking for horses, I try not to look only at sires, but when I see an Uncle Mo and another one and they like them the same, I’m going to lean towards Uncle Mo.”
After World of Trouble won a $25,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park in August of 2017 by 17 lengths, Michael Dubb got a phone call from his longtime bloodstock agent Kim Valerio. He needed little coaxing to make the private purchase, leaving the colt with trainer Kathleen O’Connell for one more start, a close runner-up finish, before transferring him to his regular trainer Jason Servis.
“I was thinking turf sprinter,” said Dubb in the winner’s circle after odds-on favorite World of Trouble won the $400,000 Carter Handicap (G1). “But he did so well on dirt we kept him there.
In 10 races for Dubb and his partners Bethlehem Stables and Madaket Stables, the bay colt by Kantharos has a record of 6-2-1, winning on both turf and dirt. The horse that could have been claimed for $25,000 has now earned $891,400 and ran second by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) last November.
“We had toyed with sending him to Dubai,” said Dubb. “It was very tempting because it’s a big purse, but we felt that he might be a little young at 4. We wouldn’t be afraid to do that next year.”