09/17/2012 1:01PM

Calder: Rose to Gold likely to get break after romp in Brave Raj Stakes

Coady Photography
Rose to Gold, under Jesus Rios, wins the Brave Raj Stakes by 13 1/2 lengths Saturday at Calder.

MIAMI, Fla. – Rose to Gold is the talk of South Florida after winning her first two career starts, both stakes, by a combined 26 1/2 lengths, but it may be a while before the rest of the country gets its opportunity to watch the pride of Calder in action.

Trainer Sal Santoro mentioned the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland as a possible option for Rose to Gold’s next start immediately after her 13 1/2-length tour de force in Saturday’s one mile and 70-yard Brave Raj Stakes. But on Monday, Santoro said he and owner Alex Centofanti have decided they’ll likely back off on their prize filly, who began her career just three weeks earlier with a 13-length triumph in the one-mile Lindsay Frolic.

“We’re still looking at different options, and the Alcibiades is one,” Santoro said. “But her first two races were kind of close to each other, and the Alcibiades might be something we want to skip. She’s only a 2-year-old, and it is probably in her best interest to give her a little more time. I think we’re probably going to shy away from running her too close and look at something a little further down the road.”

Santoro said he’ll have a better assessment where he stands with his filly after she returns to the track Tuesday.

“She’s not Breeders’ Cup nominated, so that kind of takes that option off the table,” said Santoro who was born in Brooklyn but grew up in North Massapequa, N.Y. “It would kind of be rushing her anyway. I think she’s too good a filly to do that, and I don’t want to make that kind of mistake. I’ll probably get one more race into her as a 2-year-old and then we’ll plan out a really nice 3-year-old campaign for her. What’s ever best for the filly, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Rose to Gold’s emergence into the spotlight is almost as amazing a story as Santoro’s.

Rose to Gold, who races in the interests of Centofanti’s wife, Kathleen Amaya, and his son Raffaele, was purchased for a mere $1,400 as a yearling out of the Fasig Tipton sale in February 2011. She went back in the Ocala sales later that year, but did not meet the $10,000 reserve put on her by her owner.

“When she first came to the farm, she looked like a meatball with four toothpicks with all that Kentucky hair on her,” Santoro said. “But there was something about her as a baby. When the hair started falling off, and she started to mature a little bit, I thought this filly just stood out over the others when running the fields at the farm. We took her to the OBS sale, and when nobody wanted her for 10 grand, Alex said just keep her. She came up with a tiny shin problem in January, so we gave her some time – I don’t believe in pin-firing or blistering, I think it’s barbaric. And once she finally started breezing, you could tell she was something special.”

Santoro worked as a police officer in Virginia until 1990, when he decided to return to his Long Island roots to break yearlings on a farm in Riverhead.

“I spent many years up there getting young horses ready for the track on that farm,” Santoro said. “But after my wife and I went separate ways, I decided I didn’t want to be in the cold anymore, so I came to Florida, gave up the horses, and went to work as a Harley-Davidson salesman. But I would have to pass by Calder every day on my way to work, every day, and as I would drive by I could hear the place calling me. So one morning, about three years ago, I decided to go in and have breakfast in the track kitchen. And once I drove through those gates, that was it. I was hooked again.”

Santoro met Centofanti, a Venezuelan native who owns the successful Allcoffee Private Label Roasters coffee company, by chance shortly thereafter.

“Alex loves Harleys,” Santoro said. “He would walk into the dealership and say give me that one, that one, that one, and that one, and I’d deliver them to his house. We got to chitchatting, and I told him I had a horse or two. He comes from horses in Venezuela and said he was thinking about getting back into the business. He calls me up at the dealership one day a short while later and says to tell my boss I had a stomachache. So I tell my boss I had a stomachache, Alex picks me up at the track, we jump in the Bentley, drive up to the Fasig-Tipton sale and buy Fine Silver and four other horses. I end up quitting my job at Harley, Alex goes to Ocala and buys a 140-acre farm, the next thing I know we’re buying more 2-year-olds and here we are.”

Fine Silver finished third Saturday in the Judy’s Red Shoes, one of three stakes horses Centofanti and Santoro ran on the card, along with Rose to Gold and Musical Flair, who finished a troubled third in the Needles. They also combined to win last Friday’s allowance feature with the up-and-coming 3-year-old filly For the Win.

“It’s all been like a dream come true for me,” said Santoro, who presently has 16 horses stabled at Calder for Centofanti. “I’m happy, I’m having fun, and I couldn’t ask for a better gig or for better people to work for.”